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Friday, November 18, 2011
Around the NFC West: Lynch's value

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Marshawn Lynch rushed for 217 yards in his first five games with the Seattle Seahawks.

The total inched up to 228 yards over the next five, 245 over the five after that and 390 over the next five. That 390-yard total includes back-to-back 100-yard games over the past two weeks.

The 20-game total is a modest 1,080 yards, but the trend is a positive one.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks have a decision to make once Lynch's contract voids following the season, making him eligible for free agency. Williams: "Lynch, 25, had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his first four years in the NFL. With 507 yards so far in his fifth season and seven games remaining to play, it’s not inconceivable that he could reach 1,000 yards this season, becoming Seattle’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Shaun Alexander ran for 1,880 in an MVP performance in 2005." Noted: The Seahawks value Lynch's style and cannot run their offense as desired without him. They should protect themselves by drafting a big back in 2012. Keeping Lynch and drafting a big back would probably force the team to choose between Leon Washington and Justin Forsett.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says line coach Tom Cable cannot recall losing a lineman to a serious injury during pass-protection drills before James Carpenter suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times has this to say on injuries to Carpenter and right guard John Moffitt: "Through seven games, the Seahawks had allowed a league-high 28 sacks and were averaging the second-fewest rushing yards in the league. In the past two games, against well-regarded defenses, the Seahawks allowed just two sacks and had Lynch rush for his two highest single-game totals in the regular season since becoming a Seahawk."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the Giants went to "extreme measures" to stop Frank Gore, according to offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

Also from Barrows: Who has it better than the 49ers? Nobody. Well, perhaps the Packers do, but not according to Jim Harbaugh.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has praise for Cardinals quarterback John Skelton, comparing him to Baltimore's Joe Flacco. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt: "The intention of getting Kevin [Kolb] was for our future going forward, so we could grow as a group with a young guy we felt could play the position. That's still the intent."

Also from Inman: Gore plans to play Sunday despite a knee injury.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle explains how the 49ers can be 8-1 with the 25th-ranked offense in terms of yards gained. Branch: "The 49ers rank first in the NFL with an opponent average starting field position of the 24.5. The 49ers also lead the league in starting field position (their own 32.5). In last week’s win against the Giants, New York did not start any of its 10 drives beyond their own 22-yard line. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the first time a team hasn’t started a drive beyond their own 22 since the Broncos didn’t begin a drive beyond their 20 in a 24-17 win against the Chiefs on Dec. 7, 2008. San Francisco leads the NFL in turnover differential (+13) and has started 10 drives in opponent’s territory as a result of turnovers forced by its defense." Noted: Sustainability is the primary issue here. Can the 49ers make that formula work for them all season, and in the playoffs? I'm not sure, but their ability to make it happen consistently through nine games suggests they can.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald is constantly seeking input from others to improve his game. Somers: "Receivers coach John McNulty took the Cardinals job Feb. 18, 2009. That day, he received a call from a number he didn't recognize, one in the 612 area code. That's Minneapolis. McNulty didn't recognize the number. 'I let it ring a couple of times,' McNulty says. 'Finally, I picked it up and it was Larry. He basically wanted to say, 'Let me know whatever you see, whatever you want to work on.'"

Also from Somers: Beanie Wells respects the 49ers' run defense and wants a shot against it. Wells: "They're a good football team and I want to go out there and give them my best. When you go against a good defense like that, you always want to step your game up a little bit more."

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says "the growing rift between the 49ers and Cardinals is fast becoming one of the NFL's better secrets. It's physical. It's personal. There's enough trash-talking to fill a dump truck. (Darnell) Dockett said he won't shake hands after the game, no matter what happens." Noted: I'll be interested in seeing whether the 49ers feel the same way given the five-game gap in the standings between the teams.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says defensive coordinator Ray Horton unleashed his hair this week after agreeing to do so if the team won two in a row.

Also from Urban: Fitzgerald's yards-per-catch average has jumped significantly.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams could be without cornerback Justin King on Sunday after King suffered an ankle injury during practice. Thomas: "He's the only Rams corner left on the active roster who was with the team in training camp. And he's the only Rams corner remaining on the active roster who played for the team last season." Also: Brandon Lloyd helped the Rams sell enough tickets to avoid a local blackout.

Also from Thomas: a look at the Rams' special-teams ups and downs.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Tony Wragge felt comfortable in the starting lineup and played well, according to coach Steve Spanguolo.