Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Around the NFC West: Playoff fallout?
By Mike Sando
The Seattle Seahawks' improbable, disputed victory Monday night over the Green Bay Packers reverberated through the NFC West.
Thanks to Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News for gathering several incredulous tweets from disgusted San Francisco 49ers players.
"This will be the biggest blunder in the history of sport!" 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin marveled.
The thought did occur to me: What if Seattle's 14-12 victory over Green Bay, enabled by Golden Tate's disputed touchdown on the final play, winds up bumping another NFC West team from the playoffs? The division appears as competitive as it's been in years. The possibility exists, finally, for more than one NFC West team to reach postseason. If that happens, one game in the standings could wind up being pivotal.
Not that the Seahawks are going to apologize. They've been on the wrong end of memorable calls over the years, including in a Super Bowl. But at the very least, the ledger evened out a little bit Monday night.
Mike Salk of 710ESPN Seattle says Seattle fans should offer no apologies. Salk: "Just ask a Steelers fan how much he cares when he's taunted about the phantom holding call in Super Bowl XL? Notice how hard a Patriots fan laughs when someone mentions the tuck rule, or a Yankees fan when he's told that the entire 1990s dynasty never would have happened were it not for a truant named Jeffrey Mayer. The point is that bad calls happen and sometimes you catch a break. But the Seahawks put themselves in position to capitalize on it when it came."
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times wonders whether the officiating disaster could provide the impetus for a new deal between the NFL and its regular officials. Kelley: "As great as this win was for Seattle, as deliciously improbable as it was, as dramatic as this Monday Night classic became, the final play was a huge embarrassment for the league. And the controversy from this last play will linger for weeks. This is what happens when amateurs are asked to call a professional game."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune saw little from Wilson after halftime until the final play. Boling: "Until the offense stalled in the second half, Wilson benefited from solid line blocking, which also created running room for Marshawn Lynch (25 carries for 98 yards). It also kept Wilson upright and largely untouched. That would have been considered an upset in its own right as the Packers led the league in sacks coming into the game, with linebacker Clay Matthews having six himself. The Seahawks’ offense schemed around Matthews, occasionally going to an unbalanced line -- flopping left tackle Russell Okung to the right side -- away from Matthews. A number of times they lined up two tight ends to that side, or brought a tight end in motion to help Okung with Matthews."
Art Thiel of Sports Press Northwest says there's little question Seattle benefited from a bad call. Thiel: "As the parabola of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s final pass became apparent —- in play, in the end zone –- there was no doubt that the Seahawks, the Packers, a stadium of fans, and the world that cares about Monday Night Football were about to witness the worst collision between clown cars in the history of the circus."
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic asks whether the Cardinals' dominant defense will need additional help from the offense. McManaman: "If the Cardinals plan to ride an aggressive and opportunistic defense to glory in 2012, they're more than likely going to need an offense that ranks a heck of a lot better than 31st in the league. That's where they find themselves today, averaging just 263.3 yards in total offense. The good news is, there's plenty of room for improvement and head coach Ken Whisenhunt and several Arizona players on both sides of the ball can see a slow, but steady progression."
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic credits Ken Whisenhunt for keeping the Cardinals on a steady course. She also points to comments Vonnie Holliday and Nick Eason made about Whisenhunt being a former player. Boivin: "Eason and Holliday mention the street cred that comes with Whisenhunt having played in the NFL. Not all coaches in this league have. Seattle's Pete Carroll, for example, briefly sold roofing materials after graduating from the University of the Pacific before starting his coaching career. Whisenhunt played nine seasons in the NFL as a tight end with the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and New York Jets."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Daryl Washington's speed is paying off for the Cardinals.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams aren't looking for sympathy following a 1-2 start. Burwell: "Monday at Rams Park, there wasn't a hint of that gloominess to be found. The locker room was remarkably upbeat. Nowhere to be found was the chippiness of an overly sensitive losing team. Consider this part of the emphatic stamp of the Jeff Fisher era. No excuses. No capitulation. Just find a way, any way, to win. Fisher didn't waste any time on alibis for his ineffective offense. A week after putting up 452 total yards and three touchdowns against Washington, the Rams gasped and wheezed their way to 160 yards and zero TDs against Chicago. Sam Bradford was sacked six times, harassed on a dozen more plays and threw two interceptions, which is perfectly understandable when you look at all the mistakes made around him."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that Brian Quick isn't factoring into the offense for St. Louis.
Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Fisher contested a costly penalty called against Rams linebacker Mario Haggan in Chicago.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers would not confirm Ricardo Lockette's addition to their practice squad. Barrows: "Lockette, 26, is a former track star who played football at Fort Valley State and who was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Seahawks in 2011. He spent the first 13 games that season on Seattle's practice squad but was activated on Dec. 22 and had a 44-yard reception against the 49ers the following game. He also had a 61-yard touchdown catch the next week against the Cardinals, the longest reception of the year for the Seahawks. Lockette was among the Seahawks' final cuts this year."
Also from Barrows: Patrick Willis and Isaac Sopoaga apparently avoided serious injuries in Week 3.
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' performance against the Vikings served as a reminder against anointing the team prematurely. Cohn: "Some fans already have anointed Jim Harbaugh a genius, although he’s been in the league a little more than one season and has not won a Super Bowl. We learned such anointing is a little premature. He and his minions got outcoached by the lowly Vikings’ coaches, among them assistant head coach Mike Singletary. Early in the second quarter, Harbaugh had a chance to go for a touchdown on fourth-and-1 at the Vikings’ 11-yard line, but cautiously kicked a field goal instead. In a similar situation, the Vikings went for a touchdown and scored. The Vikings showed more courage than Harbaugh and set the tone for the game -- i.e. took the play away from him."
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News offers thoughts on how the Randy Moss experiment is going. Kawakami: "The 49ers coaching staff clearly needs to see more out of Moss in practice before he’s going to get a bigger role in the game plan. And he’s obviously not out-performing their expectations in the role he’s been given, since he’s not playing a ton late in games, including Sunday, when the 49ers were comeback mode for the first time this season."
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Hall of Famer Jim Brown visited the 49ers in Ohio.