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Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Around the NFC West: Rams' new moxie

By Mike Sando

The St. Louis Rams won a game Sunday despite allowing 179 yards rushing and failing to score a touchdown on offense.

Their 19-13 victory over Seattle made them 1-0 in NFC West games under Jeff Fisher after the team went 4-26 against the division over the previous five seasons.

One victory is not a trend, of course, but the Rams' performance in reaching 2-2 following a 15-65 run begs for some explanation.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down some of the differences between Fisher's Rams and previous St. Louis teams. Miklasz: "This group limits the damage. It cuts its losses. It makes plays. It puts up resistance. The Rams are 7th in the NFL in stopping opponents on 3rd down, allowing a conversion rate of 31.1 percent. The Rams lead the NFL with eight interceptions. They’ve been dinged by only two TD passes, which is tied for first. The Rams TD/INT ratio of 0.25 is the best in the league. They’re limiting quarterbacks to a passer rating of 64.2; that’s No. 2 in the league. And that Rams defense that isn’t so rigid against the run? Yesterday Seattle ran the ball four times on third down and short (0-2 yards). The Rams held them to six yards on the four rushes, and twice prevented a first down."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News offers a report card for the 49ers' performance during a 34-0 victory over the New York Jets. On the pass defense: "Poor Mark Sanchez, he didn’t stand a chance against a revived pass rush that sacked him three times, forced him to commit two turnovers and limited him to 103 yards on 13-of-29 passing. Stars of the game: Aldon Smith (two sacks, forced fumble), Patrick Willis (interception off Ray McDonald tip), Ahmad Brooks (sack), Carlos Rogers (two fumble recoveries after receptions, plus TD return)."

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wasn't interested in promoting any frenzy over Colin Kaepernick's performance against the Jets. Ostler: "The coolest play of Kaepernick’s day was very subtle. Late in the second quarter, he handed the ball to Frank Gore. Then Kaepernick trotted toward the sideline, but stayed on the field and lined up as a wide receiver. The Jets saw him and called a timeout. What this showed: The 49ers’ secret weapon is cooler than the Jets’ secret weapon. The Jets have Tim Tebow, who makes foes nervous. Twice this year, Tebow’s presence caused the opposing team to burn a timeout. On Sunday, it was the Jets burning the timeout. Maybe Kaepernick’s appearance on the field early, just after Tebow made a cameo for the Jets, was Harbaugh’s way of giving the middle finger to the opposing coach. I’ll see your Tebow and raise you a Kaepernick."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says second-year guard James Carpenter exceeded expectations in his first game back from a knee injury. Coach Pete Carroll: "James played really well. He did a very, very good job. He had a couple errors in the game, which you just about have to anticipate. But we ran a lot to the left. He did a really good job of covering his guy up."

Also from Farnsworth: Seattle's defense, though generally stout, hasn't been as good on third down.

Art Thiel of Sports Press Northwest seeks meaning in Carroll's lengthy comments about Matt Flynn's health. Thiel: "Carroll has created a controversy when many Seahawks fans were willing to give the benefit of the doubt on Russell Wilson. His inexperience combined with protection failures and the absence of game-changing receivers has made a hash of the offense, failing to get more than one touchdown off an ordinary Rams’ defense in a half-empty road house. Unless Carroll activates Portis until Flynn heals, the Seahawks run a fairly high risk of disaster. Unless, of course, he wants to make another deal for the return of Charlie Whitehurst."

Cole Schultz of Pro Football Focus gives high marks to Russell Okung, Brandon Mebane, Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin for their work against the Rams. Schultz: "Okung was adequate in pass protection (he gave up just a pair of hurries), but in the run game he made life miserable for Robert Quinn and Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Okung forced the duo out of the running lanes multiple times, as evidenced by Lynch’s eight yards per carry on runs to either side of Okung. Much of Okung’s good work was undone by his teammate on the other side. Breno Giacomini had a rough go of it in every facet of play."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the schedule can work in the Cardinals' favor once the team gets through its Thursday night game at St. Louis. Somers: "They will have played 10 games, including the preseason. They have four more before the off week (Nov. 11), then a seven-game run to finish the season. The Cardinals might have drawn up that schedule differently had they been in charge, but not that much differently."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com sizes up the Cardinals' situation at corner, where Greg Toler's return to health is a factor. Urban: "Toler ended up playing across from Patrick Peterson at cornerback instead of William Gay, and in nickel, instead of Jamell Fleming (with Gay staying at nickel). Gay played 50 defensive snaps Sunday, Toler 44 and Fleming 12."