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Tuesday, October 23, 2012
NFC West Stock Watch

By Mike Sando

FALLING

1. Division QBs. NFC West quarterbacks tossed three touchdowns with four interceptions and 13 sacks in Week 7. Together, their Total QBR (26.0) was the lowest for quarterbacks from any division. There was a fumbled snap on a third-down play (Sam Bradford), an interception in the end zone (Alex Smith), a pick returned for a touchdown (John Skelton) and a 39.1 percent completion percentage (Russell Wilson). Bradford was better than the others. Rams coach Jeff Fisher even singled out Bradford for having perhaps his best game when it came to changing plays at the line of scrimmage. Overall, however, this was a rough week for the position.

2. Rams' pass defense. The Rams have zero interceptions over their past three games after picking off eight passes in their first four. They have allowed five scoring passes over their past two games after allowing two in the first five games. Fisher singled out rookie Janoris Jenkins for another mental lapse, this one for letting a penalty flag distract him during what became a 52-yard pass play for the Packers. Even defensive end Chris Long struggled. He finished the game with an assisted tackle and not much else.

3. Seahawks' hands. Golden Tate, Robert Turbin, Evan Moore and Marshawn Lynch dropped passes during the Seahawks' 13-6 defeat at San Francisco. It's tough to win when completed passes (nine) roughly double the total for drops.

4. Vernon Davis, 49ers TE. Consider this a temporary downgrade based solely on Davis' receiving numbers over the past two games. As coach Jim Harbaugh noted, Davis handled his blocking assignments, and there will be games when even the best tight ends don't factor into the passing game as much. It's just strange to see Davis go a full game without the 49ers even targeting him. Davis' 58-game streak with at least one reception ended against the Seahawks.

Frank Gore
Frank Gore found plenty of room to run against the Seahawks.
RISING

1. Frank Gore, 49ers RB. Gore rushed for 131 yards against a Seattle defense that was the NFL's last to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. The 49ers' guards get plenty of credit, too. They helped execute the trap plays for which Seattle had no answer. Gore played through bruised ribs and helped the 49ers dominate time of possession in the second half.

2. LaRod Stephens-Howling. The diminutive Stephens-Howling wasn't built to carry the football 20-plus times against NFL defenses. He did it anyway Sunday, rushing 20 times for 104 yards against the Minnesota Vikings. This was only the third time Stephens-Howling has had more than 11 carries in the game. It was only the third time he has reached 50 yards rushing in a game. The Cardinals are desperate at the position while playing without Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. Stephens-Howling answered the call and ran with disregard for his body.

3. Robert Quinn, Rams DE. The Rams' pass defense struggled overall, but Quinn was outstanding against the Packers. Rams coaches credited Quinn with six pressures and four quarterback hits. The rest of the team had five pressures and two quarterback hits. That's what the Rams are looking to see from their 2011 first-round draft choices. Quinn has seven sacks in seven games.

4. Rams' roster churn. The Rams protected the passer quite well and ran the ball effectively (93 first-half yards) despite having a left tackle (Joe Barksdale) and left guard (Shelley Smith) making their first NFL regular-season starts. Let's flip that around. The Rams fared well on their line because they gave Barksdale and Smith a chance. A year ago, they might have gone with a veteran backup such as Adam Goldberg. They would have taken some comfort in the known, with no chance for discovering or developing young talent. Perhaps one or both of these young players will stick around. The team also signed 2008 Chicago Bears first-round choice Chris Williams.