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Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Around the NFC West: 49ers' strategy

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with quarterback Alex Smith regarding the 49ers' offensive tactics against the Colts, followed by a look at every player on the roster. The 49ers abruptly went away from their personnel group featuring Delanie Walker and I am not sure why. More on that from me as the day progresses. Maiocco on Barry Sims: "He entered the game on the 49ers' second offensive play after Joe Staley's injury. He was matched up mostly against Colts DE Dwight Freeney. Sims played very, very well. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he pitched a shutout against Freeney. Sure, Freeney had a sack in the game, but it came on a stunt in which Gore picked him up. Even then, that was more of a coverage sack." The hard part comes now that opponents have time to prepare for an offense without Staley.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at potential options for the 49ers as they deal with significant injuries to Staley and cornerback Nate Clements. Barrows: "Look for Sims and Adam Snyder to be the starting tackles while Staley is out. Newly-signed Chris Patrick also is an option, and the 49ers also could elevate rookie Alex Boone from the practice squad. Boone is strictly a right tackle. Bringing him to the active roster would require the 49ers to release someone on the 53-man squad, likely a receiver." The 49ers did release receiver Micheal Spurlock before adding cornerback Keith Smith. I'd be surprised if Boone made it into a regular-season game. Practice squad tackles generally aren't ready for prime time.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at Mike Singletary's first year as the 49ers' head coach. Ratto: "In the meantime, the real fun here is not in wondering if Alex Smith has suddenly been cured, or if Joe Staley can miraculously heal himself, or if the secondary can grow in the absence of Nate Clements and his cracked scapula, but what comes next in Singletary's development as a coach. Does he become a headset guy? Probably not, because he is who he is and that's all who he is, to quote the one-eyed maritime philosopher. Does he more forcefully encourage Raye to open up the offense to accommodate Smith's skill-set while finding a way to protect Smith from being obliterated? As yet unproven. Does he keep promising the playoffs? Oh, bank on it. But what he's already done in what is essentially one year's time already is remarkable, at least when you compare with his original, rigid plan."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals need to bench Anquan Boldin for the receiver's own good. Somers: "By playing at considerably less than optimal health, Boldin is hurting the team. It's hard to make him a big part of the game plan, because no one is sure how long Boldin's ankle will hold up. It doesn't appear he can accelerate as fast on his pass routes, or move quickly enough to evade tacklers when he does make the catch." I thought Boldin moved better against the Panthers than against the Giants, but his subsequent re-injury will probably diminish his effectiveness.

Also from Somers: The Bengals signed fullback Tufui Vakapuna from the Cardinals' practice squad.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are testing their fans' patience with repeated home defeats. Bickley: "If you haven't noticed, these Cardinals are a strange bunch. In trouble, they're often at their best. At their best, they're often on the brink of trouble. They frequently bemoan a lack of respect. Once they attain it, they do everything possible to give it away. They are in first place, and unbeaten on the road. Yet only a goal-line stand against the Texans prevents them from being winless at home."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says coach Ken Whisenhunt is taking an even-keeled approach despite the team's inconsistencies. Whisenhunt: "I think our team has seen me get upset a few times when I’m with the team [in the locker room]. Maybe they need to see that a little bit more from the standpoint of being able to establish that consistency. [But] I don’t really buy into that. We have enough good football players that … no matter what the temperature of the game, we can play the style of football that can allow us to win."

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 breaks down the Cardinals' defensive effort against the Panthers. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com details nine roster moves made by the Seahawks. Was this what coach Jim Mora meant when he said jobs were on the line? A team generally cannot release valuable players for the sake of making statements. Edgerrin James was the biggest name to go, but he wasn't a factor.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times expects Louis Rankin to get more playing time following James' release. The Seahawks are valuing players with knowledge of their offense. Rankin played for Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Oakland.

John Morgan of Field Gulls points out how Seattle receivers Nate Burleson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh jogged out their routes on a running play, possibly by costly consequences. Morgan: "Seattle runs an inside draw. It gets good push from Chris Spencer and Rob Sims. (Justin) Forsett slips through a seam and streams out the other side behind the pulling Spencer. He has the first. Before he's blindsided and the ball pops from his grasp, let's rewind and look around. It's a shotgun snap and the handoff to Forsett is quick and definitive, so the wide receivers have to hustle to influence the play. They're not going to run off their guys, but they could put a body on them. Burleson inches up towards (Terence) Newman and when it's clear he's beat, stops, stands and spectates. Houshmandzadeh starts quicker but slows and instead of engaging nickelback Orlando Scandrick, he jogs up and behind the referee. Newman forces the fumble and Scandrick recovers for 15 yards."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com quotes Seahawks receiver Deion Branch's explanation for what Branch said following his touchdown reception Sunday. Branch: "When you're 2-5 a lot of stuff is going down. I want to win. I want to play. I'm not sitting on the sideline complaining. I've accepted my role on the football team, I just want to go out and help my team win and I feel I can help my team win by playing."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides an appreciation for Rams running back Steven Jackson. Thomas: "These days, few in the NFL pound the rock as well as Jackson. At the midpoint of the 2009 season, he's tied for the NFC rushing lead with Minnesota's Adrian Peterson with 784 yards. And he's tied for second overall in the NFL, trailing only Tennessee's Chris Johnson, who has 824 yards. Add his 186 receiving yards, and Jackson trails Peterson by a scant 3 yards -- 973 to 970 -- for the NFL lead in yards from scrimmage. There can be no doubting that he's at or near the top of the NFL pecking order at running back."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says rookie K.C. Asiodu made a key contribution to the Rams' first victory of the season.