NFC West: Bills-Rams

Silver linings: Bills vs. Rams

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
1:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The facts: A 31-14 home defeat to Buffalo left the Rams with an 0-4 record for the second consecutive season.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a silver lining or two. I'll single out a few below ...

  • Steven Jackson carried 24 times for 110 yards and a touchdown, easily his most productive game of the season. He also caught five passes for 78 yards.
  • Punter Donnie Jones continued to excel, posting a 40.6-yard net average.
  • The offense appeared more creative and aggressive, perhaps a reflection of coordinator Al Saunders' trust in quarterback Trent Green.
  • The defense showed dramatic improvement in the first half. Buffalo's ground game had problems.
  • Leonard Little had two sacks in his first game back from a hamstring injury. Rookie Chris Long added his second career sack.

We could learn more about Rams coach Scott Linehan's future today. We'll have reaction and analysis here as long as I'm not plane-bound. My flight is scheduled to land by 2 p.m. ET (I'm writing this in advance).

Rapid Reaction: Bills 31, Rams 14

September, 28, 2008
9/28/08
7:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

All blowouts are not the same, but that won't matter if the Rams decide to fire coach Scott Linehan following the team's 0-4 start.

The Rams were more competitive this week than last. They held a 14-13 lead in the third quarter. Steven Jackson topped 100 yards rushing for the first time this season. Trent Green passed for 236 yards. The run defense tightened considerably, preventing Marshawn Lynch from taking over the game.

But the final score was all too predictable. The Bills returned an interception for a touchdown. They made big plays in the passing game, continuing a trend against the Rams' pass defense. It's just tough to find much hope taking a 31-14 defeat and 0-4 record into the bye week.

Rams lose McMichael to injury

September, 28, 2008
9/28/08
7:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams helped starting tight end Randy McMichael off the field with an injury. McMichael was not walking under his own power. The Rams are trailing the Bills, 31-14, with 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com traces Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Todd Haley to their days sharing an office as Jets assistants. The two waged heated battles on the basketball court, leaving some to wonder how they could work together. Urban also has a note about tight end Leonard Pope joining the injury report as questionable.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic sizes up Brett Favre and Kurt Warner heading into the Cardinals-Jets matchup at the Meadowlands.

Also from Somers: An update on Pope. No word on when the tight end was injured.

More from Somers: The Cardinals arrived for a game by rail for the first time in more than 50 years. They took Amtrak from Washington, D.C., to New Jersey for the game against the Jets. Linebacker Karlos Dansby: "The only train I've been on is the little bitty train that goes around the zoo. I'm glad we're taking this trip. I think it will bring us closer together." 

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says a road victory would enhance the Cardinals' credibility.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle checks in with 49ers safety Mark Roman, who gets a rare chance to play in front of friends and family in the Superdome.

Also from Crumpacker: A quick glance at the 49ers-Saints game.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Vernon Davis' career has never quite hit stride, and that remains the case this season.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers takes a closer look at key matchups in the 49ers-Saints game. Justin Smith lines up in enough places to qualify for more than one matchup.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee answers 49ers-related questions from readers, including one about the futures of Martz and quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Scott Linehan faces fourth-and-long in the fourth game of the Rams' season. There's a reference to Mike Martz, followed by this: "Regardless of the front-office problems and leadership void at Rams Park, Linehan has had three years to pick his roster. Draft picks such as Dominique Byrd, Claude Wroten, Tye Hill and Joe Klopfenstein all came under his watch. [Isaac] Bruce was released during his tenure. So was Madison Hedgecock, and now [Fakhir] Brown."

Also from Thomas: Rams guard Richie Incognito faces a difficult matchup against Bills defensive tackle Marcus Stroud.

More from Thomas: He gives the edge to Buffalo in every matchup.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Bills would rather face Trent Green than Marc Bulger. The reason: Green didn't get many snaps during the exhibition season.

Allen Wilson of the Buffalo News refers to the "Saddest Show on Turf" while mocking the Rams in his scouting report.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune takes a look at the Seahawks' running game and the team's offensive identity. Seattle plays four of its next six games on the road.

Audibles: NFC West Week 4 preview

September, 26, 2008
9/26/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

San Francisco 49ers (2-1) at New Orleans Saints (1-2), 1 p.m. ET

The 49ers have to like their chances of claiming their second road victory in as many chances this season.

Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan proved he could fight through a slow start in Seattle and still rally the 49ers to an upset victory in a hostile environment. The Saints aren't as formidable as the Seahawks on defense, and they are also suffering from a long list of injuries. Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense will test the 49ers' defense even without receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey. This could be a high-scoring game.

O'Sullivan and tight end Vernon Davis came close to connecting on a couple of big plays last week. Davis is averaging 17.0 yards per reception, up from 9.8 last season, and his speed could give the Saints problems down the middle of the field. His timing and overall rapport with O'Sullivan should improve as the season progresses.

Redskins tight end Chris Cooley caught five passes for 72 yards against the Saints in Week 2. Let's see if Davis can exploit a weak and injury-depleted Saints defense.

The 49ers have been very effective with two tight ends on the field and Frank Gore alone in the backfield. They averaged 6.1 yards on nine carries and 10.2 yards on five pass plays while operating from that personnel grouping against Detroit in Week 3.

Buffalo Bills (3-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-3), 4:05 p.m. ET

The Rams are facing a potential mutiny after benching quarterback Marc Bulger and releasing cornerback Fakhir Brown in response to their 0-3 start. Those moves seem unlikely to produce the type of emotional response needed for sustained success. This is an organization in panic mode and without effective leadership on any level.

Think about it. The Rams handed a six-year, $65 million deal to Bulger before the 2007 season. They brought in Al Saunders as offensive coordinator this year, then benched Bulger after three games in a new system. Only an organization in turmoil makes that type of move.

The way Rams running back Steven Jackson sees things, the Rams' switch to Trent Green at quarterback serves Saunders as much as it serves the Rams. It's fair to wonder if Saunders will suddenly open up the playbook now that his quarterback is under center. Saunders and Green enjoyed great success together in Kansas City, but they don't have Tony Gonzalez and a dominating offensive line on their side this time.

The Rams have the look of a badly injured animal. There's always a chance desperation will compel them to rise up and fight, fight, fight. Most likely, the Bills will have to overlook the Rams for St. Louis to succeed in this game.

I sense no emotional groundswell in response to the lineup changes. I do anticipate wide running lanes for Marshawn Lynch and more confusion in the Rams' secondary as Lee Evans works deep downfield.

Arizona Cardinals (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2), 1 p.m. ET

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is betting big on changing the organization's culture. He has convinced ownership to spend money on assistant coaches. This week, he convinced the organization to invest in a week-long experiment to see if the Cardinals are mature enough to handle life on the road in Washington, D.C.

We'll find out much about the Cardinals when they face the Jets at the Meadowlands. Arizona has the better team in this matchup. If that shows on the scoreboard, Whisenhunt wins big. If the Cardinals play sloppily and lose, they'll be 2-2 and no closer to demonstrating just how much things have changed in the desert.

Staying in the nation's capital after the 24-17 loss at Washington made sense in theory. While the Jets were playing a Monday night game on the West Coast, the Cardinals were secure in knowing they wouldn't have to travel this week. But the trip also risked turning the week into an extended frat party.

How did the Cardinals approach this trip? How far have they come under Whisenhunt? We'll have a better idea Sunday afternoon.

Opponents outgain Rams by 763 yards

September, 22, 2008
9/22/08
6:45
PM ET
TeamGamesRams YardsOpponents' YardsDifference
Rams36701,370763
Rams16*3273.3*7306.7*4,069.3*

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams have been outgained by 763 yards through three games.

At this rate, opponents would outgain the Rams by 4,069 yards over a full season. The 16-game total would come out to 3,237 yards for the Rams and 7,307 yards for their opponents. The chart compares current stats to the 16-game projections.

Rams coach Scott Linehan: "The expectation is that the defense in the third year of a system with, I would say, everyone that is playing for us was hand-picked by us. We're at the no-excuse time."

As for the offense? Bad. Some perspective: In 2007, the 49ers' last-ranked offense gained 3,797 yards, or 237.3 yards per game. The Rams are averaging 202.3 yards per game.

The Rams blamed their 2007 season on injuries. I saw their point. They've had a few this season as well, but that isn't the issue with this team. We are seeing no fire. Seattle jumped to a 27-6 lead in the first half Sunday. The Rams lost the opener in Philadelphia, 38-3.

Linehan: "Something's vanishing from our competitive state of mind on the field and I take total responsibility for that, trying to find out what it is, what buttons we need to push, what lineups that can get it done. After three games, I don't know that I have any better answer for you than I did after one, because I felt much better after game two until the fourth quarter, but I felt very similar to how we were in game one in this game in the first half."

The 3-0 Bills visit the Edwards Jones Dome in Week 4. Marshawn Lynch could rush for 150 or 200 yards if the Rams don't find answers in a hurry.

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