NFC West: Darrell Jackson
- Leavy and line judge Mark Perlman are the only holdovers from the crew that ticked off the Seahawks so badly with its officiating in Super Bowl XL following the 2005 season. The chart shows Leavy's crew for the Super Bowl and his crew for the Cincinnati-Cleveland game he worked in Week 1 this season.
- Given the fallout over officiating in the Super Bowl, the league had no good reason for assigning Leavy to another Seahawks-Steelers game. Leavy has worked a Seattle game subsequently and it's only fair for every team to draw from the same group of referees. But why this game? This had to reflect an oversight at the officiating office, one the league couldn't very well undo once news of Leavy's assignment got out.
- Leavy himself made two of the calls against Seattle in the Super Bowl. He called holding against tackle Sean Locklear, a call for which he apologized even though the officiating office did not grade him down for this specific call. Leavy also made the obviously incorrect call against quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for a low block.
- Perlman, as line judge, made the call allowing Ben Roethlisberger's 1-yard touchdown run. The Seahawks felt as though Roethlisberger did not score on the play. Perlman will be serving in the same capacity Sunday if Leavy brings his Week 1 crew to Pittsburgh.
- The back judge in the Super Bowl, Bob Waggoner, made the call for offensive interference against Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson, negating a touchown that would have given Seattle a 7-0 lead.
- Leavy met with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and staff last season at team headquarters, delivering an annual officiating presentation. Officials brief reporters separately during these visits to training camps. Leavy apologized for Super Bowl officiating errors during the media session.
- Cornerback Marcus Trufant and linebacker Leroy Hill are the only current Seattle players who were on the roster for the Super Bowl. This would be a much bigger deal if Mike Holmgren were still coaching the Seahawks. Carroll has less reason to care.
The differentiation between Leavy's Super Bowl crew and his likely crew for Week 2 seemed important. Leavy's assignment to the game Sunday struck a nerve with some fans I've heard from. I'd call it an honest oversight strengthening perceptions among West Coast teams that the NFL isn't particularly sensitive to their concerns on such matters.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com passes along a team-issued comment from Chargers general manager A.J. Smith regarding the team's contract agreement with Takeo Spikes. Smith: "He is an outstanding player. I love his competitiveness and instincts. I believe he will be an immediate contributor. To me, this is another Randall Godfrey type move for the Chargers."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers did not show interest in Spikes once the negotiating period opened.
Taylor Price of 49ers.com reports from team headquarters as players returned for work following the lockout. Price: "While 49ers players like Willis were extremely eager to begin the 2011 campaign, many of them had trouble finding their lockers first. The typical locker arrangement the players had come to expect was changed by head coach Jim Harbaugh. Now the locker room looks like a sporadic mix of players intertwined with various position groups."
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers are adopting a long-term approach under team president Jed York.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune reflects on some of the moments that defined Matt Hasselbeck's legacy in Seattle. Boling: "Years ago at Arizona when Darrell Jackson fumbled the ball 20 yards downfield at a crucial point in the game, the Seahawk who made the recovery was Hasselbeck. He’d gone racing down the field to help and was there to dive into the pile and get the ball. Offensive coordinator Gil Haskell was mad at him after the game because it seemed so reckless for a quarterback, but then he admitted that he’d never seen another quarterback make that play, and that Matt was the 'toughest guy on the team.'"
John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks the Seahawks should give Charlie Whitehurst a chance.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says now was the time for Hasselbeck and the Seahawks to part ways. Kelley: "He made himself into a Pro Bowler. He became one of the most respected athletes to play in Seattle and one of the classiest, most humble guys I've covered. But it was time for him to go. The Seahawks will go into this season with two rookies projected to start on the right side of the offensive line. Four of their starting linemen will have a combined total of 27 career starts. That's a prescription for disaster for Hasselbeck, who will turn 36 in September and has had injury and mobility problems the past few years. Truthfully, the end of the Hasselbeck era has been coming since former general manager Tim Ruskell hustled [Mike] Holmgren out the door."
Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle says clues were there that Hasselbeck would not return. As coach Pete Carroll put it some time after declaring Hasselbeck's re-signing a top priority, "Well, we had a good dialogue started and we went up to the time frame that we had available so that's all we could do, and then it ended. We weren't able to get anything done at that time so when opportunities arise again where we can get going on it again, we'll be right after it again and see where it all fits. Some time has passed now and there could have been some things that have changed."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says former defensive lineman Richard Harris, 63, has died of a heart attack.
Also from Farnsworth: Seattle players return to work.
Art Thiel of Sports Press Northwest calls Tarvaris Jackson a placeholder while the Seahawks search for their next long-term quarterback.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are considering multiple options at quarterback. Hasselbeck was one of the options mentioned, but obviously not a serious one. Hasselbeck's agreement with Tennessee gives Arizona one fewer quarterback to consider as the Cardinals try to leverage a better deal with Philadelphia for Kevin Kolb. Somers: "Kolb is the Cardinals' top choice, and their efforts to get him were bolstered when the Seahawks agreed to terms Tuesday with former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson."
Also from Somers: Jeff King and Ben Graham have agreed to deals with Arizona.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says team staffers were happy to see players back in the building following the lockout. Urban: "There are times when a player comes through the door and freezes, realizing a meeting was going on. Offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges was that guy this morning, until [team president Michael] Bidwill waved him through. As the affable Bridges walked down the side, the staff began to clap, bringing a smile to Bridges’ face. As he went to pass the main stage, he went to shake Bidwill’s hand -- and it turned into a welcome-back hug."
Also from Urban: More on players returning to work.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports from Rams headquarters as players returned to work following the lockout. Also: "Jim Lake has been promoted to equipment manager. He replaces Todd Hewitt, who was fired in January after 16 years in the position and 32 years as a Rams employee. Lake has worked in the club's equipment department for 20 years. In other staff additions, Adam Bailey has been hired as assistant strength coach, Lou Paolillo has been named a coaching assistant/special projects, and Jeremy McMillan becomes the team's nutritionist."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Quintin Mikell's addition to the Rams could spell the end for veteran James Butler. Thomas: "The Rams currently have only three safeties under contract in James Butler, Craig Dahl and Darian Stewart, but did draft two safeties in Ohio State's Jermale Hines and Oklahoma's Jonathan Nelson. The signing of Mikell could put Butler, who counts nearly $3.3 million against the salary, in jeopardy of being a cap casualty."
Also from Barrows: Is Kendall Hunter the next Brian Westbrook?
Mindi Bach of CSNBayArea.com has this to say about Smith's likely return: "When he met with new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh in January, the two men hit it off immediately, Smith said. He said he liked the idea of playing for an offensive-minded head coach who played quarterback in the NFL. Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary, 49ers head coaches since 2005, both came from defensive backgrounds."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com explains why defensive backs Colin Jones and Curtis Holcomb appealed to the 49ers in the draft. General manager Trent Baalke on Jones: "When you look at the measurable, he's 6-foot, 210 pounds, runs low 4.4s and you can see it on film. He loves special teams. You look at the TCU film, covering kicks, covering punts, he's the first one down and he's not afraid of contact."
Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis looks at potential free-agent defensive tackles for the Rams to consider this offseason. The Giants' Barry Cofield and the Seahawks' Brandon Mebane made the list. Softli on Cofield: "Cofield has developed into one of the league's best interior defensive linemen. He has explosive use of his hands with quickness out of stance and plays behind pads. Good run stopper with football instincts and a nose for the ball. Solid lateral movement over and around trash, a dominant interior lineman with some nasty in his play. Pass rush is adequate, but reacts well to screens and hustles to second level."
Mike Baldwin of the Oklahoman says former Rams and Steelers defensive back Clendon Thomas will be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Thomas picked off three passes for the Rams in 1961, then had 15 interceptions for the Steelers over a two-year period. Baldwin: "A second-round selection, Thomas played 11 years in the NFL with the Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers. Playing primarily defensive back, because of his size and speed, Thomas was considered one of the top athletes in the league. Selected to the 1963 Pro Bowl and a three-time second team All-Pro selection, Thomas played in 137 professional games. He compiled 27 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. Thomas, 75, is a member of the Steelers Legends team. He also intercepted a Paul Hornung pass and returned it for a touchdown."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Bobby Engram was "humbled" to earn a spot as the third receiver on the Seahawks' 35th anniversary team, determined by online fan balloting. Farnsworth: "Finishing second to Steve Largent (5,004 votes) was Brian Blades (3,487), and coming in third -- as the slot receiver -- was Bobby Engram (2,254). Darrell Jackson finished fourth (1,388), followed by Joey Galloway (941), Daryl Turner (211) and Koren Robinson (95)."
Also from Farnsworth: Engram's former teammates reflect on the receiver's contributions. Lofa Tatupu: "His understanding of what the route needs or what the coaches expect out of it, the way he could read coverages, his understanding of route concepts and what the defense was doing -- it was all second to none. You put a nickel or a corner on him on the inside, he’d eat him up all day. Bobby was a professional in every sense of the word. He was an amazing guy – a guy you love to have in the locker room, a leader."
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle asks whether Seattle could be in line to host a Super Bowl. ESPN.com's John Clayton put the chances at "virtually none" thanks to a combination of factors including hotel rooms, weather and stadium size.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com shows off a sensational "Grand Cannon" poster featuring then-Cardinals quarterback Neil Lomax standing before a Grand Canyon backdrop.
Pat Kirwan of NFL.com thinks Arizona would be a good fit for Carson Palmer if the Bengals decided to trade the disgruntled quarterback. Kirwan: "There’s no denying his talent and experience. If you’re looking to duplicate some of the things you did with Kurt Warner, he’s your best choice." Palmer would instantly make the Cardinals a leading candidate to win the NFC West, in my view. His addition would energize the team and revive the offense, particularly with three capable running backs to lessen the load.
Dan, a Rams fan, wasn't too happy with the way I've described the St. Louis Rams as a team lacking offensive firepower. I thought Kansas City's victory in the Edward Jones Dome brought to light these shortcomings. Danario Alexander and others made a few big plays to help the Rams beat San Francisco, but the 49ers clearly had more dangerous weapons. They were missing the quarterback.
I'll share my conversation with Dan here and wrap it up with some closing thoughts. Another Facebook friend, Michael, joined the conversation partway through.
Dan: In an earlier post this week regarding Sam Bradford's primetime debut, you stated: "He doesn't necessarily have the offensive weapons to make it happen." What are you talking about? Steven Jackson, Danario Alexander, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson, Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui. You mean to tell me that those guys are not offensive weapons? Sam Bradford and Co. will prove you wrong, Mr. Seattle Native.
Mike Sando: Seattle native? Actually California native who grew up following the Rams in the 70s. Not that it matters, but the Rams do lack weapons. Watch how they approach the offseason for confirmation, or just look at Bradford's YPA this season. Hoomanawanui is good if healthy. And Seattle's D has been vulnerable anyway.
Michael: After Steven Jackson, nobody really strikes fear into opponents from St. Louis' offense. Amendola's 8.2 yards per reception don't necessarily require D coordinators to gameplan around him. If they could get a dude like A.J. Green in St. Louis so that Bradford can open up the offense, they will be a scary team to face down the road.
Dan: OK. I stand corrected on the Seattle comment. Your ESPN bio made you look like you were all about Seattle. Sorry about that. I have been following the Rams since the mid-80's and wished they moved back to LA.
Anywho, let's get back to the "weapons" discussion here. Jackson is solid at RB, although I wish we had a little speedster a la Darren Sproles or Felix Jones or Leon Washington to mix things up. At tight end, we have three decent players in Fells, Billy Bajema, and Hoomanawanui. So it comes down to the wide receiver corps. Coming into 2011, with a healthy Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton and Danario Alexander -- and throw in Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, and Mardy Gilyard for good measure -- where do you see a problem? I guess health issues, obviously.
Should they draft more receivers or trade for one? I think they should focus on strengthening their secondary and defense as a whole, and nab a solid running back to spell Jackson. I personally like the Rams receiving corps when healthy.
Michael: Obviously, you aren't talking to me, but don't mind if I pitch in, haha. I just think they need at least one big-play guy that defenses need to game-plan around. Obviously, it's possible to win without one (Tom Brady 2001-2004), but it would make Bradford's job easier, Jackson more effective and open holes for alot of the solid receivers you guys already have.
Dan: I must have been writing my rant while you were writing your comment so I missed yours. But here's your big play guy. The DX Missile. Avery, Clayton, Alexander, Amendola, Gibson, and Gilyard could provide a sold WR corps for Sam. But again, it comes down to, can they stay healthy?
Mike Sando: The "DX Missile" stuff is odd to me. He has played in seven games and has needed knee surgery once during that stretch. A little premature to count on him as a big-play threat. Avery and Clayton coming off IR. It's a bonus if they come back strong. Amendola good third-down WR. Gibson has improved. Gilyard probably will improve. He is a non-factor right now. They'll look to upgrade top-end talent at WR. They've done a nice job patching the position as best they could.
Closing thoughts: The Rams do have occasional big-play ability, but they lack a consistent big-play threat. This team has averaged a league-low 10.0 yards per completed pass through Week 16. That is not necessarily a horrible thing. Atlanta and New Orleans are tied with Carolina for the second-lowest average per reception (10.4 yards). But a little more firepower would open up the offense, including on the ground. The Rams are tied with Miami and Seattle for the second-lowest rushing average per carry even though they have a Pro Bowl running back.
My plan for the Rams' offense this offseason would include these priorities:
- Draft a running back with speed to provide a change of pace and provide another option on kickoff returns.
- Bring back Clayton and Avery, but do not count on either. At least one of them figures to come back strong in 2011. Clayton would be the favorite given Avery's injury history.
- Make sure Bradford and Hoomanawanui spend considerable time together this offseason. Hoomanawanui has been effective when healthy. He's had bad luck with ankle injuries -- similar to what Russell Okung has gone through in Seattle -- but he should be the starter next season.
- Draft a wide receiver in the first three rounds. Teams running the Rams' offense haven't needed to use early picks for the position. Two players that succeeded in this offense -- Antonio Freeman with Green Bay, Darrell Jackson with Seattle -- were third-round choices. But if the Rams are in position to draft a playmaking wideout in the first round, they need to consider it. This is what Indianapolis has done to maximize its investment in Peyton Manning.
- Consider signing a receiver in free agency, but think twice before giving up high draft choices for one. Teams giving up considerable draft capital for receivers haven't always gotten what they wanted in return. Randy Moss did not help Minnesota. Brandon Marshall upgraded the position for Miami, but the price was high (two second-round choices). The Rams need their early picks. They snagged left tackle Rodger Saffold in the second round, for example.
The story includes anecdotes from former Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen, former USC and NFL assistant coach Norm Chow, the trainer who tried to help Williams get into shape and others. Chow was with the Tennessee Titans when he talked the team into taking a chance on Williams:
I talked to everyone in Tennessee hard about getting him. Oakland had cut him and I actually wanted to trade for him, but when they cut him I fought hard for us to sign him. When he got to Tennessee, he was 286 pounds. It was unbelievable. I really couldn't believe what I saw. He could still run around, but he was too heavy to play receiver. ... He actually got me in trouble, because when he got here they said, 'What are you talking about? Why would you bring a 286-pound receiver here?' It was really disappointing. I don't know what allowed him to do that. Maybe instant fame or whatever when Detroit made him a top-10 pick and gave him all that money and he just didn't have that drive anymore."
Williams set NFL career highs with 10 receptions for 123 yards during the Seahawks' victory over Chicago in Week 6. But even Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll never thought Williams would return to this level of production. Williams joined Steve Largent, Brian Blades, Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson and Tommy Kane as the only wide receivers in Seahawks history to catch 10 or more passes in a game.
The team's general manager at the time, Tim Ruskell, repeatedly assured Branch that the organization had no such plans. Ruskell wasn't lying. The Seahawks held onto Branch, but if they had cut ties with the veteran receiver in 2009 following three years of declining production, not even Branch could have expressed shock.
When the post-Ruskell Seahawks finally unloaded Branch this week, the biggest surprise came in the price New England paid in reacquiring the 31-year-old receiver. Branch will return the higher of the Patriots' 2011 fourth-round choices: the one acquired from Denver or the one originally belonging to New England. Wasn't that a little steep?
Randy Moss had commanded a third-round choice when New England traded him to Minnesota last week, an indication Seattle might be lucky to get a fifth-rounder for Branch. As Branch himself told reporters Tuesday, "I’m not Randy Moss. I wasn’t Randy Moss when I was here. And I’m not here to replace him."
The lesson, as always, is that any commodity is worth whatever someone can get for it at a given time. There is no sliding scale or reference chart based on a wide receiver's past production or anything else. Branch's value to the Patriots increased once New England determined keeping Moss was no longer tenable.
For perspective, and with an assist from Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information, I've classified 17 receiver trades since 2007 by compensation levels:
1. Roy E. Williams to Dallas (2008)
Price paid: Dallas sent 2009 first-, third- and sixth-round choices to Detroit for Williams and a seventh-rounder.
Comment: This one sets the standard for overspending. Williams is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season in Dallas, but this deal marked the last time (for now) an NFL team traded a first-round choice for a wide receiver.
2. Randy Moss to Oakland (2005)
Price paid: Oakland sent 2005 first- and seventh-round picks, plus linebacker Napoleon Harris, to Minnesota.
Comment: The Raiders never had the supporting cast to maximize this investment. Moss didn't hold up his end, of course, but the Patriots later proved Moss could function at a high level in the right environment.
3. Deion Branch to Seattle (2006)
Price paid: Seattle sent its 2007 first-round choice to New England.
Comment: Ruskell hoped Branch would add character and leadership to a position group he viewed as lacking in those areas. Branch did not have the talent to justify the price, however, and injury problems diminished what returns Seattle got from its over-investment.
Price paid: Miami sent 2010 and 2011 second-round choices to Denver.
Comment: Marshall is on pace for another 100-catch season, although he has only one touchdown reception in his first four games with Miami. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels comes from the New England tree. Both organizations like to load up on second-round draft choices.
5. Wes Welker to New England (2007)
Price paid: The Patriots sent 2007 second- and seventh-round choices to Miami.
Comment: Welker is on pace for his fourth consecutive 100-catch season since joining the Patriots. He had caught 96 passes over two seasons with Miami previously. The quarterback situation in New England allowed the Patriots to maximize this trade.
6. Chris Chambers to San Diego (2007)
Price paid: San Diego sent a 2008 second-round choice to Miami.
Comment: This deal never worked out the way San Diego planned. Chambers made some solid contributions early, but an ankle injury altered the course of his career with the Chargers. Malcolm Floyd emerged as a big-play threat, and San Diego cut Chambers during the 2009 season.
7. Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets (2009)
Price paid: The Jets sent 2010 third- and fifth-round choices, plus Jason Trusnik and Chansi Stuckey, to Cleveland.
Comment: Edwards probably had run his course in Cleveland. The Browns were starting over. Edwards has 52 receptions, seven for touchdowns, in 17 games with the Jets. Check back later on this one.
8. Anquan Boldin to Baltimore (2010)
Price paid: Baltimore sent its 2010 third- and fourth-round choices to Arizona for Boldin and a fifth-round pick.
Comment: So far, so good for the Ravens. Boldin has 28 catches for 363 yards and three touchdowns in his first three games with Baltimore. Long-term durability concerns played into Arizona's decision to make the trade. Can Boldin hold up?
9. Randy Moss to Minnesota (2010)
Price paid: Minnesota sent a 2011 third-round choice to New England.
Comment: Moss had become unhappy and the Patriots decided to get value for him while they could, possibly at the expense of their 2010 on-field production. The Patriots spent only a fourth-round choice for Moss, used his immense talent for three-plus seasons, then got a third-rounder out of him. Not bad. But at what short-term cost?
10. Randy Moss to New England (2007)
Price paid: The Patriots sent a 2007 fourth-round choice to the Raiders.
Comment: Moss' relationship with the Raiders had deteriorated to the point that Oakland needed to unload him despite the high price it paid for Moss in 2005. Getting a fourth-round choice wasn't bad under the circumstances, although the price was a bargain from the Patriots' perspective.
11. Darrell Jackson to San Francisco (2007)
Price paid: The 49ers sent a 2007 fourth-round choice to Seattle.
Comment: Viewed as a risky move within the division at the time, Seattle came out OK. Jackson didn't fit the 49ers' offense and his deteriorating knee was another hindrance.
Price paid: The 49ers sent a 2010 fifth-round choice to Miami.
Comment: Ginn enjoyed a strong training camp before suffering a sprained knee in the regular-season opener. He has made a positive impact in the return game since coming back from the injury. San Francisco needs Ginn to emerge as a deep threat, too.
13. Deion Branch to New England (2010)
Price paid: The Patriots sent a fourth-round choice to Seattle.
Comment: The Seahawks got more in return for Branch than expected, but the Patriots can still come out OK. They've got Tom Brady, after all.
14. Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets (2010)
Price paid: The Jets sent a 2010 fifth-round choice to Pittsburgh.
Comment: Holmes served a four-game suspension to open the season. He caught three passes for 41 yards in his Jets debut Monday night. The Steelers had enough off-field concerns while dealing with the Ben Roethlisberger situation. Parting with Holmes made more sense in that context.
15. Greg Lewis to New England (2009)
Price paid: The Patriots sent a 2009 fifth-round choice to Philadelphia for Lewis and a seventh-rounder.
Comment: Oops. The Patriots cut Lewis before he played a regular-season game for them.
16. Mark Clayton to St. Louis (2010)
Price paid: The Rams sent a 2011 sixth-round choice to the Ravens for Clayton and a seventh-rounder.
Comment: This deal was working out very well for the Rams until Clayton suffered a season-ending knee injury against Detroit in Week 5. Clayton appeared to be a natural fit for the Rams' offense and he worked well with No. 1 overall choice Sam Bradford.
17. Troy Williamson to Jacksonville (2008)
Price paid: The Jaguars sent a 2008 sixth-round choice to Minnesota.
Comment: Williamson caught eight passes over two seasons for the Jaguars.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic has the details.
Why not disclose the surgery earlier?
Teams like to keep opponents guessing. In this case, it's tough to say the Cardinals gained a competitive advantage by making the Atlanta Falcons prepare for Wells. The Falcons won the game, 41-7.
Wells had a torn meniscus. Not all surgeries are the same and it's tough to say to what degree this procedure might affect Wells for the long term. The Cardinals initially said Wells suffered only a bruise. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Wells was "day-to-day" even after surgery.
This is not the first time a bone bruise turned out to be more serious than anticipated. In 2005, the Seattle Seahawks initially diagnosed receiver Darrell Jackson with a bruised knee. They later discovered a tear to the lateral meniscus. Jackson underwent surgery, at which point doctors discovered the damage was worse than expected. Jackson missed nine games and had trouble sustaining top form again.
The fact that the Cardinals expect Wells to play so quickly after surgery suggests the damage was not as significant.
Gabe (Bay Area): Do you think that the 49ers might be "over-working" Frank Gore? I know the offense revolves around him, but it looked to me on Monday night that he was getting tired in the fourth quarter. The way Anthony Dixon looked in the preseason and in the game (granted only one carry), do you think they should use him in those short-yardage situations to save Frank later down the road? Thanks again and keep up the good work.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Gabe. They do need to give Gore some rest if they're going to run the ball so much. He also caught seven passes. Lots of touches in that game. I realize why the 49ers keep him on the field. They are better with him, no matter the situation. But when going with such a tough run-oriented approach -- lots of 22 personnel out there with tight formations -- it does make you wonder whether Gore might benefit from some rest. Dixon might need some time to get up to speed on protections, though. The 49ers like to throw deep from heavy personnel in short-yardage situations. Having the the threat of Gore in the backfield helps make that work.
Daryl (Fresno, Calif.): It appeared to me that in the Rams play calling in the second half against the Raiders was horrible. Too timid, I was even calling what they were going to run. When they ran the no huddle the Rams marched right down the field. Do you see the Rams opening it up aka the Colts or will they keep the same ol same ol.
Mike Sando: I'm with you to a point. It's easy to sit here and say the Rams should open it up, but the reality was that Oakland was getting pressure on Sam Bradford and really hitting him. There was one high-low hit that appeared dangerous. The Raiders tagged Bradford in that third quarter. Bradford later threw a pick on a first-and-10 throw early in the fourth quarter. It's not like an aggressive plan would have automatically delivered results. Had Bradford been injured dropping back from a four-receiver set, people might be wondering why the Rams would get away from the run and their best player, Steven Jackson, when the game was still close and Bradford was taking a beating. You can't win if you're a coach, unless you win!
Jonathan (Bellingham, Wa): The Seahawks faithful are calling for Matt Hasselbeck's job in Seattle. Do you think that is a good idea this early in the season? Also, at this point, do you believe it is an argument that Hasselbeck is still the top QB in our weak division. Smith did look sharp late on Monday night.
Mike Sando: Too early. Hasselbeck was on point in the home game. He had some head-scratcher plays at Denver but also could have gotten some help from John Carlson in particular. That missed opportunity down the field stemmed from Carlson taking a by-the-book approach to route running. Hasselbeck made a throw based on what he saw after the snap. Years ago, a player such as Darrell Jackson would have made the same adjustment Hasselbeck made -- not because the play called for it, but because his feel for the game would have dictated it -- and Seattle might have scored a touchdown. That is one small example. I'd stay with Hasselbeck and let him get more work with these receivers in this offense. Two games is not enough unless the quarterback is clueless out there. That is not the case with Hasselbeck.
Chris (Phoenix): Hey Mike! Picking just one question about the Cardinals is way too tough these days because it seems everyone has more questions than answers around here! How about give me one breakout player for the Cards against the Raiders. Thanks for the insight as always!
Mike Sando: You got it. How about Steve Breaston or one of the secondary receivers. You figure Nnamdi Asomugha matches up with Larry Fitzgerald, and Arizona has to go someplace else. On defense, let's go with one of the pass-rushers. Calais Campbell and/or Joey Porter could have some good opportunities based on what I saw from the left side of the Raiders' line in Week 2. James Hall had a good game for the Rams at RDE. Raiders left tackle Langston Walker was actually pretty good. He fared better against Chris Long than I would have expected.
Lots of good questions and comments covering all four teams this week. Thanks much.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA): Sand-O, What did you think of the Cards' defense? I like they are flying around the ball a lot and really hitting people in the mouth. That being said, they still gave up over 350 yards total offense to the Rams!
Mike Sando: They gave up 325 yards, for the record, but I did not see great things from the Cardinals in terms of team defense. Sam Bradford hit a couple long throws. Mark Clayton was wide open for another one, but he dropped the ball. The Rams converted 10 of 23 times on third/fourth downs. The run defense against Steven Jackson was fine for the most part. The safeties made good plays on the ball. I thought the Rams' offensive line held up better in protection than I would have imagined, and Sam Bradford got rid of the ball quickly.
Trevor (Kelowna BC): Good morning.......aside from the obvious home field advantage at "Mile High" where do you see the strengths and weakness' versus the Broncos?
Mike Sando: I've seen only highlights from the Broncos' first game, but it looks like there could be some pass-rushing opportunities against the Denver tackles. Can Chris Clemons keep getting a strong rush without the benefit of a pro-Seahawks crowd to help him get a jump on the opposing tackle? I'm not clear on the answer there, but that is a key matchup. Seattle's run defense appears strong. I also think it's very good for Seattle to have Elvis Dumervil on injured reserve. That allows Seattle to play Tyler Polumbus at left tackle without helping him as much.
Aron (STL): Sando, is it a sign of how bad the Rams receivers are when Mark Clayton after only five days in the books was our best WR on Sunday? Is there any hope for this group or am I waiting for some stud in the draft next year?
Mike Sando: The Rams' offense is similar to the one Mike Holmgren ran successfully in Seattle even though Holmgren never had a dominant receiver. Guys like Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram were effective players in this offense. Clayton's quick emergence does reflect the lack of established receivers on the Rams' roster. It also reflects Sam Bradford's accuracy and the fact that Clayton, though not an elite receiver, is a quick learner and could fit well in this offense.
Bill (Vacaville, Calif): Mike, early in the 49ers' loss, they used Delanie Walker with success when they were moving the ball. Why did they not utilize him in the second half? He is so versatile and opens up others in the offense. Also, what about Brian Westbrook?
Mike Sando: The 49ers' third-down and two-minute offense features three wide receivers. Frank Gore stays on the field, as does Vernon Davis. That makes Walker the odd man out. Walker's presence is maximized when the defense must respect the running game. But when the 49ers fell behind, the running game wasn't something the Seahawks had to worry about. They were going to play the pass. Perhaps having Walker still would have given the 49ers some advantage, but the circumstances would have been different. We cannot assume Walker would have had the same impact under different circumstances.
As for Westbrook, I can't see him being more than an occasional situational player as long as Gore is healthy. It's just tough to justify taking Gore off the field. I would think we'll see Westbrook sporadically.
Coach Pete Carroll was short on details after the Seahawks' game against the Green Bay Packers. X-rays on Okung's ankle showed no break. Results from an MRI will tell more. Carroll called the injury "legitimate" and said it could be a high sprain (more serious than a lateral one).
Bottom line: Depth at tackle is suddenly shaky. The Seahawks have three weeks until their regular-season opener.
Okung had played well enough lately for the Seahawks to remove left tackle from their list of concerns heading into the game Saturday night. Mansfield Wrotto replaced Okung. Moving right tackle Sean Locklear to the left side appears impractical because Locklear's backup, Ray Willis, is having knee surgery and is unavailable.
The Seahawks can thank former receiver Darrell Jackson if Wrotto provides stability at left tackle; the team drafted Wrotto with a pick acquired from San Francisco for Jackson in 2007.
Also on the injury front for Seattle: Kentwan Balmer suffered injuries to his left knee and ankle, and cornerback Kelly Jennings suffered a hyper-extended elbow. It wasn't clear how much time either player might miss.
The subject has gained traction, in other words.
I'll pass along some comments from former Seahawks Seneca Wallace and Bobby Engram, both with the Cleveland Browns. Thanks to AFC North maestro James Walker for tracking these down."
WallaceGreg Johns of seattlepi.com has quotes from other current Seahawks players. I watched the game in person without hearing TV commentary and didn't think officiating affected the outcome of the game. My thought was that Seattle dropped some key passes, probably didn't stick with the running game enough and had trouble against the pass once safety Marquand Manuel suffered an ankle injury during the second quarter. The bad calls hurt, too. I do remember thinking at the time that the pass-interference penalty against Darrell Jackson seemed ticky-tack, even if it were defensible from a technical standpoint.
"On a whole, unless they’re going to come out and say, 'Hey, here’s the trophy and here’s your ring,' it’s not going to make a difference. But if we took care of what we were supposed to take care of in that game … I think a lot of those calls wouldn’t have made a difference. But it’s good that he came out now and admitted that he blew some calls.
"We can only control what we can control. If the refs are going to make bad calls, they're going to make bad calls. We can dispute and argue them all we want. But at the end of the day [Pittsburgh] walked away with the trophy.
"[Mike Holmgren] wasn’t happy at all. He’s a very intense guy. From what I remembered, he was very upset with some of the calls that went on in that game."
"I hope he feels better about himself. He’s human and we all make mistakes. I’m sure he was trying his hardest, but it was difficult for us to overcome some of those missed calls.
"We talked about it until we were blue in the face the first year after. To throw salt in that wound, I live in Pittsburgh and went to Penn State. Even the fans there, they knew. The fans knew me from Penn State, so they treat me a little differently. And when you talked to a majority of them, they say that they hated to see it go down like that. They saw it. Those calls were such momentum-changers. We kept battling and kept battling. But we could only overcome so much, especially when we didn’t play our best football that day.
"But I feel bad for the guy. These refs try hard and I respect what they do. It’s not an easy job. It’s a fast-paced game and a lot of big, strong guys are flying around. It’s just unfortunate that he had a bad game in the Super Bowl."
This was the best team in franchise history by the critical measures. It had a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, the best offensive line in the NFL, the league MVP at running back and a defense that played its best where it mattered -- in the red zone. Rookie middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu brought direction to a defense lacking leadership.
Coach Mike Holmgren always said he needed his best players to be at their best for a team to approach its potential. This team had that, but clutch contributions from role players sent the 2005 squad on its way.
Receiver Joe Jurevicius added toughness at receiver while catching 10 touchdown passes, offsetting injuries to Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram.
On defense, backup cornerback Jordan Babineaux made a season-altering play by picking off Drew Bledsoe with 14 seconds remaining during a 13-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7. Seattle had lost two of its first four games that season. Beating the Cowboys heading into the bye was important, but the matter in which Seattle won the game proved transforming.
"My hope is that every time you can win a game like this where it looked a little grim for a while but they you pull it out, it really helps you down the road," Holmgren said afterward. "It really helps your confidence. Organizations need to win games like this at some point."
The Seahawks had tied the score with 46 seconds remaining on Hasselbeck's 1-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Ryan Hannam (after another backup, receiver Jerheme Urban, made a 22-yard reception at the 2-minute warning). Babineaux returned Bledsoe's pass 25 yards, getting out of bounds in time for Josh Brown to kick the winning field goal as time expired.
Most impressive win: The 2005 team was at its dominant best during a 34-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers in the NFC title game.
Advanced chemistry: Teams release injured backups regularly without repercussions, but veteran players protested when management released Urban instead of placing him on injured reserve following a foot injury in November. Urban had made an impression on teammates while catching seven passes for 151 yards. Management gave in to Seattle's veteran leadership, rescinding Urban's release and placing him on IR. The unusual move reflected the strength of the Seattle locker room during a special season.
1984: This was the only team in franchise history to rank among the NFL's top five in points scored and points allowed. Kenny Easley was the NFL's defensive player of the year. Steve Largent and Daryl Turner combined for 22 touchdown receptions. Defensive ends Jeff Bryant and Jacob Green combined for 27.5 sacks.
1983: Other Seattle teams had better regular-season records, but the 1983 team recorded two playoff wins, including an upset shocker in Miami. The 2005 Seahawks were the only other Seattle team with more than one victory in the same postseason.
2007: Losing Hutchinson during the previous offseason hurt, but Hasselbeck set a career high with 28 touchdown passes.
Bruce, 37, leads all NFL players in receiving yardage (15,208) since he entered the NFL in 1994. Bruce's on-field role had diminished almost to nothing recently, but he still emerged from the 2000s trailing only former Rams teammate Torry Holt in receptions and receiving yards for NFC West teams during the decade (see chart).
Bruce joins Walter Jones and Kurt Warner among NFC West legends retiring this offseason. Another former star, Orlando Pace, remains without a team for 2010. They could all be eligible for Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration at the same time.
The former Rams wideout had more yards and touchdowns than former Seattle mainstays Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram combined. He made spectacular catches somewhat routinely and averaged a healthy 14.5 yards per reception.
After sizing up the decade's best NFC West quarterbacks and runners, I went back to Pro Football Reference for a closer look at the receivers (Cardinals, 49ers, Rams, Seahawks).
The ability to score touchdowns often separates great receivers from the very good ones. Terrell Owens ranked third among NFC West receivers with 51 touchdowns during the decade despite starting fewer games than any of the six others with at least 4,000 yards for division teams during that span.
Shaun Alexander carried 23 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns during a 33-19 Seattle victory at Sun Devil Stadium. The Seahawks, headed to Super Bowl XL after that season, picked off Kurt Warner three times and sacked him four times.
A couple things about these teams have changed since that game. I had some fun sifting through those 2005 rosters.
Players no longer with Seattle
Offense (20): Bobby Engram, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, Joe Jurevicius, Jerheme Urban, Mack Strong, Shaun Alexander, D.J. Hackett, Maurice Morris, Leonard Weaver, Floyd Womack, Ryan Hannam, Jerramy Stevens, Peter Warrick, David Greene, Wayne Hunter, Darrell Jackson, Itula Mili, Josh Scobey.
Defense (18): Bryce Fisher, Chuck Darby, Marcus Tubbs, Grant Wistrom, Jamie Sharper, Kelly Herndon, Michael Boulware, Marquand Manual, Jimmy Williams, John Howell, Niko Koutouvides, Kevin Bentley, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Joe Tafoya, Rocky Bernard, Etric Pruitt, Rodney Bailey, Andre Dyson.
Specialists (3): Josh Brown, Tom Rouen, J.P. Darche.Players still with Seattle
Offense (6): Walter Jones (injured reserve), Sean Locklear, Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace, Chris Spencer, Ray Willis.
Defense (6): Jordan Babineaux, Craig Terrill, D.D. Lewis, Lofa Tatupu (IR), Leroy Hill, Marcus Trufant.
Players no longer with Arizona
Offense (23): Bryant Johnson, Leonard Davis, Nick Leckey, Alex Stepanovich, Oliver Ross, Eric Edwards, Marcel Shipp, Adam Bergen, J.J. Arrington, Josh McCown, John Navarre, Reggie Newhouse, LeRon McCoy, Fred Wakefield, James Jackson, Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Harold Morrow, Jarrod Baxter, Adam Haayer, J.J. Moses, Elton Brown, Teyo Johnson, Reggie Swinton.
Defense (16): Langston Moore, Ross Kolodziej, James Darling, Robert Tate, Robert Griffith, David Macklin, Antonio Cochran, Darryl Blackstock, Orlando Huff, Eric Green, Antonio Smith, Lamont Reid, Quentin Harris, Isaac Keys, Lance Mitchell, Aaron Francisco.
Specialists (2): Scott Player, Nathan Hodel.Players still with Arizona
Offense (5): Reggie Wells, Larry Fitzgerald, Kurt Warner, Jeremy Bridges, Anquan Boldin.
Defense (6): Chike Okeafor, Darnell Dockett, Bernard Berry, Karlos Dansby, Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle.
Specialists (1): Neil Rackers.Note: Thanks to spaumi10 for noticing that Aaron Francisco and Lance Mitchell were initially listed on offense. There was a little cutting and pasting involved with this entry. Missed those two. Thanks!