NFC West: Dave Wyman

Dave Wyman of 710ESPN Seattle stumped me on the air Thursday by asking for information regarding icing the kicker.

I'm generally aware of the evidence suggesting there's little point in calling timeout right before the opposing team attempts an important kick. But I hadn't seen updated figures. So, I promised to take a closer look.

Wyman was asking in relation to the Seattle Seahawks' decision to call timeout before the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Bryant attempted the winning 49-yard field-goal try in the divisional playoffs Sunday. Seattle called timeout before the attempt. The Falcons snapped the ball anyway. Bryant missed his non-counting attempt. Bryant then made the winning kick following the timeout.

The chart shows field-goal rates in the final minute of fourth quarters by distance for iced and non-iced kicks since 2001, counting playoffs. The overall percentages are the same. Iced kickers have made a higher percentage of longer-range kicks. Perhaps it's easier lining up the longer ones when given additional time. Perhaps there aren't enough attempts to make such a conclusion.

Bryant's attempt against Seattle falls into a range where the numbers suggest calling timeout might not matter much either way. Filtering just for 49-yard tries, iced kickers have made 4 of 6 since 2001, counting the one Bryant made. Non-iced kickers have made 3 of 6 from that distance. Not much to go on there.

Wyman, co-host Bob Stelton and I also discussed the Seahawks' hiring of Dan Quinn, the Arizona Cardinals' search for a head coach, and that other small detail in the NFC West this week: San Francisco's appearance in the NFC Championship Game.

710ESPN Seattle audio: Catching the 49ers

November, 10, 2012
The San Francisco 49ers were already the team to beat in the NFC West before charging out to a 6-2 record and two-game lead over Seattle in the loss column.

What would it take for the Seahawks (5-4) to overtake them? The question hadn't occurred to me until former Seattle and Denver linebacker Dave Wyman raised it five-plus minutes into our recent conversation on 710ESPN Seattle.

I think it would most likely require the 49ers slumping into a 10-6 tie with the Seahawks and having Seattle prevail in a tiebreaker. That simply isn't very likely given what we've seen from San Francisco to this point.

For Seattle, getting to 10-6 would be most plausible by these means:
  • Winning all remaining games at home. This would require defeating the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, 49ers and St. Louis Rams. Defeating the 49ers would be a necessity under this scenario. Otherwise, the 49ers would sweep the season series.
  • Winning one of three remaining road games. A Week 15 game against Buffalo in Toronto might provide the best opportunity. The other road games are against Miami and Chicago.

Next comes the hard part: having the 49ers slip to 10-6. I don't see San Francisco losing at home to St. Louis, Miami or Arizona. Let's count those games in the win column for our purposes here. Losing to the Rams in St. Louis also appears unlikely.

Under this scenario, the 49ers would have to lose at home to Chicago before losing road games to New Orleans, New England and Seattle.

Not something to bank on.

Also: additional audio from a separate Thursday-night conversation on 710ESPN Seattle, this one hosted by Mike Salk.

710ESPN Seattle audio: Where West stands

September, 13, 2012
The San Francisco 49ers' convincing victory at Green Bay in Week 1 undercut preseason talk about another NFC West team challenging for the division title.

Bob Stelton, Dave Grosby, Dave Wyman and I discussed that and other issues in the NFC West during our weekly Thursday conversation on 710ESPN Seattle. That audio is here .

The offensive line situations outside San Francisco appear concerning.

Two Arizona Cardinals offensive linemen showed up on the "Had a Bad Day" list from Pro Football Focus. The Cardinals had a league-high four players on the 29-player list. Running back Ryan Williams was one of them, but his struggles were tied directly to the problems his line had against Seattle.

Arizona had 20 carries for 43 yards, gaining 15 of those yards on a reverse by receiver Andre Roberts.

"I wish I could tell you, 'OK, you can wave the magic dust and we’ll run the football well,' " coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters after practice Wednesday. "We are going to work at it, and once again, we did well in preseason, but that doesn’t mean anything. Some weeks we are going to be able to run it better. Some weeks we are going to have to throw it."

The Cardinals' Week 2 opponent, New England, held Tennessee to 1.3 yards per rush on 16 carries, with one rushing first down. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers allowed fewer yards per carry last week.

The Patriots had seven or fewer defenders in the box for all but one of the Titans' 16 carries, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That is probably at least partly because New England jumped to a big lead, forcing Tennessee into passing situations. The Titans attempted 43 passes, the seventh-highest total in Week 1. The Patriots won, 34-13.

Titans quarterback Jake Locker gained 11 of the Titans' 20 yards rushing. Chris Johnson's longest run covered five yards.

Fullback Michael Robinson's recent declaration regarding Seattle Seahawks teammate Bobby Wagner made waves around here last week.

"I call him a baby Patrick Willis because I hadn't seen a linebacker move like that since Pat," said Robinson, who played with Willis, a perennial Pro Bowl selection, on the San Francisco 49ers.

Wagner, a rookie second-round draft choice, did not stand out to me during the Seahawks' exhibition opener Saturday night, but perhaps a certain fullback inflated my expectations beyond reason.

Dave Wyman of 710ESPN Seattle gave high marks for Wagner's performance. Wyman played the position in the NFL for nine seasons. He certainly knows what to look for in one. Wyman: "I'm always impressed when I see a rookie have poise and look like he's in control. It's almost like he's back in college. I don't know what's going through his mind, so maybe there were some things out there that kind of threw him off, but it certainly didn't look like it. Bobby Wagner looked like he fit right in with that defense. Really fast, he had a really nice tackle, took on some blocks really well, made some little mistakes that you see rookies do, but other than that, I thought he showed really well." Noted: This assessment should be very encouraging for Seahawks fans.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune runs through the Seahawks' roster by position. He has a hard time envisioning Tarvaris Jackson figuring into the team's plans.

Clare Farnsworth of recaps the exhibition opener, raising a question: Why not start Russell Wilson against Denver in Seattle's next game?

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' approach to late-round draft choices -- going after players making position changes, in some cases -- has paid off under the team's current leadership, as the selection of J.R. Sweezy this year indicates. Noted: Former Seahawks president Tim Ruskell fared pretty well in seventh rounds especially. Doug Nienhuis, Ben Obomanu, Ryan Plackemeier, Steve Vallos, Justin Forsett, Courtney Greene and Cameron Morrah were among Seattle's seventh-rounders from 2005 through 2009. All played in the NFL. Obomanu, Vallos, Forsett, Greene and Morrah remain active.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals tight end Jeff King never missed a practice -- not even in junior high -- until sitting out with a quadriceps injury this offseason.

Darren Urban of saw a more spirited practice Monday as coach Ken Whisenhunt ramped up the intensity following two disappointing exhibition games. Also, the team is giving D'Anthony Batiste a shot at right tackle.

Also from Urban: Defensive coordinator Ray Horton thinks his players might be suffering from overconfidence.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Jeff Fisher found some positives in the team's 35-3 defeat to open the exhibition season. Also: "On the 63-yard screen pass for a touchdown to Donald Brown, television replays showed a Colts blocker clearly grabbing the jersey of Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis to keep him from tackling Brown near the line of scrimmage. It also showed Michael Brockers being held by another blocker a few yards down the line of scrimmage. After the game Sunday, Fisher pointed out the missed calls but didn't dwell on them. On Monday, he made it clear he wasn't piling on the replacement officials."

Nick Wagoner of lists Fisher's disappointments from the first game, and also this: "Fisher said his team was extremely vanilla while the Colts did quite a bit of scheming. That doesn’t mean there’s a right or wrong way to do but just different philosophies. Fisher said the Rams will steadily add more and more to the pregame schemes in each game though the final preseason contest will likely be fairly plain as well."

Matt Maiocco of saw good things from Mario Manningham in the 49ers' practice Monday.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee quotes 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on the team's defensive effort against Minnesota in the exhibition opener. Fangio: "I just think we got a little full of ourselves."

Taylor Price of saw good things from quarterback Alex Smith in practice. Price: "Smith displayed excellent downfield accuracy while completing three deep sideline throws in the same midfield team period. First, Smith found a familiar target, locating tight end Vernon Davis 30 yards down the field on a deep wheel route against the coverage of linebacker Michael Wilhoite. On the very next play, Smith attacked the left sideline again, this time on a 30-yard deep throw to veteran wideout Randy Moss. Smith completed his third deep sideline pass of the period to running back Kendall Hunter."
NFC West wide receivers stood out for various reasons as training camps continued Monday.

Some of the San Francisco 49ers' wideouts stood out in a literal sense, meaning they stood off to the side with injuries while their teammates practiced. Two young receivers in St. Louis performed well enough to earn acclaim. And with the Seattle Seahawks looking to identify a starter opposite Sidney Rice, a second-year pro with two career catches and a 52.5-yard average continued to make his mark.

Details below ...

Matt Maiocco of says the 49ers practiced without Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Joe Hastings. Crabtree and Hastings were seen suffering injuries. Manningham's status wasn't immediately known. Maiocco: "Randy Moss made two nice catches during team drills. He made a lunging catch near the sideline against cornerback Carlos Rogers, managing to get both feet inbounds before tumbling to the ground. He also went up to catch a pass from Alex Smith late in the workout."

Taylor Price of says defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs made a couple impressive catches while moonlighting as a tight end. Noted: The 49ers' coaching staff continually tries out players at additional positions. We've seen it at fullback during the regular season. Left tackle Joe Staley's reception last season was a highlight.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' Patrick Willis seems to be at the top of his game. Tight end Vernon Davis: "To me, he's one of the best coverage guys, as far as a linebacker, I've ever seen. He works on it each and every day."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle counts the ways 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has defended his players.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says receiver Ricardo Lockette, who caught two passes for 105 yards late last season, has impressed the Seahawks to this point in camp. O'Neil: "Lockette continued what has been a very strong start to training camp, as he made a diving, juggling catch in the end zone on a long throw from Matt Flynn, and that was after he beat Brandon Browner on a deep ball thrown by Russell Wilson."

Also from O'Neil: Brandon Browner's route to the NFL.

Clare Farnsworth of says the team's quarterbacks have improved since camp opened. Farnsworth on Matt Flynn: "Flynn and second-year receiver Ricardo Lockette hooked up on a pair of long touchdown passes. Flynn made it a hat trick when he displayed nice touch on a TD pass to wide receiver Golden Tate, who had gotten behind Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner. Flynn also displayed his deceptive arm strength on a pass that to Charly Martin. Flynn appears to be the most polished at executing the play-action passes that are so important in coordinator Darrell Bevell’s offense."

Also from Farnsworth: Former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman reflects on Cortez Kennedy. Wyman: "If you ask football people and people that have been looking at film -- especially during that era -- they would wonder why wasn’t Tez in the Hall of Fame before this. I knew eventually people would come around. Sometimes, and it’s too bad, but you have to be there to see it. He was just an amazing player."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says veteran tackle Jeremy Bridges has been helping his potential replacement, Bobby Massie, in training camp. Massie: "That's not what I expected coming in, but he's proven me wrong. I thought for sure he'd be the other way, but he's a cool dude. He's been helping me with my technique, showing me some tricks, and he's been way cool to me."

Darren Urban of says quarterback Kevin Kolb was healthy enough to sign autographs following practice. Urban: "Practice was almost over this afternoon when quarterback Kevin Kolb handed the ball off to William Powell in a two-minute drill and then ended up on the ground. Turned out he took a knee to his right thigh."

Also from Urban: Beanie Wells could resume practicing as early as next week.

More from Urban: Levi Brown improved last season. Urban: "Brown said it was technique improvements -- for example, hand placement and making sure to keep his head over his knees -- that helped his progress last season. They are details that can slide when a player gets tired."

The Associated Press says the Cardinals would like to re-sign linebacker Daryl Washington, according to general manager Rod Graves.

Brian Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who anticipates significant improvement this seasons. Bradford: "Obviously, I've said from the beginning that I put more pressure on myself than anyone on the outside could ever put on me. I expect myself to play at an extremely high level. Sometimes I'm not sure that the level that I expect myself to play at is realistic, but that's always what I'm shooting for. That's what I'm out here right now trying to accomplish."

Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams rookie Michael Brockers has gone from facing high school players to professionals in a three-year period.

Nick Wagoner of sees good things from receiver Greg Salas. Wagoner: "Salas continues to look good out there and is making a seamless transition to the outside after spending most of his rookie season in the slot. Salas told me that he played on the outside quite a bit at Hawaii but was a little rusty early on. He said it’s just a matter of sharpening his technique and getting back up to speed on beating press coverage and other fundamentals that go with taking on corners instead of the occasional linebacker or safety in the slot."
Drafting front-line NFL starters in the second round isn't always easy.

The Arizona Cardinals have had their share of successes (Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby and Deuce Lutui) in recent years. They've also suffered some disappointments (Cody Brown, Alan Branch).

Retaining Campbell on a long-term deal was important for quite a few reasons, especially with Dansby playing well elsewhere, Branch enjoying success for a division rival and Lutui threatening to do the same.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic put Campbell's new five-year deal in perspective. Somers: "By removing the franchise tag from Campbell and restructuring his contract, the Cardinals freed up money to explore free-agency options and possibly re-sign some of their free agents, such as outside linebacker Clark Haggans and defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday. It should should help them sign some of their picks from last month's draft, including first-rounder Michael Floyd. Just as important, the signing means Campbell won't follow the footsteps of former Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby. Several attempts to sign him to a multi-year extension failed, and Dansby, one of the team's key contributors, left via free agency and signed with Miami."

Darren Urban of sees a pattern: "The last four players the Cardinals kept saying publicly they would soon be extending -- Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald and now Campbell -- all got their extensions. Something to remember when analyzing what the team says about future players."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree are becoming fast friends. Donte Whitner: "They have a great relationship. Whenever you're doing something where you need a partner, they're always together."

Also from Inman: Alex Smith consulted with a pitching coach this offseason.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Moss could be the key to San Francisco's season.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Alex Boone is embracing a chance to play right guard.

Matt Maiocco of previews the 49ers' rookie camp. Maiocco: "LaMichael James will be ineligible to return to the work at the 49ers practice facility until after Oregon's graduation ceremony on June 15. Stanford, Northwestern and Wisconsin also have late graduations."

Clare Farnsworth of says Bobby Wagner is the latest in a long line of second-round linebackers with a shot at starting for the team. The others: Lofa Tatupu, Dave Wyman, Keith Butler, Terry Beeson and Terry Wooden. Scout Eric Stokes: "First and foremost, he’s a big-time upgrade athletically. His speed and his range are going to be very impressive and you’re getting a guy that’s really physical. It’s going to be a natural adjustment to middle linebacker."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers first impressions after watching the Seahawks during a 45-minute workout. Boling: "The new No. 72 is the surprisingly svelte guard Deuce Lutui, whom you may recall from the days when he was stretching out Arizona Cardinals jerseys. Lutui failed the physical last year with Cincinnati and returned to Arizona as a backup. Although said to have been topping out in the 400-pound range, he’s listed at a believable 338 now, having slimmed down by adopting some vegan concepts in his diet. That’s good news for an offensive line that finished the season without three injured high draft picks -- Russell Okung, James Carpenter and John Moffitt. Okung and Moffitt have recovered well enough to be active in drills going against bags, while Carpenter is on the hoof but mostly watching."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams fans shouldn't be too alarmed over the team's stadium lease situation. He says team owner Stan Kroenke has incentive to keep the requested stadium upgrades within a reasonable price range. Burwell: "The best way for Kroenke to maximize the G-4 loan is if the final Dome proposal mandates that his share of the financial burden for renovation not exceed $150 million and that the total cost of the project costs between $200 million and $400 million. ... The thing that works for everyone is making sure that the Rams stay right here. After seeing what it cost the good folks of Minneapolis to keep the Vikings, suddenly $400 million doesn't sound so bad."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Super Bowl provided a compelling diversion for NFC West fans. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, which focuses on the Pro Football Hall of Fame class for 2012.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News kicks off the coverage by expressing shock over some of the candidates not enshrined this year. Tim Brown, Charles Haley and Eddie DeBartolo Jr. were three such candidates with strong Bay Area ties. Purdy: "Congratulations to the six new Pro Football Hall of Famers. But please pardon those of us who are out here in the tailgate area with the guys who didn't make it, sipping bewilderment beer and still scratching our scalps." Noted: I shared similar feelings before becoming a Hall selector a few years ago. Specifically, I wondered how in the world Cris Carter fell short. It seemed laughable at the time. Having been part of the process, it's much easier to see how these things happen. But there is still shock even among the selectors themselves over certain candidates not making it. We all have our own points of view. The key is to remember that worthy candidates get in eventually, but not all at once. And sometimes, having multiple players at the same position splits votes on the reduction from 10 to five players. That has happened at wide receiver recently, but in looking at the five modern-era finalists enshrined this year, I've got no problem with the group. The others can wait, just as this group did. Their time will come. Having five spots for 15 finalists inevitably means that some fans' favorite candidates will miss the cut in a given year.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune explains why he found Cortez Kennedy worthy of Hall enshrinement. Boling: "The Hall selection committee got this one right on Saturday afternoon by recognizing Kennedy as not only an elite defender, but a player who helped change the game as a force of destruction from the interior line."

Clare Farnsworth of checks in with former Seattle linebacker Dave Wyman for thoughts on Kennedy making the Hall as an interior lineman. Farnsworth: "Usually the only people that notice players like that are other players or coaches, or anybody in the NFL that is looking at film. Those defensive tackles are in there doing all the dirty work that’s not really getting their names in the paper. But Tez, he did all that, plus he had all the numbers. He has great statistics for an inside player. It’s just too crowded and there are just too many bodies in there, so it’s just not physically possible most of the time to make plays in there. But Tez did it. Some guys are just able to make that jump to become better pros than they were in college, and those are usually guys who are Hall of Famers."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle links to audio for Wyman.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers thoughts on Hall finalist Aeneas Williams while offering insights into the process for enshrinement. Somers: "It often takes players several years to make it to the final 10. Williams did it in his first year as a finalist and his third year of eligibility."

Anwar S. Richardson of checks in with Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald for thoughts on Calvin Johnson's next contract with Detroit. Fitzgerald: "He should (have a higher contract than Fiztgerald). He's at the top of the game right now. He's an extremely, extremely impressive talent. He has no weaknesses. I think that's what makes Calvin so impressive is to be around him. He's a really down-to-Earth guy." Noted: The contract Fitzgerald signed raised the bar for elite wide receivers. Johnson is one of the few with a legitimate case that he has earned at least as much as Fitzgerald commanded, even though Fitzgerald commanded his deal at a time when Arizona could not use the franchise tag on him for leverage.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects the Rams' games in London to continue as scheduled despite initial objections from the St. Louis stadium authority. Thomas: "The Rams are scheduled to play New England on Oct. 28 at Wembley Stadium. In an agreement announced late last month, the Rams are to play a regular-season home game in London in each of the next three seasons. But the CVC pointed out a week later that the lease terms prohibited the Rams from playing home games anywhere but the Edward Jones Dome. The contention over the London games came at a time when the Rams and the CVC were exchanging proposals over possible upgrades to the Dome as part of the lease agreement. If the Dome is not considered a 'first tier' facility, the Rams could break their lease after the 2014 season. As a result of that impasse, ticket sales for next year's game were temporarily postponed. But as a result of Sunday's developments it will be a short-lived postponement."

710ESPN Seattle audio: NFC West Week 16

December, 22, 2011
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin knew exactly why the San Francisco 49ers had dominated his team so thoroughly Monday night.

"I think we need to acknowledge that was 49er football tonight," Tomlin said following the 49ers' 20-3 victory. "We played the game on their terms in a manner of which they play when they play winning football. They created turnovers, they got us with a few concept plays, they controlled the ball offensively."

This statement came to mind when Dave Grosby, Bob Stelton, Dave Wyman and I discussed the Seattle Seahawks' chances against the 49ers as part of our latest NFC West conversation on 710ESPN Seattle. I compared the 49ers to a casino that wins by stacking the odds in its favor incrementally. Opponents have a chance from play to play or game to game, but the the 49ers stack the odds in their favor over the long term. They do this most subtly through their dominance of field position.

The 49ers lead the NFL in average starting field position (own 33.6-yard line on average) and in opponents' average starting field position (average starting field position (23.7-yard line). Those yardage advantages translate to points.

That was the case when the 49ers defeated the Seahawks in Week 1. The 49ers began their drives at their own 38-yard line on average. The Seahawks' average drive starts were at their own 22.

Around the NFC West: Ranting on the Rams

November, 22, 2011
Those taking offense to the St. Louis Rams' approach and performance against Seattle in Week 11 have company.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch landed a 1,641-word uppercut through his "Monday Morning Backup Quarterback" column. Among the words and phrases Miklasz uses: irresponsible, foolish, silliness, epic fail, incompetent, mismanagement, inexcusable, utterly incapable and failing. Miklasz: "I feel bad for the fans who pay to watch this junk. The fans have hung in there better than the Rams deserve. The bottom line is this: the Rams are 10-32 under Spagnuolo. They are 12-46 since Billy Devaney came aboard in 2008. They've made no progress with Stan Kroenke as owner. The leadership is failing the team, the franchise, and the fan base." Noted: And there are still six games to play. Buckle up, Rams.

Nick Wagoner of runs through the team's lengthy injury list.

Clare Farnsworth of runs through three things he thought worked well for Seattle against the Rams, plus three things that need improving. Farnsworth: "Steven Jackson was coming off consecutive rushing performances of 159, 130 and 128 yards, and averaged 5.1 yards per carry as the Rams had won two of those games. Sunday, Jackson averaged 2.8 yards on 15 carries -- and without his 19-yarder in the second quarter on the one run where the Seahawks allowed him to get his 6-foot-2, 240-pound body going in a positive direction, that average dipped to 1.6 yards on his other 14 attempts."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times saw good things from Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner against Brandon Lloyd and the Rams. O'Neil: "Yes, he had another penalty, but that was just 5 yards. The Rams clearly wanted to test him, and Browner showed he was ready. Brandon Lloyd played in the Pro Bowl last season, and he's exactly the kind of smaller, quick wideout that could give Browner trouble. But Browner's physical style clearly affected him Sunday. Lloyd was targeted 14 times, and caught only five passes. Seattle's defense has ranked in the bottom six teams in the league in passing yards allowed in each of the past three seasons. That is changing this season thanks in part to the physical style of Browner."

Dave Wyman and Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle discuss how fines could affect Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. Wyman suggests Chancellor has a chance to become a Steve Atwater-type safety unless modern rules prevent him from doing so. Wyman and Atwater played together in Denver years ago.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic has this to say about the Cardinals' offensive struggles: "There was hope with a new starting quarterback, Kevin Kolb, and what looked to be an improved running back, Beanie Wells. But Kolb stumbled out of the blocks and has missed the past three games because of a right-foot injury. Wells, looking bigger and bolder, started the season strong. He was averaging 103 yards (including 138 against the Giants) after the Cardinals' first three games. But after missing a game at Seattle because of a hamstring problem and then suffering an injury to his right knee against the Steelers, the threat of a running game is almost nonexistent."

Also from McManaman, with Kent Somers: Kolb sounds more optimistic about playing in Week 12. Kolb: "I think we're at the point now, with the tape job they're doing on it, and the rehab, hopefully I can't hurt it enough to have a huge setback. My mentality and our mentality is I'm going to push it as hard as it can go and try to be out there. ... I pushed it hard all [last] week, and it just wasn't there. I think I would have been hurting my team if I went out there and tried to play on it. I would have been limping around everywhere and definitely would not have been up to par."

Darren Urban of covers the Cardinals' quarterback situation and says the team is not sure when rookie running back Ryan Williams will return from a serious knee injury.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says there's no reason to make the 49ers' game against Baltimore into a battle between the Harbaugh brothers. Cohn: "We want to think of it as deep with psychological layers. We want to think Jim staring at John is Jim staring at himself. And we want to think the 49ers and Ravens are extensions of the brothers -- a blood feud between the sons of Jack and Jackie Harbaugh played out on grass. It is tempting to view this game as drama. Don’t. The Harbaugh brothers sure don’t." Noted: Totally agree. The brothers angle appeals much less than the football angle, at least to me.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Jim and John Harbaugh, now well into their 40s, haven't brawled since they were probably 25, according to John.

Matt Maiocco of says the 49ers never brought added pressure -- more than four pass-rushers -- against the Cardinals in Week 11. Noted: That suggests the 49ers were not worried about getting pressure and also thought John Skelton would struggle reading coverages.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Jim Harbaugh's ties to the Ravens include a nearly 30-year connection to Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

Around the NFC West: Seattle defense key

November, 21, 2011
The Seattle Seahawks' last two opponents, Baltimore and St. Louis, abandoned their running games.

Those teams' strategies reflected game situations only to a degree. Both also realized they weren't going to push around a powerful Seahawks front featuring Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Chris Clemons.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times summed up Seattle's performance at St. Louis this way: "The Seahawks won exactly the way they're built to win, resting their forearm on the opponent's neck and flashing a sadistic smile all the while. This rugged, oversized yet agile, young defense turned boorish against the offensively challenged Rams. The result was a 24-7 victory and a clear understanding that though the Seahawks are far from a juggernaut, they're a different kind of bad than the Rams are."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Clemons realized in watching game video that Rams quarterback Sam Bradford held the ball too low, particularly after leaving the pocket.

Clare Farnsworth of passes along Clemons' stat line -- three sacks, three additional quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and a tipped pass -- in addition to this quote from Bryant: "I feel like we brought our big-boy pads today."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune thought Seattle's backup right tackle, Breno Giacomini, fared well against the Rams' Chris Long, part of an effort by the line that generally exceeded expectations.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks gave little ground to Rams running back Steven Jackson.

Also from Williams: Seattle has its first two-game winning streak of the season.

Dave Wyman of 710ESPN Seattle says Bryant made two spectacular, pivotal plays against the Rams. Wyman: "The fact that he beat a double team and dropped Rams quarterback Sam Bradford for a 9-yard sack was enough. But the way he did it is what makes him such an exciting player to watch. With offensive tackle Adam Goldberg pushing him past the pocket, Bryant stuck one of his 45-pound "mitts" out and swatted Bradford so hard across the chest it spun Bradford around 180 degrees."

710ESPN audio: NFC West Week 8

October, 28, 2011
The way NFL officials are penalizing seemingly legal hits -- think Clay Matthews' form tackle on Christian Ponder -- led off my latest conversation with 710ESPN Seattle.

We discussed the NFC West as well.

As the promo reads, "Sando's weekly conversation with Bob Stelton and Dave Wyman touched on Sam Bradford's injured ankle and the precedent for a rebound season for the Rams in 2012, Kevin Kolb's struggles and the reaction in Arizona to his disappointing debut season with the Cardinals, Jim Harbaugh's unusual method of preventing the 49ers from becoming complacent, and more."

710ESPN Seattle audio: NFC West Week 6

October, 14, 2011
The Aaron Curry trade and the San Francisco 49ers' trip to Detroit dominated my weekly conversation with Dave Grosby and Dave Wyman on 710ESPN Seattle.

They've made available the audio here.

We went on longer than expected about Curry, covering some of the ground Wyman explored in what I thought was a definitive piece. On the 49ers, I focused on just how comfortable Alex Smith appears now that he feels as though the team's offensive scheme provides adequate answers to opposing defenses.
The definitive piece on Aaron Curry's demise with the Seattle Seahawks has been written.

Dave Wyman of 710ESPN Seattle played linebacker for the team years ago and watched Curry's every snap, often marveling at what he was seeing -- in a bad way. Like a lot of people, Wyman though the Seahawks were getting a sure-fire prospect when they drafted him in 2009. But as time progressed, Curry's baffling play raised questions that never could be answered. Wyman: "It's not so much that his play was poor, which it was. But it was weird. ... In the first game of the year at San Francisco, he was covering tight end Vernon Davis man-to-man. Alex Smith threw a beautiful 'back shoulder' throw to Davis for a completion. Plenty of good defenders have been defeated by that throw and if it's executed properly, it's nearly impossible to defend. But it was Curry's reaction to the play that caught my eye. While the play was still going on (Davis was still inbounds), Curry slapped his hands together as if to say, 'Darn it!' He could've whipped around and at least pushed Davis out of bounds, yet he behaved as if the play was over! Weird." Noted: There were so many more plays such as this one, and Wyman runs through several of them. It was just tough to know what would make Curry play the way he played, and the instances seemed to be increasing in number.

Clare Farnsworth of says the team felt comfortable trading Curry in part because rookie K.J. Wright was playing well. Coach Pete Carroll: "K.J. Wright has made this possible,” Carroll said. “He’s played so well. He played that Mike (middle) and that Sam (strong-side) ‘backer spot and took over the Sam ‘backer spot three weeks now starting and did a beautiful job. And we think we can really move ahead with him so it gave us a chance to at least make an effort to make a deal and get a couple more players for the future here, you know, with picks."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers these thoughts on Curry: "As I thought back, I felt as if the most productive stretch of his career was probably his first few games, when he was still confident of his abilities. A look at the stats bears that out. In his first five games, he had 32 tackles with two sacks and two forced fumbles. He finished his career as a Seahawks with only 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. In that stretch, his game against Jacksonville was a stunner: 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. That was the kind of performance Curry, fans, staff and media came to expect. When it didn’t happen, Curry had some realities to face, and he was never really the same."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says former Packers guard Daryn Colledge, now with Arizona, sees similarities between the Cardinals and the Green Bay team Aaron Rodgers inherited from Brett Favre a few years back. Colledge: "I see a lot of us in them. I really do. When I look back on it, this team reminds me exactly of the Packers team I was on three years ago. We were coming off a 6-10 season, similar to what this team did a year ago. We had a young guy at quarterback who had to wait his turn behind a veteran. We brought in a new defensive coordinator and guys had to learn a new system. We added some new guys. So it took us a little while before we could put it together. It's exactly the same thing here and I swear, it's like a mirror image. If we do things right, that could be us in a couple years." Noted: Coach Ken Whisenhunt compared Kevin Kolb's transition to Rodgers' transition a few weeks ago. Rodgers had a huge advantage, though. He already knew Mike McCarthy's offensive system. He already knew his teammates. His teammates already knew him.

Darren Urban of sizes up Early Doucet's quick start to the season.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' Steven Jackson is back to healthy just in time to face a Packers defense that has given up very little ground against the run. Thomas: "Four games into 2011, Jackson has 23 carries (for 124 yards) and four catches (for 19 yards), which in terms of workload is about an average day's work. Unfortunately for the Rams, if Sunday is to be a splashy return to full health for Jackson, there are easier teams to do that against than the Green Bay Packers. Don't be fooled by the Packers' pedestrian ranking of 21st in total defense. Almost all of their defensive issues have been in pass coverage. As for run defense, they rank third in the league, yielding only 75.8 yards a game. Their per-carry average of 3.8 yards allowed is tied for ninth best in the NFL."

Also from Thomas, and colleagues: thoughts on the dangers associated with the pounding Sam Bradford is taking this season.

D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams aren't winning enough battles at the point of attack on offense.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' offensive line can expect to see Ndamukong Suh moving around, but right guard Adam Snyder is the one most likely to match up with him. Suh: "I know they had a little bit of trouble at right guard and made a switch in the last two weeks with Snyder. That'll be interesting. I've watched both guys. I'm assuming Snyder will be the main one I see."

Also from Barrows: 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has only nice things to say about Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, noting that Johnson would, indeed, be the best receiver on the team if he played for San Francisco.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' offensive linemen are hoping their experiences at CenturyLink Field will help them deal with the noise awaiting them in Detroit. Left tackle Joe Staley: "We're really anticipating it to be a Seattle atmosphere. We play at Seattle every single year, so our guys are no strangers to really loud crowd noise."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Chris Culliver, 49ers rookie cornerback, appears to be adjusting well to the NFL game.

710ESPN Seattle audio: NFC West Week 5

October, 6, 2011
Danny Amendola's elbow and triceps injury, now deemed season ending, was among the subjects Dave Grosby, Bob Stelton, Dave Wyman and I discussed during our latest NFC West conversation on 710ESPN Seattle.

They've posted the audio.

Losing Amendola for the season significantly alters the St. Louis Rams' plans for their offense. I'll have more on that in another item shortly.

We also discussed the other NFC West teams in this conversation.

710ESPN Seattle audio: NFC West Week 4

September, 29, 2011
A well-timed trip to Seattle Seahawks headquarters Thursday allowed our weekly NFC West discussion to take place in person.

Dave Grosby, Bob Stelton, Dave Wyman and I discussed a range of subjects, including the St. Louis Rams' 0-3 start, the San Francisco 49ers' management of Alex Smith, penalties such as the one called against Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor and, wait, did we get to the Arizona Cardinals this week?

Not to worry. I'm heading to Arizona for the Cardinals' Week 4 game against the New York Giants, and I'll be discussing them during the weekly Friday conversation with XTRA Sports 910 AM in Phoenix.

In the meantime, here's that 710ESPN Seattle audio.