NFC West: Joe Nedney

Silver linings: 49ers vs. Seahawks

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
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The facts: The San Francisco 49ers fell to 10-4-1 with a 42-13 road defeat to the Seattle Seahawks.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • The 49ers remain atop the NFC West, ahead of the Seahawks.
  • San Francisco can clinch its second consecutive division title with a victory or tie Sunday, or with less than a victory for Seattle.
  • The 49ers can clinch a first-round bye with a victory if Green Bay loses.
  • Rookie LaMichael James set a career high with 201 total yards: 172 on returns, 15 rushing and 14 receiving.
  • Patrick Willis collected his second interception of the season.
  • David Akers connected on a field-goal try from 54 yards. He needs one more from 50-plus yards to tie Joe Nedney's franchise record (10).
  • The concussion Vernon Davis suffered apparently will not sideline him for long. He has already received clearance from an independent doctor, a significant step forward in his recovery.
  • Delanie Walker caught a touchdown pass for the third time this season.
  • Colin Kaepernick completed 6 of 9 passes for 95 yards (10.6 per attempt) during the third quarter.
Looking ahead: The 49ers are home against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17.

Patriots recall Greatest Show on Turf

September, 22, 2011
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One of the enduring records from the St. Louis Rams' Greatest Show on Turf years has been put on preliminary notice.

Those Rams teams scored at least 30 points in 14 consecutive regular-season games across the 1999 and 2000 seasons. The current New England Patriots have reached at least 30 in their last 10 games. They'll have to reach that total against Buffalo (road), Oakland (road), the New York Jets (home), Dallas (home) and Pittsburgh (road) to break the record.

The 1999 Rams scored at least 30 in their final six regular-season games. Their three postseason victories -- 49-37 over Minnesota, 11-6 over Tampa Bay and 23-16 over Tennessee in the Super Bowl -- showed they could win big games whether or not they were shootouts.

The regular-season streak of games with at least 30 points ended with a 27-24 defeat to the Carolina Panthers during a Sunday night game in Week 10 of the 2000 season. Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk missed that game with injuries. Backup quarterback Trent Green passed for 428 yards and two touchdowns, but the game turned when coach Mike Martz chose to punt on fourth-and-6 from the Carolina 35 in the final seven minutes. John Baker's punt traveled just 8 yards.

Carolina still needed a fourth-down conversion and a late 46-yard field goal from Joe Nedney to prevail.
Sorry, no news on the San Francisco 49ers and Nnamdi Asomugha.

The team did go after a kicker, though, and an acclaimed one in David Akers, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

The 49ers' agreement with Akers, 36, spells the end in San Francisco for 38-year-old Joe Nedney, who had been with the team since 2005. Nedney made 86.6 percent of his field goal tries since coming to the 49ers, the fourth-highest percentage among kickers with at least 40 made field goals during that time. That included making 26 of 28 in his first season with the team.

Akers ranks 28th on that list with an 80.7 percent success rate, but he is a five-time Pro Bowl choice with extensive playoff experience. Akers once set an NFL playoff record by making 19 consecutive field goal attempts, although he missed twice during the Eagles' playoff defeat against Green Bay last season.

Akers surely comes to the 49ers with a high recommendation from Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, brother of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. John Harbaugh was the Eagles' special-teams coach for much of Akers' tenure with the team.

Nedney finished last season on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle quotes Trent Dilfer as saying Andy Dalton will be a first-round draft choice and a candidate for the Seahawks at No. 25 if available then. Dilfer: "I can't tell you how much Aaron Rodgers I see in Andy Dalton. They have tremendously quick releases, they can throw from multiple foot platforms, meaning they can be off balance, very aggressive by nature, (they can) extend the play, and they understand the value of a completion. I think that's one of the biggest things in evaluating a quarterback that goes unnoticed is which guys understand the value of completing the football. It doesn't have to be glamorous all the time, but they're going to get a completion, they're going to move the chains and they're going to get completions in the biggest moments of games. That's what I see with Andy Dalton. If there's one guy in this draft -- if I was coaching -- that I would want to coach, it's Andy Dalton."

Don Banks of SI.com sees no reason the Seahawks wouldn't pursue Kevin Kolb this offseason. Coach Pete Carroll: "It's good that people think that. Because every opportunity that's available, we investigate. We want to [take] every opportunity, and that's one that's been out there. They've said he's a guy they would possibly move. So those kind of discussions, it doesn't matter where it's coming from, we're trying to be privy to all of it. We just want to know what's going on."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says retired defensive end Michael Sinclair is grateful to land a spot on the 35th anniversary team, as voted by fans online.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic isn't reading too much into the Cardinals' workout with Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Somers: "The Cardinals will have private workouts and/or meetings with several of the top prospects, as you would expect from a team with the fifth overall pick. Their interest in Gabbert is genuine, but I'm still doubtful they will take a quarterback with that high of a selection. I believe they are leaning more toward a player more likely to make an immediate impact."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Darnell Dockett realizes he needs to come out of games at times to remain fresh and most productive.

Also from Urban: a look at what quality control coach Ryan Slowik does for a living. Urban: "The job of quality control coach isn’t as vague as the name suggests. Slowik’s duties are very specific, breaking down game video – both the Cardinals’ games and other teams – building playbooks, analyzing stats. Slowik also serves as, essentially, an assistant linebackers coach and an assistant special teams coach. The goal is to move up the ladder, of course. Position coach. Coordinator. Head coach. Six seasons into his career, it’s about working and waiting."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have no plans to hire a quarterbacks coach. That means Sam Bradford will work directly with new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Thomas: "I think that's a safe statement. We're going to head that way, at least this year. And I think it's a good thing. Josh has done it that way before. I think it's terrific that Sam will get the direct how-to-do-it, everything Josh is thinking. Now, you can put a quarterback coach in there and it works fine, but for the first year of absorbing it. I feel real comfortable because Josh has done it this way. Josh is really efficient with his time and his work. And when they finally get together, I just think it'll be good."

Also from Thomas: Spagnuolo responds to a question I asked at the NFL owners meeting regarding Oshiomogho Atogwe's departure. Spagnuolo: "O.J.'s a special guy. But you know it happens in this business. This is year 13 now (for Spagnuolo as an NFL coach). I've had to go through these before. I understand it. I get it. I know O.J. feels the same. I wish him a lot of luck. I do. And we'll remain close friends, I know, forever."

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis breaks down the Rams' options at No. 14 in the NFL draft, listing players the team could move back to select. Softli: "The Rams and general manager Billy Devaney will know by Washington’s pick at No. 10 if they are going to trade out of this spot or if they will have their guy waiting for them. If their player is off the board, look for the Rams to trade out of the 14th pick and drop back. They must be careful not to go back too far with the possibility of getting jumped by other teams and taking a chance of losing a player they really like. In this case, Devaney must make sure there are 6-10 players the team would love to have if they find a trade partner and move back."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh did not know his dealings with quarterback Alex Smith during a dead period could invite a fine from the NFL.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says it was probably "money well spent" if the 49ers were fined for spending too much organized time with Smith this offseason. Barrows: "Given the 49ers' quarterback situation -- one player, David Carr, under contract - Harbaugh had to get to know Smith to understand whether he was a plausible possibility should the labor situation grind into late summer."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the NFL's new rules for kickoffs make the 49ers more apt to sign a strong-legged kicker and less apt to focus on landing a return specialist in the draft. Lynch: "Diminishing kickoffs could also mean a drop in LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson's draft status. But is it enough to allow Peterson to fall to the 49ers's seventh overall pick? Peterson's position on mock drafts ranges from first to seventh, however many draftnicks consider him the most talented player in the draft." It might be easier to justify using a starter on kick returns if the rules change produces more touchbacks, as expected.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says kicking off from the 35 instead of the 30 could make it easier for veteran kickers such as the 49ers' Joe Nedney to stick around longer. Nedney had four touchbacks in 37 kickoffs last season before an injury sidelined him.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who remains noncommittal regarding the current structure of the team's front office. Kroenke would not say whether or not the team planned to hire a team president. Kroenke: "Right now we're not hiring because we're in this lockout. A lot of this is common sense. We can parse it, but it's common sense -- nothing any different than what we would do in a normal business. We'll get some clarity at some point, and if we feel like we're going to be playing football, we'll see where we go from there." If Kroenke preferred the current structure, he could certainly say so. It's not like he has to worry about ticking off the owner. He is the owner. The more significant question would be to what extent hiring a team president would precipitate other changes.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Joe Staley is among 49ers players leading offseason workouts away from team headquarters. Staley: "We're professional athletes. We get paid to work out and stay in shape." Not now.

Also from Barrows: 49ers kicker Joe Nedney offers thoughts on the NFL proposal to change rules regarding kickoffs. As Barrows notes, the 49ers lost Phillip Adams, Will James and Dominique Zeigler to injuries suffered on kickoff returns.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers probably would not trade their first-round choice to Philadelphia for Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. I don't think the 49ers would give up a first-round pick for a quarterback unless they were convinced they were getting an elite player. Kolb would upgrade the position overall for San Francisco -- David Carr is the only quarterback under contract to the 49ers, and he is not expected back -- but I've seen nothing from the 49ers to suggest they're going to make a strong play for him.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers a few Cardinals-related thoughts. Somers on a report that the Cardinals had not given up on Max Hall: "True enough, but John Skelton is ahead of him. And Ken Whisenhunt and his staff like what they saw of Rich Bartel late in the year. Currently, Bartel is ahead of Hall for the No. 3 job . If a rookie and/or a free agent is added, Hall should hope Whisenhunt is open to keeping a QB on the practice squad."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says it's possible the Eagles are floating the idea that a team or teams are clamoring for Kolb on the trade market.

Also from Urban: Dan Williams finished his rookie season strong. Pro Football Focus offers statistical evidence.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Matt Hasselbeck's 5-year-old son ranks 103rd out of nearly six million participants in ESPN.com's NCAA Tournament Challenge. Aaron Levin of q13fox.com has additional details: "In the Southwest Region, he chose 12-seed Richmond, 11-seed VCU, 10-seed Florida St., and top-seed Kansas to advance to the Sweet 16. He was one of only 2811 entries to have all four teams advancing."

Also from O'Neil: Defensive end remains a position of interest for the Seahawks in the draft even though Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock put up strong sack numbers last season. O'Neil: "Brock is scheduled to be a free agent for one, and then there's the fact that expecting veterans to replicate career years can be problematic. Then top it all off with the fact that defensive end just might be the deepest position in this draft."

Jed York and the 49ers' impulsiveness

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
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There's no harm when a fan says he wants the head coach fired or the quarterback traded following a stupefying defeat -- or even after a particularly horrendous play.

Fans react.

When Joe Nedney's field goal sailed through on the San Francisco 49ers' final play of the final game of the 2008 regular season, the team had won four of its final five games under interim coach Mike Singletary.

[+] EnlargeJed York
AP Photo/Dino Vournas49ers president Jed York said the team would first hire a GM before finding a new head coach.
The natural, emotional reaction: Hire the man right now!

That is what the 49ers did. Their young team president, Jed York, seemed swept up in the moment the way a fan, not a team executive, might be swept up in the moment.

My take at the time:
"The 49ers' decision to hire Mike Singletary immediately following their final regular season game seemed to qualify as a hasty move.

"Reports described a seemingly breathless Jed York making a quick, bold move in his first hours as team president. The 49ers came off like a team using an exclamation point after every sentence.

"Mike Singletary did a great job! Let's hire him right now! OMG! Next season is going to be soooo great! This is the last time a 49ers season will end in December!"

That didn't necessarily mean the 49ers made the wrong move. But it was clear Singletary would have to make the right decision at offensive coordinator, and it was unclear whether he could do so -- or handle the jump from position coach to face of the franchise.

We now know the 49ers acted hastily. There are signs similar impulsiveness has driven recent moves.

When the 49ers opened the season 0-5, York reacted with the bluster of a frustrated fan bellying up to the bar for another cold one. He publicly guaranteed the team would win the NFC West. York made a similar pledge upon hiring Singletary, suggesting a return to playoff form was imminent.

Within minutes of the 49ers' elimination from playoff contention Sunday, York was sending strong signals that Singletary would not last long. He was reacting. York fired Singletary later that night upon returning to team headquarters from St. Louis.

Firing Singletary was the right move, but York's obvious need to make the change right away raised questions in my mind about his temperament. Were the emotions of the moment driving the swiftness of the decision? If so, how might this impulsiveness come into play down the line?

York said some of the right things Monday when he told reporters the team would hire a general manager, and that the GM would make the important decision from there, starting with hiring a head coach. The 49ers will be best served if that GM has the strength to resist the impulses that seem to drive York from time to time.

Seahawks, Falcons test NFL extremes

December, 19, 2010
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The NFL rosters I maintain for every team in the league had fallen out of date recently.

I finally had time to update them Saturday night.

One revelation: The Atlanta Falcons left for their road trip in Seattle with a 53-man roster featuring a league-high 43 players back from last season. The Seahawks went into the weekend with a league-low 22 such players. The rest of the league averaged 33.3.

The counts reflect players currently on 53-man rosters who spent Week 17 last season on active rosters or injured reserve. Seattle has had the lowest figure all season, a reflection of their efforts to remake the roster under a new head coach.

Detroit and Washington have 25. Seattle is the only team with fewer.

Counts for the rest of the NFC West heading into the weekend: St. Louis (32), Arizona (31) and San Francisco (30). The 49ers' numbers dwindled later in the season after the team placed Joe Nedney, Frank Gore and Eric Heitmann on injured reserve.

LaBoy's injury hurts 49ers' pass rush

December, 18, 2010
12/18/10
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Travis LaBoy's comeback from career-threatening foot problems stood as a positive story amid a frustrating season for the San Francisco 49ers.

The foot held up well enough this season for LaBoy to record five sacks, but a knee injury suffered Thursday night against San Diego has ended the outside linebacker's season.

The 49ers announced Saturday they had placed LaBoy and injured kicker Joe Nedney on injured reserve. They signed tight end Colin Cloherty and defensive tackle Will Tukuafu from the practice squad to fill their roster spots.

LaBoy had three sacks in the 49ers' first five games and two in their most recent three.

Seahawks without top receivers vs. 49ers

December, 12, 2010
12/12/10
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Seattle Seahawks named injured receivers Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu inactive Sunday.

Playing without Williams, in particular, puts the Seahawks at a significant deficit as they try to improve their NFC West record to 4-1 against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. Williams' presence on third down, in particular, helps the Seahawks sustain drives. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has played at a higher level lately -- more confidently, more efficiently -- with Williams in the lineup.

Seattle might now need to rely more heavily on its ground game. The ground game showed improvement against Carolina last week. The 49ers are allowing 3.6 yards per carry on the ground, however. That is the third-best average for any defense in the NFL this season.

Also inactive for Seattle: guard Breno Giacomini, guard Chester Pitts, tackle William Robinson, defensive lineman Amon Gordon and defensive lineman Jay Richardson. J.P. Losman is the third quarterback.

The 49ers' inactive players: kicker Joe Nedney, cornerback Tramaine Brock, running back DeShawn Wynn, cornerback William James, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, tackle Joe Staley and tackle Alex Boone. David Carr is the third quarterback.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 8, 2010
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Arizona: A concussion continues to sideline veteran quarterback Derek Anderson. The team hasn't committed to him as its starter even if healthy enough to start. John Skelton figures to play one way or another. I have a hard time believing the Cardinals would send the newly signed Richard Bartel onto the field after one week of practices, but it wouldn't be the first time someone misread the quarterback situation in Arizona. On defense, Darnell Dockett (shoulder) and Greg Toler (foot) participated fully in practice Wedneday. Dockett looked healthier against St. Louis, a big boost for Arizona on defense. Receiver Steve Breaston (knee) was among six players limited Wednesday.

St. Louis: The Rams have generally done a good job working through manpower issues in their secondary, but the situation appears unfavorable heading into a game against Drew Brees and New Orleans. Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (shoulder) and cornerback Ron Bartell (neck) did not practice Wednesday. Safety Craig Dahl (knee), cornerback Justin King (shoulder) and cornerback Jerome Murphy (hamstring) were limited. Meanwhile, coach Steve Spagnuolo said quarterback Sam Bradford's sore ankle was no longer an issue. Bradford did not appear on the injury report. An ankle injury continues to sideline tight end Mike Hoomanwanui. His absence hurts.

San Francisco: The 49ers remain without left tackle Joe Staley and kicker Joe Nedney. Neither will play Sunday in the team's second full game since Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore landed on injured reserve with a fractured hip. Gore's primary replacement, Brian Westbrook, is getting extra rest as the team tries to keep his 31-year-old legs fresh. Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (groin), linebacker Takeo Spikes (ankle) and tight end Delanie Walker did not practice Wednesday. Walker missed part of the Green Bay game last week after suffering the injury, but he was able to return. Gore's absence and quarterback Alex Smith's return to the lineup could facilitate more pass-oriented personnel groups. The 49ers will still want to test the Seahawks' run defense.

Seattle: Nose tackle Colin Cole and tight end John Carlson participated fully in practice Wednesday. An ankle injury has sidelined Cole for the Seahawks' last five games. The team needs his presence against the run. Carlson's value has leveled off a bit now that tight end Cameron Morrah is becoming a factor in the receiving game and fullback Michael Robinson is available. Carlson had taken some of the fullback reps when Robinson was out. Seattle remains cautiously optimistic that top receiver Mike Williams will play against the 49ers despite ankle and foot injuries. Williams did not practice Wednesday. Neither did guard Chester Pitts (ankle), receiver Ben Obomanu (hand), defensive end Chris Clemons (ankle), middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu (knee) or linebacker Mike McCoy (head). Tatupu's injury is limiting him. He limps following some plays and lacks his usual explosiveness. Watching him play against Carolina, I wondered if how many more games he would last.

Around the NFC West: 49ers go cold

December, 6, 2010
12/06/10
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Taylor Price of 49ers.com says the 26-degree weather in Green Bay wasn't as cold as the team's offense in the red zone. Quarterback Troy Smith has completed 2 of 7 passes for 20 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 79.2 rating on passes thrown from inside opponents' 20-yard lines. Former starter Alex Smith completed 21 of 28 passes for 136 yards with eight touchdowns, no interceptions and a 124.4 rating in that area of the field. Troy Smith has given the 49ers a much greater big-play ability, but the offense can be less efficient with him under center. I'm not sure which quarterback I would rather have on the field at this point. Troy Smith completed only 40 percent Sunday.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers president Jed York, who says the team still has playoff aspirations. York: "Our guys can't give up."

Also from Barrows: "Linebacker Patrick Willis said he thought the key play in the game came on a third-and-one situation in the second quarter when outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who started ahead of injured Parys Haralson, jumped offside. That gave (Aaron) Rodgers a free play, and he took advantage of it with an aggressive throw to receiver Greg Jennings deep down the sideline. Jennings caught the ball over cornerback Shawntae Spencer and then plowed through a tackle attempt by Reggie Smith for a 57-yard touchdown. The Packers never trailed again."

More from Barrows: The 49ers held up against Rodgers for all of one quarter.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers found a kicker, only to use him too frequently. White: "Consider the job all but officially his for the rest of the season. The 49ers plan to place kicker Joe Nedney on the season-ending injured reserve list as soon as today, according to a team source, with a right knee injury that hasn't gotten better after three weeks off."

Also from White: The 49ers got a first-hand look at a playoff team. Willis: "We had the mind-set of showing the world what we're capable of doing against a very good football team. We just found a way to lose it, kind of like we've done the whole year."

More from White: a 49ers report card noting that Green Bay converted all five times on third-and-1.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers played without Parys Haralson and then lost nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin to a groin injury.

Also from Maiocco: He did not see much fight from the 49ers against the Packers.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers were no match for Rodgers. Branch: "In his past four games, Rodgers has thrown 11 touchdowns and no interceptions and has averaged 308 yards. He actually hasn't thrown an interception since Oct. 24, a span of 177 attempts. San Francisco's ravaged defense was sufficiently impressed."

Also from Branch: He thought the 49ers were too conservative during their defeat at Green Bay. Not that the 49ers were going to win a shootout with Rodgers.

More from Branch: additional thoughts on the 49ers' philosophy against the Packers. Branch: "It might be more tolerable to lose while acknowledging, for example, that (Brian) Westbrook isn't Frank Gore. Westbrook had nine carries. And, on the play-by-play sheet, seven of those runs were up the middle and one was over left guard. Westbrook did run outside on one occasion ... when San Francisco was trailing 34-16 with three minutes remaining. Last week, the Falcons beat the Packers 20-17 in a game in which running back Michael Turner (23 carries, 110 yards) attacked Green Bay on the outside."

More yet from Branch: a 49ers report card with a "D" grade for Troy Smith.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News sees little from the 49ers suggesting the team would finish the season strong. Purdy: "The 49ers did absolutely nothing Sunday to make any sane human think this team is capable of winning three or four more games. To be sure, the Packers were the better team. Heavy favorites. But you'd like to say that the 49ers, even in defeat, showed enough moxie and spunk to give them semi-momentum going into next weekend's must-win against Seattle."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News offers a 49ers report card featuring a C-minus grade for the passing offense.

Also from Brown: "If the 49ers are going to seize their playoff hopes, they will have to hold on tighter than they did against the Packers. A sensational catch-and-run by Donald Driver typified the 49ers' defensive frustrations. Driver shook off repeated tackle attempts on his way to a 61-yard touchdown."

Around the NFC West: Gore's prognosis

December, 1, 2010
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Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers scheduled additional tests for running back Frank Gore's fractured hip even though they do not anticipate any career-threatening complications. Maiocco: "The 49ers promoted running back DeShawn Wynn to the active roster. Wynn has played in 20 games the past four NFL seasons. He appeared in four games with the New Orleans Saints earlier this season after spending his first three years with the Green Bay Packers."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers think Gore should be OK for the start of the 2011 season. Gore's contract runs through 2011. This injury makes it tougher for him to secure a long-term deal. It was questionable, at least in my mind, as to how aggressively the 49ers would pursue a lucrative extension with Gore simply because running backs tend to wear down quickly. This injury affirms those concerns.

Also from Barrows: "The question moving forward is whether the offensive philosophy, which has been built on Gore's ability to run between the tackles, will change with a new cast at running back. Westbrook, who played in a West Coast offense in Philadelphia, is an accomplished receiver who caught 90 passes in 2007. Anthony Dixon, meanwhile, showed exceptional wiggle for a man his size during the exhibition season. He led the league in rushing -- 300 yards -- in the preseason and also scored two touchdowns."

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News says Gore's injury ends any chances the 49ers might have had this season.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers will limit Brian Westbrook's carries to keep the 31-year-old running back healthier. Branch: "Westbrook’s 23 carries Monday marked the fourth-most rushing attempts of his nine-year, 116-game career, which has been marked by a variety of injuries, including two concussions last year with Philadelphia. Westbrook, 31, has never played a full 16-game season and missed 11 games with the Eagles from 2007-09."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat thinks Mike Singletary's emotional approach, complete with tears following defeats, makes it tougher for Singletary to serve as an effective coach.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers expect to get kicker Joe Nedney back in Week 13.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team controls its own playoff destiny but cannot afford another home defeat, particularly against the 1-10 Carolina Panthers. Farnsworth: "The Panthers are averaging a league-low 12.7 points per game. Through 11 games, they have scored 140 points – which, ironically, matches the season total for the 1992 Seahawks, who set the 16-game NFL record for fewest points in a season."

Brian McIntyre of Mac's Football Blog says the Seahawks signed linebacker David Hawthorne through the 2011 season. That makes sense. Hawthorne has generally played well enough to stick around, but not well enough to command a lucrative long-term deal. This one-year extension puts some up-front money in his pocket while buying time for both sides.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' confidence needs a boost. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck: "We had a team meeting. Pete (Carroll) laid it out and showed some film -- showed some good stuff, too. It wasn't just the bad. Basically (he said), 'Hey guys, I need you to believe in how good you can be.' "

Also from O'Neil: Seattle's running game has gotten worse. O'Neil: "Seattle is headed toward its fifth straight season without a 1,000-yard rusher. It hasn't helped that fullback Michael Robinson missed the past five games with a hamstring injury, and with five games left, the Seahawks are still trying to piece together some semblance of a ground game."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, who offers thoughts on the team's six-game losing streak, his wife's cooking and a potential future in politics. Feely on teammate Derek Anderson's postgame news conference: "I saw it when I got home and I talked to him today. I like Derek and I know he's a competitor and I know he's kind of got a surly nature like that and it doesn't come across great sometimes. But I think it's because he does truly care. He wants to be good. He wants to win. He practices hard and he studies hard, but obviously he didn't handle it the best way."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic has this to say about the Cardinals' run defense Monday night: "Because of Darnell Dockett's shoulder injury, the Cardinals at one point had three nose tackles in the game: Dan Williams, Gabe Watson and Alan Branch. That's 1,003 pounds of tackles but the 49ers were able to move them. The Cardinals linebackers couldn't fill the gaps, and the 49ers averaged 5.6 yards a carry."

Also from Somers: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is sticking with Anderson at quarterback. Whisenhunt: "As hard as it is to say, I have seen Derek in here working his tail off. I have seen improvement over the last few weeks. That's really what you look for, and I think he gives us the best chance to win right now."

More from Somers: Beanie Wells failed to raise his arm high enough to accept the handoff from Anderson on the Cardinals' first offensive play against San Francisco on Monday night, resulting in a fumbled exchange.

More yet from Somers: He explains his thinking in asking Anderson the questions that prompted the quarterback to lose his composure following the game Monday night. Somers: "I take no satisfaction in what happened, but I felt the questions were justified. The Cardinals were losing their sixth consecutive game. Their starting quarterback and right guard were smiling on the sidelines. Readers wanted to know why, especially since many of them think this team is not playing as hard as it should."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals are searching for reasons behind their poor play. Larry Fitzgerald says passion isn't lacking.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a team-by-team look at the NFC West coming out of Week 12. Concerns for the Rams: "Over the last three games, the Rams defense has allowed an average of 437 yards and 30 points. In the three games they've been burned for 6 TD passes (with no INTs) and a passer rating of 109.2 The Rams have given up a league-high 10 pass plays of 25- plus yards over the last three games ... the coaching staff needs to shake this tendency on offense of going into a safe shell late in games to protect leads ... on offense the disappointing running game lacks consistency."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers a chat transcript with this thought on why Mardy Gilyard has not done more. Thomas: "The real reason is Gilyard missed time in the offseason and preseason, has been hurt off and on this season, has been slow to learn the offense, seems to be pressing, and currently isn't getting nearly as many opportunities as he might because others -- including (Danario) Alexander -- are getting the job done." Does Gilyard get more chances now that tight end Mike Hoomanawanui isn't an option?

Also from Thomas: Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo looks at what happened when the Rams nearly lost a big fourth-quarter lead at Denver. Spagnuolo: "I like the fact that we're able to work on that after getting our fifth win. It's hard to win in this league. Pretty tough to go to Denver and win, too. That's a tough place to play."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch assesses the Rams' progress. Burwell: "Sunday in Denver was a test that had to be passed, and the Rams got through and won. Now look at the schedule. It seems as though things couldn't have been scripted for these final five weeks any better if Steve Spagnuolo had plotted out the schedule himself."

Hitting key points on MNF inactive lists

November, 29, 2010
11/29/10
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Wide receiver Steve Breaston is active for the Arizona Cardinals despite his questionable status on the injury report.

Teammates Calais Campbell and Greg Toler, both starters on defense, will miss the Cardinals' game against the San Francisco 49ers. Both were named inactive. Alan Branch starts for Campbell (injured ankle) at defensive end. Michael Adams starts for Toler (foot) at right cornerback.

Toler had struggled some before suffering the injury. Adams is tenacious, but he lacks size.

Breaston will play despite a knee injury. Versatile running back LaRod Stephens-Howling is also active for the Cardinals. A hamstring injury sidelined him against Kansas City last week. Stephens-Howling has dynamic skills as a kickoff returner. The Cardinals use him as a running back and wide receiver on offense. He's particularly useful to them on second down, often with fullback Jason Wright and three wide receivers.

Inactive for the 49ers: kicker Joe Nedney, cornerback Tramaine Brock, cornerback Williams James, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, left tackle Joe Staley and tackle Alex Boone. David Carr is the third quarterback. Barry Sims starts at left tackle for the 49ers. He was steady in relief last season, but perhaps a bit rusty against Tampa Bay last week. His matchup against the Cardinals' Joey Porter could be worth monitoring.

Inactive for the Cardinals: receiver Max Komar, safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Marshay Green, linebacker Reggie Walker, center Ben Claxton, Campbell and Toler. John Skelton is the third quarterback.

Around the NFC West: Hasselbeck's future

November, 18, 2010
11/18/10
9:24
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Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks should wait until the end of the season before deciding how to proceed with Matt Hasselbeck on a new contract. Boling: "Critics have valid ammunition. He’s 35, he’s missed 10 games in the last two and a half seasons because of injuries, and his 75.3 passer rating is 28th in the league this season. Games like Sunday, though, (333 passing yards with a 106.6 passer rating) freshen the argument." It's difficult to determine Hasselbeck's value at this point. Some sort of compromise deal featuring incentives would seem appropriate. There's no use in letting him get away to sign with a quarterback-starved team such as Arizona or possibly San Francisco. But committing to a 35-year-old quarterback doesn't make a great deal of sense unless Hasselbeck finishes particularly strong.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks noticed a change in Aaron Curry's demeanor before the Arizona game.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with 2006 seventh-round choice Ben Obomanu, who has earned a spot in the starting lineup. Coach Pete Carroll: "He’s been working so hard, he’s been doing so well, he’s contributing in all ways, and kind of why not? He deserves it. He’s kind of earned his way. This is the classic opportunity by guys who continue to compete and battle and work at your position. You earn it. He earned it. And when he got out there he did really well. So he’ll start this week, and we’ll just see how it goes."

Also from Farnsworth: a closer look at Deon Butler's 63-yard touchdown reception from Hasselbeck against Arizona. Seattle lined up Butler in the slot, a departure from form. Butler took the route deep once he saw linebacker Paris Lenon standing flat-footed. The play then became a footrace between the speedy Butler and Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes. The ball would have gone to Obomanu if Butler weren't open. Butler: "We hadn’t even thrown it in practice, which was the crazy thing. We’d drawn it up and we know how it looks, so it just shows you that Matt really did a great job."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Hasselbeck's wrist injury prevents him from tying his own shoes. Good thing the team signed J.P. Losman -- not only as insurance at quarterback, but to help Hasselbeck lace 'em up.

Also from O'Neil: Curry had a good game against Arizona. Was it a sign of things to come? Carroll: "He can become one of the best guys in the league at playing the line of scrimmage. I think it's what he's really special at."

Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune says Hasselbeck isn't taking direct snaps in practice, the better to protect his injured wrist. Also, Russell Okung moved well enough to suggest he'll likely return at left tackle.

Also from Divish: Obomanu doesn't mind if people do not pronounce his name correctly.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals badly need Beanie Wells back on the field amid injuries at running back.

Also from Somers: The 2010 schedule brings together Todd Haley and Ken Whisenhunt, who once shared an office as assistants with the Jets. Whisenhunt: "When we were talking about pass routes, when we were talking about game-plan stuff, I think we had a great relationship. It was only the physical part where it got competitive, when we did the one-on-one basketball or golf. But that's his nature and that's my nature."

More from Somers: Jeremy Bridges isn't panicking about being thrust into the starting lineup. Bridges: "Right tackle is what I've been doing my whole career. It's comfortable. It's coming home. You always know your room's there. You know how your bed feels. My comfort level is pretty high right now."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com updates the team's injury situation. Urban: "The 'limited' included two newcomers. Cornerback Greg Toler now has a foot injury. Nose tackle Dan Williams has a calf issue. The other limited players all have been nursing their ailments: DT Darnell Dockett (shoulder), LB Clark Haggans (groin) and RB Beanie Wells (knee). Wells actually said he feels the best he has since before suffering his knee injury in the preseason."

Also from Urban: Haley's hard-nosed approach to coaching helped Larry Fitzgerald become a more complete player. Haley once called Fitzgerald a one-trick pony. Fitzgerald: "I think Todd is a great coach. He’s fun to play for. Everybody says he’s a hard ass and this, that and the third, but at the end of the day when Todd came in the locker room he’d give you the biggest hug. He wanted it so bad for us. He prepared so much and he pushed us. I remember after the NFC Championship game he was in tears. Those moments are what I’ll remember."

More from Urban: What were the odds of Matt Cassel starting and former USC teammate Matt Leinart serving in a No. 3 role?

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch compares Sam Bradford to Matt Ryan as the quarterbacks prepare to play Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome. Bradford: "He was put into a very similar situation as I was, and I think he's done everything the right way. From the outside, it appears that he's worked as hard as he could to get himself where he is. Any time that you can look at a guy like that and see what he's been able to do and try to take things from that, it can only help you."

Also from Coats: Renardo Foster has generally held up his end when needed on the offensive line.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Bradford made strides Sunday by running the two-minute offense successfully. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "I just whacked him in the butt and I said, 'This is your time. Go ahead.' He doesn't even flinch, he just goes. He doesn't bat an eyelash. He realizes it's part of what you do in that (quarterback) position in the league. And I think if you talk to some of the guys that were in the huddle -- I wasn't in the huddle -- but he certainly had command in the huddle and knew exactly what he was doing."

Also from Thomas: Bradford isn't shaving in November.

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at options for the Rams at receiver this offseason.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team signed Derek Schouman after placing rookie tight end Fendi Onobun on injured reserve.

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams are healthier than they've been in weeks.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com explains why the 49ers' Chilo Rachal did not start last week. Rachal had missed multiple practices while his wife gave birth to their child. With a rookie right tackle and a new quarterback, the 49ers weren't comfortable having another young player, Rachal, starting without absorbing the game plan.

Also from Maiocco: Barry Sims has fresh legs heading into his first start of the season.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Mike Singletary is handling the 49ers' quarterback situation correctly. Barrows: "He slipped up two weeks ago when he said, in tapping Troy Smith as the starter against Denver in London, that the team had lacked offensive leadership early in the season. Singletary seemed surprised that anyone could interpret that as a slam on Alex Smith. But everyone interpreted it that way, including Alex Smith, who gave a well-thought-out defense of his leadership ability to reporters days later. Since that rift started to form, Singletary has been busily repairing it. And he and Alex Smith appeared to be in good standing after the coach informed him that Troy Smith would start against the Buccaneers."

Also from Barrows: Joe Nedney's replacement could face rainy conditions Sunday.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' rookie offensive linemen are learning on the job.

Around the NFC West: Nedney's toughness

November, 17, 2010
11/17/10
9:06
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Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers released Jason Hill to clear a roster spot for a kicker after finding out Joe Nedney will miss at least one game. Maiocco: "The 49ers are looking at three young players as possible kickoff specialists: Shane Andrus, Swayze Waters and Garrett Lindholm." Nedney deserves praise for finishing the game Sunday and making the winning kick in overtime after suffering what turned out to be a significant injury early in the game. According to the team, the left-footed Nedney suffered a right knee strain and bone bruise.

Also from Maiocco: a player-by-player review from the 49ers' overtime victory against the St. Louis Rams. On rookie guard Mike Iupati: "Started at left guard. His best play might have been his pass protection against defensive tackle Darell Scott on a short pass to Frank Gore. Iupati tossed Scott aside and then hustled 20 yards down the field to block James Laurinaitis to help Gore pick up 30 yards. Did a good job of picking up James Hall after he started to spin away from Staley (who had a broken leg) on the go-ahead touchdown pass to Crabtree late in the game. Blasted Gibson out of the way on play Gore gained 6 yards in OT to set up Joe Nedney's winning field goal."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at how the 49ers' offense changed in Week 10. Also, right tackle Anthony Davis had problems against Rams defensive end Chris Long. Barrows: "Indeed, the 49ers' running game over the first half of the season was predicated on which direction Iupati was pulling. The team's first play to open the first four games was the same -- Frank Gore following Iupati through the hole. Against the Rams, however, offensive coordinator Mike Johnson often used Iupati as a decoy. If he pulled right, Troy Smith would pitch the ball to Gore left. It was a play that caught the Rams going in the wrong direction all afternoon."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Alex Smith's shoulder injury might have saved the 49ers' season.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle looks ahead to the 49ers' game against Tampa Bay. White on Davis, the rookie right tackle: "The rookie first-round draft pick has allowed seven sacks and is one of the most penalized linemen in the NFL. If he can't hold his ground against a Bucs defense that has an NFL-low eight sacks, oh brother."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Mike Williams' 35 receptions over the past five games rank second to Steve Largent's 36-catch team record over the same period. Farnsworth: "Largent caught 36 passes in a five-game stretch that stretched over two seasons: 12 vs. the Broncos, eight vs. the Lions, four vs. the Chiefs and seven vs. the Broncos to close the 1984 season and five vs. the Bengals in the 1985 season opener."

Also from Farnsworth: Roy Lewis is the Seahawks' man of the year.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' situation at quarterback remains unsettled beyond this season in part because Matt Hasselbeck's contract expires.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along Brian McIntyre's personnel report for the Seahawks against Arizona. Aaron Curry played nearly 91 percent of defensive snaps. McIntyre: "Curry played strong-side linebacker, defensive tackle in nickel and dime packages, and the nose in 12 of the 13 plays run out of the 'Bandit' package. Curry tied Thomas with a team-high 8 tackles, including one on special teams and two quarterback sacks. Chris Clemons had 17 snaps as the 'Leo', with Raheem Brock picking up the remaining four snaps. Kentwan Balmer was the 5-technique for 16 snaps, with Jay Richardson playing five snaps, all paired with Clemons."

Also from Williams: J.P. Losman is happy to be back with Seattle.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says we shouldn't read too much into whatever happens when Seattle visits New Orleans. I think an upset victory would be more impressive than a defeat would be troubling. Boyle: "Maybe the Seahawks will surprise everyone and knock off the defending Super Bowl champs, or maybe they’ll be humbled on the road as they have so often been in recent years. But whatever occurs, it’s safe to say the Seahawks won’t be defined by this weekend’s result. We’ve seen impressive wins this season, and we’ve seen head-scratching losses, and at this point it’s futile to try to figure this team out based on either."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals were surprised to discover that starting right tackle Brandon Keith had suffered a third-degree hamstring tear. Jeremy Bridges could become the new starter. Coach Ken Whisenhunt on Keith: "He seems to have been making strides lately. He’s been pretty consistent as a run blocker. When he uses his technique right, he’s a very, very good pass protector. We were definitely encouraged by his play, and we feel good going forward with him as our right tackle."

Also from Somers: Keith was already playing despite a torn meniscus in his knee. He'll have surgery for that injury.

More from Somers: Former Cardinals and Seahawks running back Josh Scobey is working in Arizona's personnel department.

More still from Somers: hard questions for Whisenhunt.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals linebacker and Rembrandt fan Paris Lenon.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says during a chat that rookie tight end Mike Hoomanawanui should probably get more playing time. The pass veteran Daniel Fells dropped in the fourth quarter proved costly.

Also from Thomas: Former NFL officiating director Mike Pereira says he thought the pass from San Francisco quarterback Troy Smith to tight end Delanie Walker -- the one that drew a key 22-yard interference penalty against Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe -- was uncatchable. That was my initial take from the press box, but my opinion changed after watching the play repeatedly on replay. More on this one later.

More from Thomas: The Rams face a tough road ahead.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch considers reasonable expectations for the Rams. Miklasz: "Even with the roster imperfections and youth, do we really give the team a free pass for blowing a 14-point lead at Tampa Bay after thoroughly dominating the Bucs for the first half? If the roster is so flawed that we can't expect the Rams to win on the road, then why was the same roster able to go into Tampa Bay and take firm control of that game, outgaining the home team 189-87 in the first half?" These were what I would consider growing pains. Teams often suffer such setbacks on their way to better things.

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