NFC West: Jon Ryan

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- The 12th-man flag is flying all over the state of Washington this week, but it might surprise you to learn it’s also flying over City Hall in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Ryan
That happens to be the hometown of Jon Ryan, and his Canadian friends and family are mighty proud of the Seahawks' punter.

“Yeah, it’s been pretty cool,” Ryan said. “I’ve got a lot of support from family back home. I’ve got 15 family and friends coming out to be here for the game. Everyone back home is pretty excited. Everyone has really gotten behind me. It means a lot to me.

‘‘My family has been telling me they are the most famous people in town this week. They’re even doing interviews and radio shows. They did [TV news show] 'Canada AM' this morning. They are all pretty pumped about it. The city and the province have been so behind me through all of this. I could have never imagined that type of support.”

Few people know that Ryan was a talented wide receiver in college at the University of Regina. He caught a 109-yard TD pass (fields in Canada are 110 yards) as a sophomore.

“I was actually drafted [in the Canadian Football League] as a kicker/wide receiver,” he said. “But I knew my path would be a punter. That’s what I’ve always kind of excelled at, and that was really my No. 1 love when it came to football. It was punting. It might not be as glamorous as the wide receiver position, but it worked out for me.”

Ryan played two years in the CFL for Winnipeg before signing with Green Bay in 2006, his first NFL season. He signed with Seattle in 2008.

“My goal was always to make the NFL,” Ryan said. “But it kind of seemed like a pipe dream until that second season in the CFL, when I made a lot of improvements to my game. I started kind of piling up some good stats."

At age 32, Ryan is the second-oldest player on the Seahawks, one month younger than defensive end Chris Clemons, but Ryan is at the top of his game.

Of his 82 punts this season, including the playoffs, only 22 have been returned, for a total of 82 yards. So opponents average only 1 yard gained every time Ryan punts, an astonishing number.

Ryan gets great hang time on his kicks, but he also credits his teammates on punt coverage.

“Our gunners, [Byron] Maxwell, [Ricardo] Lockette and Jeremy Lane, they’ve done a great job of forcing a lot of fair catches,’’ Ryan said. “Those guys are just some of the best in the game at what they do. It makes it a lot easier for me to punt the ball and know they are going to be down there making those tackles.”

Five Seahawks under the radar

November, 24, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- The Seahawks have their share of limelight players who receive plenty of recognition nationally, like quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch, cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas.

Here are a few players who don't receive that type of praise but who have contributed to the 10-1 record:

Best rookie: Tight end Luke Willson was a steal as a late fifth-round pick. Few people had heard of the 6-5, 250-pound Canadian who played college ball at Rice -- another example of GM John Schneider's ability to find quality players other teams overlook.

Willson
Willson has 12 receptions for a 14.2-yard average per catch. The Seahawks knew he could catch and had good speed, but he has performed better as a blocker than most people expected.

He started two games when Zach Miller was out with a hamstring injury, but officially, Willson has started seven games because the Seahawks opened with a two-tight end set, showing their confidence in Willson.

He is an all-around athlete who played, hockey, soccer and baseball in high school, including a stint on the Canadian Junior National Team, along with football. But he also is a brainiac (typical of Rice grads) who had a 4.0 GPA.

Best new position: It's Bruce Irvin moving from defensive end to outside linebacker. After missing the first four games due to a PED suspension, Irvin stepped into his new spot and made an immediate impact with a sack in his first game back.

Irvin
Irvin's speed has enabled to do things at linebacker that he didn't do at defensive end, like intercepting a pass 30 yards downfield in the game at St. Louis.

Irvin has 28 tackles (20 solo), two sacks, five quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. Irvin loves playing linebacker and believes he can do more things without constantly taking on huge offensive tackles.

Most underrated player: This one will surprise you. I'm going with punter Jon Ryan, the other Canadian on the Seahawks. Ryan doesn't rank among the league leaders in yards per punt, which is a misleading stat in regard to a punter's value.

Ryan's success comes from how high he kicks the ball. Returners appear to wait forever for the ball to come down, so they don't get many opportunities to gain any yards after the catch.

Only 11 of his 44 punts have been returned. But here's the eye-popping numbers. The 11 returns totaled a measly 15 yards. And one of those was 10 yards, so the other 10 totaled only 5 yards.

Eighteen punts were downed inside the 20. Ryan completely shut down the best punt returner in the league -- Marcus Sherels -- last week against Minnesota. All Sherels could muster was three fair catches. On the other two Ryan punts, one was downed at the 7 and the other went out of bounds at the 20.

Ryan is a major field-position asset for the Seahawks.

Best offseason acquisition: Now this is a tough one because Seattle has three new players -- Cliff Avril, Tony McDaniel and Michael Bennett -- who have made a big difference on the defensive front line, but I'll go with Bennett at defensive end.

Bennett
Bennett is tied with Avril for the team lead with 6 1/2 sacks, but he also has 16 quarterback hurries and 20 tackles.

Avril missed the first game of the season with an injury and feels like he's just starting to find his rhythm. He has three forced fumbles, including one on a sack in the Minnesota game.

But McDaniel also is a good pick from his defensive tackle spot. He has 44 tackles, including tying his season-high with seven against Minnesota when coach Pete Carroll singled him out as having his best game.

Honestly, I'm good with picking any of these three guys. They have dramatically improved the defensive front for Seattle, which was one of the team's top priorities after last season.

And, of course, I haven't even mentioned receiver Percy Harvin, who could win this category by the end of the season.

Best return: Some would say defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, whom I listed earlier this week as the most pleasant surprise on defense this season since he came back in Week 2 after being released at the end of preseason.

But my pick here is fullback Michael Robinson. He has helped throw some key blocks for Marshawn Lynch in the last three games, but maybe just as important is his leadership in the locker room and the respect he has from all his teammates.

As this young team heads toward a possible Super Bowl run, having a veteran leader like Robinson is a big asset to keep everyone pointing in the right direction.
SEATTLE -- A team can’t end a first half worse than the Seattle Seahawks did Sunday.

The botched field-goal attempt that went the other way for a touchdown was the capper in a run of ridiculous mistakes. Still, the Seahawks still managed to win 20-13 over a Tennessee Titans team whose offense was inept without starting quarterback Jake Locker.

The 10-point swing on the field-goal debacle was a prime example of unthinkable craziness. It was easy for the Seahawks to laugh about after winning, but not so much at the time.

The Seahawks drove down the field and had a chance at a 22-yard field goal on the final play of the half. But their regular kicker, Steven Hauschka, was in the locker room being check for a possible concussion after he'd been walloped in the nose on a kickoff return earlier in the second quarter. That meant the Seahawks' punter, Jon Ryan, was in to kick -- and since he's usually the holder, that job also was being performed by a backup in safety Chris Maragos.

[+] EnlargeJon Ryan
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesBackup kicker plus backup holder did not equal good things for the Seahawks before halftime.
The result can only be described as a complete disaster. Maragos fumbled the snap, tried to get up and run but fumbled the ball away. Tennessee cornerback Jason McCourty scooped it up and took it to the house for a 77-yard touchdown.

So instead of leading 10-3 at halftime, Seattle trailed 10-7.

“I really wanted the field goal,” Ryan said. “All these years of playing [pro] football and I’ve never scored a point. I wanted to give that ball to my mum.”

Ryan is Canadian, in case you couldn’t guess by the reference to his mother.

“The last time I attempted a field goal was a preseason game in 2004 in the Canadian Football League,” Ryan said. “I kicked in college, but I was really bad. But I’m sure I would have made that one.”

Maybe, but the end result was one enormous downer entering the locker room at halftime.

“We were frustrated,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said. “At the time, everybody on offense just wanted us to go for it. Hauschka was hurt. We felt like we should have gone for it. But I don’t think it deterred us in any way. We always talk about [how] you don’t win games in the first half.”

Even Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he should have let the offense go for it instead of risking the field goal with a new kicker and holder, but Maragos wasn’t a greenhorn at holding for a kick.

“I held all four years in college at Wisconsin,” he said. “But I messed it up. I didn’t get the snap down, so then it’s a fire call and you try to roll out. But I should’ve just gone down. Our defense was playing well all game and I should have just taken a knee.”

Should that situation arise again, Carroll said quarterback Russell Wilson would be the holder. The field-goal failure was the second time in the last two games that Seattle has given up a touchdown return on a field-goal attempt.

Against Indianapolis last week, Hauschka’s 48-yard attempt was blocked before Delano Howell ran it back 61 yards for a score. This time, Hauschka was in the locker room and didn’t see the play.

“I didn’t know what happened,” Hauschka said. “I still haven’t seen the play. It was a big blow for us. I was trying to get back out there as quickly as I could, but I had to finish the concussion tests.”

It was Hauschka's aggressive play to make a tackle on a kickoff that started the chain of events that led to the botched attempt.

"I’m a bigger guy," said the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Hauschka, "and that’s the first time I’ve been popped like that. I felt out of it for a couple of minutes. We did the concussion protocol and I was fine."

Ryan said: “I don’t know if [Hauschka] is the toughest guy. Me, yes, but him no.”

Easy to joke about it now. Cornerback Richard Sherman was asked if he feels an obligation to teach Hauschka proper tackling technique.

“I feel an obligation to teach Hauschka how to get out of the way,” Sherman said.
The rookie wage scale and overall salary structure should increasingly make the NFL a young man's game, all else equal.

Youth will be served during rookie minicamps beginning Friday, for sure.

With that in mind, I've gone through NFC West rosters singling out for special recognition players age 30 and older (or turning 30 before regular-season openers). There are 29 such players in the division by my count, including longtime NFC West stars Frank Gore (turns 30 next week) and Larry Fitzgerald (turns 30 in August). Twenty of them play for the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.

A team-by-team look at NFC West elders, with ages rounded to the tenth of a year:
The chart provides a team and positional look at these players. I'm expecting the Rams to have the youngest roster in the NFL this season.

Update: Add Karlos Dansby to the list for the Cardinals. The 31-year-old linebacker has agreed to terms with Arizona, the team announced.


LANDOVER, Md. -- Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 24-14 victory over the Washington Redskins in a wild-card playoff game Sunday at FedEx Field:

What it means: The fifth-seeded Seahawks will face the Atlanta Falcons in a divisional-round game in the Georgia Dome on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. This was their first road victory in a playoff game since the 1983 season. They will face a Falcons team that has not won a playoff game with Mike Smith as head coach. The Falcons rode Matt Ryan's stellar play and the NFL's easiest schedule to the top seed in the NFC. The Seahawks have now won a playoff game following two of Pete Carroll's first three seasons as head coach.

What I liked: The Seahawks stuck with their plan and kept plugging away even though they weren't getting points for long stretches. Marshawn Lynch atoned for his fumble near the Washington goal line by breaking a 27-yard touchdown run on third-and-5 to give Seattle its first lead of the game. Quarterback Russell Wilson was out front blocking on this play and others.

Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas showed outstanding range in sprinting over to pick off a deep pass from Robert Griffin III. That play showed the Redskins wouldn't be able to throw the ball down the field without incurring significant risk. Thomas had three picks during the regular season. That's a good number for a safety, but Thomas has the talent to produce more turnovers. This was a big one.

The Seahawks took advantage of matchup advantages at tight end. Zach Miller made a difficult catch early and his catch for a two-point conversion was key. Miller also had a 22-yard reception on his way to a four-catch, 48-yard game. Washington allowed 10 touchdown passes to tight ends during the regular season, third most in the NFL.

What I didn't like: Seattle's defense got steamrolled in the first quarter as the Redskins amassed a 129-9 yardage lead and 14-0 scoring lead. Alfred Morris ran without much resistance. Griffin threw two short scoring passes. Just like that, Seattle was behind by 14 points, its largest deficit of the season and largest since New England led the Seahawks by 13 points.

Tight end Anthony McCoy dropped a pass shortly before halftime, one reason Seattle settled for a field goal when a touchdown would have put the Seahawks into the lead. Lynch then lost a fumble on a run from the Washington 1-yard line on the first possession of the second half. Those miscues cost Seattle as many as 11 points, keeping the Redskins in the lead, 14-13, through three quarters.

The Seahawks kept racking up yards without getting enough points over the second and third quarters. Wilson took five sacks. He has now taken 11 sacks over his past two games after taking eight over his five previous games combined. Wilson also appeared to make a couple of questionable decisions, a rarity for him. He was fortunate Washington did not intercept him in the end zone during the first half.

My field position: Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is worth how much again? More than a billion, right? That kind of loot would buy a lot of sod. The playing surface at FedEx Field was a disgrace. It's tough to know whether it contributed to a couple of knee injuries suffered in this game, but why take the risk? The weather was beautiful for January, but the field looked as though it had weathered a tractor pull recently.

Injury update: The Seahawks lost defensive end Chris Clemons to a knee injury in the second half. Kicker Steven Hauschka returned after suffering an injured ankle. Punter Jon Ryan kicked off while Hauschka was out.

Lynch does it again: Lynch carried 19 times for 131 yards, his 11th game of the season with at least 100 yards rushing.

Second-guessing Shanahan: The Redskins left Griffin in the game even though it was clear early that a knee injury was hurting him. The move backfired. Griffin struggled as the game progressed. He then injured the knee even worse in the fourth quarter. Washington declared him out. The Redskins had won a game with Kirk Cousins in the lineup this season. They couldn't have been worse on offense with Cousins in the game once it became clear Griffin couldn't function.

What's next: The Seahawks face NFC South champions Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
Just wanted to pass along a quick note from Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information: The San Francisco 49ers' Andy Lee recently edged the Arizona Cardinals' Dave Zastudil for the NFL's 2012 punter of the year in voting by ESPN writers, researchers and data analysts.

I listed Lee first and Zastudil second on my ballot. Seattle's Jon Ryan finished fifth. New Orleans' Thomas Morstead was third. Kansas City's Dustin Colquitt was fourth.

Punters are a bit like home-field advantages. They're not going to make a bad team win games, but they can put a good team over the top in close ones.

Here's what Simon had to say about the punters and the voting process:

"Lee edged out Zastudil in an extremely close vote. Lee edged out Morstead for the NFL’s net average crown (43.2 yards). Lee finished with 36 punts inside the 20 and four touchbacks. His 9-to-1 ratio of inside-the-20 punts to touchbacks ranked tied for fourth-best in NFL. His 36 punts inside the 20 ranked third. Lee had the second-highest percentage of punts inside the 20 (53.7 percent). He was also a two-time winner of "Punter of the Week" honors this season.



"Zastudil led the NFL in punts with 112, 21 more than the player who finished second. He set NFL single-season records for total punt yardage and number of punts inside the 20. Zastudil also fared well by the advanced metrics kept by ESPN's analytics team. His average punt added 1.4 percent to the Cardinals' chances of winning, which was an NFL best, as was his average expected points added per punt (0.33).

"Lee received seven of a possible 15 first-place votes and was named on 15 of the 20 ballots. Five points were awarded for a first-place vote. Three points were given for a second-place vote. Zastudil received five first-place votes and five second-place votes. Lee won our points voting by four points (44-40). Morstead finished with 17 points, Colquitt 14, and Ryan 5."


Congrats to all the nominees. Punters don't get a ton of attention. We've got some good ones here in the NFC West.

Around the NFC West: Lee gets the nod

December, 20, 2012
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Few things get the blood pumping around here quite like a good punter discussion.

Gratuitous punting references obviously drive traffic all around the web. Here in the NFC West, we just happen to be blessed with multiple outstanding punters. I've tried to handle the excess responsibly, but it's just tough not to sensationalize given the subject matter.



I mean, who doesn't get excited about a solid net average? What kid doesn't dream about pinning his opponent inside the 5?

This past week, Andy Lee's 54-yard net average for the San Francisco 49ers was the highest all season in the NFL for any player with four or more punts. That was one reason Mark Simon, ESPN's professor of punting, chose Lee as his punter of the week.

"Lee had three key fourth-quarter punts that netted an average of 55 yards, including a 59-yarder with 3:09 remaining," Simon said. "Lee fared well via advanced metrics as well. He had the second-best expected points added per punt among those with multiple punts. He ranks third in the NFL in punts inside the 20 and second in net average."

Lee was also Simon's choice for punter of the week against Seattle in Week 7 even though some in the punting community thought Arizona's Dave Zastudil might have made a better choice with all five of his punts downed inside the Minnesota 15-yard line that week.

Zastudil, Simon's top punter for Week 4, would have been a worthy choice this week as well.

"After placing a franchise-record six punts inside the 20-yard line in Arizona’s 38-10 win over the Detroit Lions, Zastudil needs to drop just five more inside the opponents’ red zone to have the most by any punter in a single season," Bob McManaman writes in the Arizona Republic. "The record for punts placed inside the 20 is 42 and it’s shared by three punters, including the Cardinals’ Ben Graham in 2009. Andy Lee of the 49ers also did it (2007), as did Steve Weatherford of the Jets (2010)."

Seattle's Jon Ryan has won Simon's award multiple times this season. St. Louis' Johnny Hekker is a one-time winner.

7-9 reasons these Seahawks are better

December, 10, 2012
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The Seattle Seahawks' 58-0 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday was big around here.

Not just for the historic margin, either.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll
Steven Bisig/USA TODAY SportsNo doubt, Pete Carroll's decision to start rookie QB Russell Wilson has been a key to Seattle's success.
It was big because it killed a running joke on the NFC West blog, one Seahawks fans couldn't escape since the 2011 season finished. No matter how much progress Seattle appeared to be making, fans from other teams could point to consecutive 7-9 records as evidence the team was mired in mediocrity under coach Pete Carroll.

The victory over Arizona left Seattle with an 8-5 record. Even a disappointing finish would leave the Seahawks with a record better than 7-9. This will surely come as a relief to some.

Comments sections have overflowed at times with gratuitous references to the numbers seven and nine. Those in the know would either laugh, roll their eyes or bristle.

We even put together an entire post on the subject back in May.

"49ers have won 5 super bowls since '79," 49ers5bowls wrote.

"Pete Carroll's drag racing team nailed a 7.9 quarter mile," unislaya added. "Nobody believed it, so they asked him to do it again."

"Pete Carroll finished P90X in 79 days," EDTGO piled on.

"We were 7-9 in year 1, we improved to 7-9 in year 2 and I think we can be an even better 7-9 team in year 3," was how Lock.Down put it, claiming to be paraphrasing Carroll.

References to the number 58 might be more appropriate from this point forward. First, though, let's look at 7-9 quick reasons why Seattle is better this season:

  • The GM: General manager John Schneider led the way as Seattle defied convention by using a third-round choice for quarterback Russell Wilson.
  • The coach: Carroll had the guts to start Wilson over Matt Flynn when the decision appeared risky.
  • The QB: Wilson himself has made the biggest difference on the field. He has 15 touchdowns with three interceptions over his past eight games.
  • Health: Seattle has been healthier this season than in the recent past. Having left tackle Russell Okung and receiver Sidney Rice in the lineup consistently has helped.
  • Young talent: Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner had two more interceptions Sunday, giving him four on the season. Fellow rookie Bruce Irvin collected his eighth sack. So many other recent draft choices are contributing, including middle- and later-round picks. Cornerback Richard Sherman was a fifth-rounder in 2011, for example.
  • Big returns: Thanks to Leon Washington, the Seahawks rank third in kickoff return average. That is up from 10th last season. The improvement has been 3.55 yards per return.
  • Real McCoy: Seattle appeared to miss Kellen Winslow Jr. early in the season. The lesser-known Anthony McCoy has increasingly become a factor as a receiving tight end. He showed up when needed during a victory at Chicago, and again with a 67-yard reception Sunday.
  • Ryan's impact: Punter Jon Ryan was already good, but he has quite possibly been even better this season. His net average is 41.7 yards, a career high. Seattle has downed 47.4 percent of his punts inside the 20-yard line. That is up from 35.8 percent last season. Other factors can influence the percentage, but the more, the better.

Silver linings: Seahawks at Dolphins

November, 26, 2012
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The facts: The Seattle Seahawks fell to 6-5 with a 24-21 road defeat to the Miami Dolphins in Week 12.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • Quarterback Russell Wilson set a rookie record with 16 consecutive completions. He posted an NFL passer rating of at least 125.9 for the third game in a row and the fourth time in his past seven games. He led the NFL in Total QBR for Week 12 through the Sunday games.
  • Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner intercepted a pass. He had another interception wiped out by a penalty unrelated to the pick.
  • Running back Leon Washington had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to break a 14-14 tie in the fourth quarter. Washington also had a 15-yard punt return.
  • Seattle did not commit a turnover.
  • Golden Tate made an acrobatic grab for a 32-yard reception.
  • The Seahawks allowed zero return yards of any kind. They downed six of Jon Ryan's seven punts inside the Miami 20-yard line. Ryan had a 40-yard net average.
  • Seattle converted half its 14 third-down chances and won time of possession by nearly four minutes.
  • Wilson, who had not played as well in third quarters this season, led a 12-play, 95-yard touchdown drive to open the second half for Seattle's offense.
  • Seattle allowed only two sacks, including zero to Cameron Wake.
  • The Seahawks remained in position as the sixth seed in the NFC playoff race when Tampa Bay and Minnesota also lost.
Looking ahead: The Seahawks visit the Chicago Bears in Week 13.

Where NFC West stands in Pro Bowl voting

November, 14, 2012
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A few thoughts on where NFC West teams and players stand -- or do not stand -- in ongoing fan balloting for the Pro Bowl:
Five times in nine weeks an NFC West punter has earned acclaim from ESPN punter awareness coordinator Mark Simon.

Simon works for ESPN Stats & Information. He isn't really a punter awareness coordinator, at least not officially. I've called him a puntologist in the past.

The bottom line: Simon sifts through net averages and field-position charts before declaring NFL punters of the week, and he likes what he sees in the NFC West.

Seattle's Jon Ryan became a two-time 2012 winner of Simon's punter award for his performance during a 30-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Ryan also won for his work against Green Bay in Week 3. Arizona's Dave Zastudil (Week 4), St. Louis' Johnny Hekker (Week 5) and San Francisco's Andy Lee (Week 7) have also won the award this season.

Here's what Simon had to say about Ryan this week:
"Ryan punted four times and had the second-highest net average for the week -- 48.5 yards -- in the Seahawks' win over the Vikings. All four of Ryan’s punts added to the Seahawks chances of winning the game.

"Ryan's most notable punts both came with the scoring margin within one score in the second half. He had a 54-yard punt early in the third quarter that pushed the Vikings back to their own 18 (which added 4.4 percent to Seattle’s chances of winning) and a 45-yard punt in the fourth quarter that pinned the Vikings on their own 6 (which added 2.5 percent).

"Ryan ranks third in the NFL in gross average (50.0) and fifth in the league in net average (42.6) and is tied for the NFL’s longest punt this season (73 yards)."

The win probability stats Simon cited are increasingly becoming part of mainstream analysis. In short, history tells us how many points a team should expect to score in every situation, taking into account score, time of game, down, distance, yard line, etc. Expected points change from play to play. In this case, the Vikings were less likely to score (and win) after taking over deep in their own territory. History tells us how much less likely.

Lee and Hekker were off in Week 9. Zastudil is off in Week 10. Hekker and Lee go toe-to-toe Sunday at Candlestick Park. Ryan will be home against the New York Jets. Forecasts call for light winds in San Francisco and Seattle on Sunday.

Silver linings: Seahawks at Lions

October, 29, 2012
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The facts: The Seattle Seahawks fell to 4-4 with a 28-24 defeat to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Week 8.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson led a 12-play, 87-yard drive to the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Wilson completed 25 of 35 passes for 236 yards with two touchdowns and no sacks. His Total QBR score (93.7 out of 100) trailed only those for Tom Brady (98.4) and Matt Ryan (95.7) through the afternoon games Sunday. This was Wilson's best NFL performance in a road game, and perhaps overall.
  • Marshawn Lynch's 77-yard touchdown run behind what appeared to be flawless blocking marked Seattle's longest scoring run since Shaun Alexander had an 88-yarder at Arizona in 2005. Lynch topped 100 yards rushing for the second game in a row. He's on pace for 1,514 yards this season. That would be a career single-season high by more than 300 yards. He had 1,204 last season.
  • Tight end Zach Miller and receiver Sidney Rice caught scoring passes. Miller's one-handed grab was particularly impressive.
  • Golden Tate, who had dropped a pass on a slant route last week, caught one to convert a critical fourth-and-2 in this game.
  • Safety Earl Thomas picked off a pass deep in Seahawks territory.
  • Punter Jon Ryan had a 46.3-yard net average, with each of his three punts downed inside the Detroit 20-yard line.
  • Seattle had 17 points to show for its first three possessions.
  • Brandon Mebane and Leroy Hill collected sacks.
  • Seattle limited Calvin Johnson to three receptions for 46 yards.
  • Officials assessed only two penalties against Seattle (two additional penalties were declined). Seattle has dramatically reduced penalties over its past five games.
Looking ahead: The Seahawks are home against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9.
The Arizona Cardinals' overtime victory against Miami in Week 4 was remarkable on several fronts.

We discussed many of them after the game.

Two special-teams aspects went relatively unexplored.

One, field goal kicking has improved to the point that Jay Feely's winning 46-yard kick wasn't a big part of the story. Missing from that distance in that situation would have commanded more attention than succeeding commanded. We expect NFL kickers to convert from that range (and if you're a St. Louis Rams fan, you expect to convert from much, much longer).

Two, Cardinals punter Dave Zastudil and Arizona's coverage team helped swing field position.

As noted last week, ESPN's Mark Simon tracks and honors the best NFL punters each week.

Seattle's Jon Ryan received special mention for work performed during the Seahawks' victory over Green Bay. Simon named Zastudil his top punter for Week 4, filing this report:
Dave Zastudil was the busiest punter in the NFL this past weekend.

He was also the league’s best punter.

The Arizona Cardinals veteran is our selection for Punter of the Week for Week 4.

Zastudil’s had a career-high nine punts in the Cardinals overtime win of the Dolphins.

Eight of the nine punts resulted in an increase in the Cardinals win probability for the game (it’s also worth noting with that that all nine of the punts came with the Cardinals losing or tied).

Zastudil’s average punt helped the Cardinals chances of winning 3.3 percent, the best average in the league for the week, the fourth-best by any punter in a game this season.

That included punts that netted 51 and 48 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime that each increased the Cardinals chance of winning by 4.7 percent.

Seven of Zastudil’s nine punts were either downed, out of bounds, or fair caught.

Zastudil got credit for three punts on which the Dolphins ended up with field position inside their 20-yard line, but also had three more in which they were on their own 21 or 22, and another in which a holding penalty on the return pushed Miami back to its 11.

How good was Zastudil?

Consider this:

In the last 20 seasons there have been 354 instances of a punter punting at least nine times in a regular-season game.

Zastudil’s 47.3 gross punting average rates second-best among them, trailing only a 49.6 yard average from Dolphins punter Brandon Fields against the Jets in 2010.

NFC West Stock Watch

September, 26, 2012
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FALLING

1. 49ers' road mystique. The San Francisco 49ers posted a 5-0 record last season in games kicking off at 10 a.m. PT. They missed a chance to make it 6-0 by losing somewhat inexplicably at Minnesota in Week 3.

[+] EnlargeIdonije
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Rams' pass-protection problems were exposed in a Week 3 loss to the Bears.
2. Rams' offense. We already knew the Rams' offensive line was working at a disadvantage without center Scott Wells or left tackle Rodger Saffold. The Rams seemed to mask some of their difficulties before the Chicago game and even during that game for stretches. Pass protection was a huge problem for the Rams against the Bears. The difficulties became pronounced late in the game when St. Louis needed to get more aggressive. Running lanes appeared to close quickly when they opened at all. Steven Jackson wasn't healthy. The wide receivers didn't appear to be getting open. Those factors made life even tougher for the line and for quarterback Sam Bradford.

3. Alex Smith, 49ers QB. Smith missed high on two passes for receiver Randy Moss. One of those passes cost the 49ers a potential touchdown. Smith also took a third-down sack despite being well outside the pocket and having ample time to throw. That sack wasn't all that costly, but why take unnecessary hits? Smith had been much better for the 49ers through the first two games. Can he bounce back against the New York Jets, also on the road?

4. Beanie Wells, Cardinals RB. A potential turf-toe injury kept Wells from contributing much against the Eagles. Wells has had a tough run of injuries. Toe problems can linger. The Cardinals are excited about Ryan Williams. Where is this headed for Wells?

RISING

1. Seahawks' pass rush. Eight first-half sacks against Aaron Rodgers quadrupled the Seahawks' sack total through their two previous games this season. Chris Clemons had four, rookie Bruce Irvin added two and Brandon Mebane had two more. This was what the Seahawks had been hoping to see, particularly at home, after adding Jason Jones in free agency and Irvin through the draft. Can the pass rush travel to St. Louis in Week 4?

2. Kevin Kolb, Cardinals QB. Kolb played the full game without a turnover. He also completed all seven attempts on third down and all nine passes targeting Larry Fitzgerald. That allowed the Cardinals to ride a dominating defensive performance to a comfortable victory. Kolb seems to have realized he doesn't have to play like a franchise quarterback every week. The Cardinals are good enough on defense and special teams to compete and win without Kolb taking too many chances. This was a "mission accomplished" game for Kolb. He completed 70.8 percent of his passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles' defense had allowed one scoring pass while picking off five passes in the first two weeks of the season.

3. Kerry Rhodes, Cardinals safety. So many Cardinals players could have qualified for inclusion on the "rising" list. Coach Ken Whisenhunt deserves mention too. But with veteran strong safety Adrian Wilson missing the Philly game to injury, Rhodes picked up any slack, and then some. His blindside sack on Michael Vick produced a fumble return for the back-breaking touchdown as Arizona took a 24-0 lead going into halftime.

4. Jon Ryan, Seahawks punter. Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information charts punters. No one makes him. He just does it. This week, Simon distributed a release honoring Ryan's performance Monday night. It read, in part: "There were 161 punts in the three days of games and Ryan had four that rated in the top 11 for win probability added (a stat that uses historical data to assign a value to a play based on how much it aids a team’s chances of winning). Ryan’s most valuable punts were a 65-yarder in the second quarter and a 66-yarder in the third. Both punts resulted in the Packers being pinned inside their own 12. Our punting data dates to 1991 for net yardage. In that span, no Seahawks punter has had a better single-game net average (min. four punts) than Ryan did (three have been better, including one by Ryan, if you lower the minimum to one punt)."

Only 17 Rams, Seahawks remain from 2009

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
10:30
AM ET
Those following along here know the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks have turned over their rosters in dramatic fashion over the past couple seasons.

The chart provides context.

The column with the "now" heading shows how many players each team is carrying on its active roster and injured reserve.

The "2010" column shows how many of those 227 players listed in the first column finished the 2010 season on the active list or IR.

The "2009" column shows how many of the 227 remain from the end of that season.

The Rams retain rights to eight of the players finishing the 2009 season on their active or IR lists. That is a league low. Seattle has the second-fewest with nine.

The eight Rams remaining from the end of the 2009 season: Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Darell Scott, Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, Craig Dahl and Bradley Fletcher.

The nine remaining Seahawks: Cameron Morrah (IR), Ben Obomanu, Max Unger, Roy Lewis (IR), Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Leroy Hill, Marcus Trufant and Jon Ryan.

Congratulations, guys. You've made it ... for now.

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