NFC West: Philadelphia Eagles

SEATTLE -- The officiating crew assigned to the Seattle Seahawks' game against Philadelphia has called 17 penalties for defensive pass interference this season, tied for the NFL high through Week 12.

That could be a storyline to watch given Brandon Browner's status as the most-penalized player in the NFL through Week 12. Browner, the Seahawks' starting cornerback, has 15 total penalties, including five for defensive pass interference.

Peter Morelli, the referee assigned to Thursday night's game, ranks tied with Terry McAulay for the most defensive pass-interference calls this season. Crews have called 9.7 on average this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Morelli's crew ranked near the bottom of the NFL in defensive pass-interference calls last season, calling only seven of the 221 called across the league. That could indicate that Morelli's crew has simply officiated games featuring more defensive pass-interference violations than usual. We'll see if that trend continues Thursday night.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Eagles' move to acquire left tackle Jason Peters from the Bills could make Philadelphia a less likely destination for Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin.

Based on likely terms, completing the trade would leave the Eagles with only one first-round choice and no choice in the fourth round. The Cardinals could be seeking as much as a first- and third-round choice for Boldin, although they have not said so publicly.

Working strictly off the draft chart, the Bills would surge into fourth place among teams with the most firepower in terms of tradeable draft capital. The Lions, Rams and Broncos comprise the top three. However, the trading chart might be overvaluing the top few selections.

Still, the Bills would become one of three teams with an extra first-round choice in 2009. The Lions and Broncos already hold two first-round picks. The Browns, Dolphins and Giants each have two second-round choices. The Patriots have three. Kansas City, Washington, San Diego, New Orleans and Tampa Bay do not have second-round picks in 2009.

Dallas, Chicago and Carolina do not have first-round choices this year. Baltimore, reportedly a suitor for Boldin, ranks 23rd in terms of tradeable draft capital, based on the value chart.

The Ravens have six choices, one in every round but the seventh. The Giants, who are also in the market for a receiver, have an extra pick in each of the second, third and fifth rounds. The extra third-rounder, 100th overall, is a compensatory choice and therefore not tradeable.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

  Weaver

Leonard Weaver wanted to re-sign with the Seahawks. I think his talents will be better suited for what the Eagles are likely to do offensively. His contract agreement with Philadelphia makes sense as Weaver tries to enhance his profile.

The versatile fullback figures to handle the football more frequently in Philadelphia than he would have in the Seahawk's offense under new coordinator Greg Knapp.

The Seahawks have a very good receiving tight end in John Carlson and an upgraded receiving situation now that T.J. Houshmandzadeh is on board. They will alter carries between Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and any running back they plan to select in the draft.

Weaver is a good runner -- for a fullback. He is a good receiver -- for a fullback. But he is still a fullback, and that hurt his value on the market.

Weaver's departure from Seattle, the league-high seventh by an unrestricted free agent this offseason, makes the Seahawks more likely to pursue Justin Griffith as a replacement. Griffith played for Knapp in Oakland. He visited the Seahawks recently.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch outlines sweeping changes to the Rams' offensive line following the team's decision to release Orlando Pace. Stick with me here. The tentative plan would be for right tackle Alex Barron to take over at left tackle. Left guard Jacob Bell would move to right tackle. Second-year pro John Greco would take over at left guard. Free-agent addition Jason Brown, signed to a reworked contract Tuesday, takes over at center. Richie Incognito would remain at right guard. Selecting a starting left tackle with the second overall choice in the 2009 draft would change the picture again.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the quarterback race between Shaun Hill and Alex Smith also includes newly signed 49ers veteran Damon Huard. While the point is valid -- J.T. O'Sullivan emerged unexpectedly last offseason -- the organization won't be deferring to Mike Martz this time.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat thinks the 49ers should install Hill as their starting quarterback from the beginning of the 2009 season. Maiocco: "The best way to handle Smith is to ease him back in. Hill should be the starter from Day 1. Generally, the most popular player on a team is the backup quarterback. At some point, Smith will probably get an opportunity to prove himself in that backup role. When that chance comes, he will be afforded a longer leash."

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle frames Smith's situation as an undefined reflection of the 49ers' undefined leadership. Ratto: "More intriguing, though, is the notion that this might be undefined rather than unfinished business that confronts Smith. He framed the competition as Smith v. Hill, but there is no real reason to think it might not be Smith v. Hill v. Unnamed Future Figure, or that it is a true competition between relative equals."

Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News says Smith's fresh start might not look like one from the outside. Killion: "Fans might not recognize that fresh feeling, at least not at quarterback. That competition looks like a do-over of 2006: Smith vs. Shaun Hill with Damon Huard in the role of Trent Dilfer. And, of course, there's a new offensive coordinator to break in. But since the 49ers are lacking bright ideas in regard to quarterbacks (instead taking a weird run at Kurt Warner) and they're unlikely to tie up another first-round pick on a quarterback, why not keep Smith in the fold? They might as well see if they can get something out of their enormous investment."

Peter King of SI.com says he expects the Cardinals to trade Anquan Boldin, probably to the Eagles. King: "The Eagles and Giants, two receiver-needy teams, are in position to deal for Anquan Boldin, who I continue to say will not be a Cardinal by July. Philly has [picks] 21, 28 and 53, the Giants 29, 45 and 60. I find it hard to believe the Eagles won't trade for Boldin. Very hard. He's a perfect fit, and they've got the cap room to sign him." Boldin played his worst game of the 2008 season during a blowout defeat at Philadelphia, but he's still one of the best receivers in the league.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals are interviewing candidates for their pro personnel department.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist is among those to interview.

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind sizes up Northern Illinois outside linebacker Larry English as a potential Cardinals draft choice. Hawkwind: "Basically the case for English is the same as the case for Clint Sintim, he's a guy who will upgrade the pass rush and provide depth at outside linebacker. He doesn't have the experience that Sintim has with playing upright, but his upside is a bit higher. If the Cardinals feel like rolling the dice and going with a high upside, higher risk type of pick, English could be the guy in the first round."

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com checks in with Calais Campbell as the second-year pro prepares to replace Antonio Smith in the Cardinals' lineup at defensive end. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinks the Cardinals will miss Smith. More on that in a future blog entry.

John Morgan of Field Gulls revisits Darryl Tapp's 2008 season with the Seahawks. The reviews are favorable. Morgan: "Tapp is solid exactly as he is. He's consistently disruptive, able to beat about any type of tackle, and not so bad in run support as to be a liability. Tapp has a great first step, good dip, good inside move, good rip and a capable bull rush, plus the kind of suddenness to convert penetration into a sack. He makes those around him better."

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks' Jim Mora was the only NFL head coach to attend the University of Washington's pro day. Mora is a UW alumnus, of course.

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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Ken from Los Angeles, a Cardinals fan and periodic contributor here, stumbled across a note while digging through Pro Football Reference.

He writes: "Every NFC team that has beaten the Eagles in the playoffs since 2000 has finished the following season with a record of 7-9."

  • 2006: Saints beat the Eagles in the playoffs and went 7-9 the next year.
  • 2003: Panthers beat the Eagles in the playoffs and went 7-9 the next year.
  • 2002: Bucs beat the Eagles in the playoffs and went 7-9 the next year.
  • 2001: Rams beat the Eagles in the playoffs and went 7-9 the next year.
  • 2000: Giants beat the Eagles in the playoffs and went 7-9 the next year.

We shouldn't necessarily predict a 7-9 record for the Cardinals in 2009 even though they are the most recent NFC team to beat the Eagles in the postseason.

The last NFC West team (before the 2001 Rams) to beat the Eagles in the playoffs fared much better than 7-9 the following season. After the 1996 49ers scored a 14-0 playoff victory over Philadelphia, the 1997 team posted a 13-3 record despite losing Jerry Rice to a serious knee injury.

NFL admits blunder in NFC title game

January, 22, 2009
1/22/09
12:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Officials were correct in not calling pass interference against the Cardinals on the Eagles' penultimate drive in the NFC Championship Game. They erred in ruling that the ball landed out of bounds on a Cardinals kickoff in the second quarter.

Those were the points league officiating director Mike Pereira's drove home during his weekly in-season show Wednesday night on NFL Network.

The non-call for pass interference hurt the Eagles. Cornerback Rod Hood and receiver Kevin Curtis were looking back for the ball when they appeared to become entangled. Hood fell and brought down Curtis while the ball was in the air. Pereira called the contact "incidental" because both were looking back at the ball. Tough call for the Eagles.

The other call in question was clearly made in error. Officials said Neil Rackers' short kickoff touched the Eagles' Victor Abiamiri before landing out of bounds. Replays left unresolved whether the ball touched Abiamiri on the fingers before bouncing or on whether the ball touched him on the arm after bouncing. Replays left no doubt about whether the ball landed out of bounds. It did not.

If referee Walt Anderson and crew thought the ball touched Abiamiri on the left arm after Abiamiri stepped out of bounds, they should have awarded possession to the Eagles at the 40-yard line, standard procedure for a kickoff out of bounds.

If they thought the ball touched Abiamiri only on the fingers before Abiamiri stepped out of bounds, they should have honored the Cardinals' subsequent recovery. Instead, officials gave possession to the Eagles where they thought the ball went out (at the 27).

Pereira: "He ruled it touched this player and hit out of bounds. Did it? I don't know. I don't think it did. Did it hit out of bounds? No it didn't. That is one thing clear. But here is what you have to remember. The fact that we ruled that it did [touch out of bounds] killed the play. so nothing beyond this point is reviewable. It should be Philly's ball at the 40 or Arizona's ball where they recovered. Either way, we were not right in the end result."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams finished last season with a seasoned head coach (Jim Haslett) and seasoned coordinators (Al Saunders on offense, Rick Venturi on defense).

The organization traded experience for fresh blood this offseason. The Rams' head coach (Steve Spagnuolo), offensive coordinator (Pat Shurmur) and defensive coordinator (Ken Flajole) each enter the 2009 season with less NFL experience than 33-year-old left tackle Orlando Pace.

Raise your hand if you foresaw Flajole coming to St. Louis as defensive coordinator. I've known Flajole since 1999, when he was a Seahawks assistant under Mike Holmgren, and I didn't see it coming.

That's sometimes how these hires work when a defensive head coach hires a defensive coordinator, or when an offensive head coach hires an offensive coordinator. Head coaches tend to make their higher-profile hires on the other side of the ball.

Spagnuolo has a defensive background. Offensive coordinator is the most important hire for a defensive-minded head coach. That's why the 49ers' Mike Singletary needs to make the right hire on the offensive side. That's why Spagnuolo needs to be right in hiring Shurmur, a first-time coordinator, from the Eagles.

For Flajole, this job marks a significant promotion from his previous one as the Panthers' linebackers coach. He'll be very involved in the defense. But the responsibility for any defense falls on the defensive-minded head coach, particularly when that head coach calls the plays.

Around the NFC West: Rams start fresh

January, 19, 2009
1/19/09
8:49
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says new Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo got his start with the Redskins in 1983. Rams general manager Billy Devaney was a Redskins scout at the time. Devaney: "He'd make the airport runs. He picked players up that were coming in, or took players to the airport that were cut. He was the absolute 'go-fer.' We used 16mm film back then; if the tape broke Spags was the guy who spliced the tape together."

Also from Thomas: Former Rams coach Scott Linehan could be headed to the Bucs or Jets as offensive coordinator.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Spagnuolo's background as a winner trumped his background on defense, at least according to a Rams player.

Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier felt as though he did everything in his power to become the Rams' next head coach.

Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer says Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur could become the Rams' offensive coordinator under Steve Spagnuolo.

Down the stretch they come

January, 18, 2009
1/18/09
6:05
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cardinals have just taken a seven-point lead here with a stirring fourth-quarter drive, but we're still in for an interesting finish here at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Arizona leads Philadelphia, 32-25, but 2:53 remains for Philadelphia to tie the game with a touchdown and an extra point. The Eagles have one timeout and the two-minute warning at their disposal.

The Eagles have been unstoppable in the second half and have 251 yards since halftime. We'll focus in on the conclusion here and be back with you shortly afterwards.

On Football Today, Jeremy Green moderates as bloggers Matt Mosley and Mike Sando go toe-to-toe on the NFC Championship Game.

Cardinals, Eagles could join 1979 Rams

January, 12, 2009
1/12/09
10:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Team Record
Championship Game Result
2008 Cardinals
9-7-0
Cardinals vs. Eagles
2008 Eagles
9-6-1
Eagles at Cardinals
1996 Jaguars
9-7-0
Patriots 20, Jaguars 6
1995 Colts
9-7-0 Steelers 20, Colts 16
1989 Browns
9-6-1
Broncos 37, Browns 21
1987 Vikings
8-7-0
Redskins 17, Vikings 10
1984 Steelers
9-7-1
Dolphins 45, Steelers 28
1983 Seahawks 9-7-1
Raiders 30, Seahawks 14
1979 Rams
9-7-0
Rams 9, Bucs 0
1977 Vikings
9-5-0
Cowboys 23, Vikings 6
1973 Raiders
9-4-1
Dolphins 27, Raiders 10
1971 49ers
9-5-0
Cowboys 14, 49ers 3
1970 Raiders
8-4-2
Colts 27, Raiders 17

The greatest teams in NFL history exist in our memories. They certainly aren't participating in the playoffs this season.

Exhibit A, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: The Eagles-Cardinals NFC Championship will be the first conference championship game in a non-strike season to feature two teams who won fewer than 10 games in the regular season.

The chart shows how teams with fewer than 10 regular-season victories fared in championship games since 1970. We excluded the 1982 strike season because teams played only nine games.

The 1979 Rams were the last NFL team to win a conference championship game after finishing a regular season with fewer than 10 victories (they were 9-7). The Cardinals or Eagles will join them. Those 1979 Rams suffered a 31-19 defeat to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV despite the efforts of Vince Ferragamo, Wendell Tyler, Cullen Bryant, Preston Dennard, Billy Waddy, Nolan Cromwell and Jack Youngblood.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Special thanks to SharkyHawk for reminding me to check on a possible fine for the head-twisting play Mike Patterson put on Seneca Wallace in Week 9.

Sure enough, the NFL fined the Eagles' Patterson $5,000 for pulling on Wallace's helmet/facemask during a second-quarter play in the Eagles-Seahawks game. Referee Mike Carey and crew did not penalize the Eagles on the play.

Wallace completed a pass to fullback Owen Schmitt for a 2-yard gain on the play.

Personnel report: Downhill for Seahawks

November, 3, 2008
11/03/08
11:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Here is what the Seahawks got from their base offense during a 26-7 defeat to the Eagles in Week 9: six carries averaging 0.8 yards and 10 pass attempts averaging 2.7 yards.

Seattle finished with two first downs passing, including one on that 90-yard touchdown pass on the Seahawks' first offensive play.

I charted the offensive personnel use, as usual, but there simply wasn't much to analyze. The Seahawks' struggles transcended personnel groups and situations. They were just bad. One quick observation:

  • The Seahawks used base personnel -- two running backs, two receivers and one tight end -- on five of seven first-down plays to open the game. These plays combined to gain 3 yards. The Seahawks gained 90, 8, minus-1 and 23 yards the first four times they used three wide receivers on first down. Later, the Seahawks should have scored a 34-yard touchdown from base personnel, but Keary Colbert couldn't hold onto the ball.

That 90-yard reception pumped up Seattle's stats from the two-back, three-receiver group. For all the breakdowns, download the usual file here.

Seahawks appear halfway to 4-12

November, 2, 2008
11/02/08
10:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

 
 Mike Tedesco/US Presswire
 Seattle quarterback Seneca Wallace provided the sole highlight for the Seahawks with an early 90-yard pass to Koren Robinson.

SEATTLE -- No one could have forecast Seneca Wallace and Koren Robinson combining for the longest play from scrimmage in Seattle Seahawks history.

Their shocking 90-yard touchdown on Seattle's first offensive play Sunday made Wallace-to-Robinson the answer to a Seahawks trivia question.

The answers to more meaningful questions remain far more predictable for Seattle.

The Seahawks' 26-7 loss at home to the Philadelphia Eagles dropped their record to 2-6, but this feels more like halfway to 4-12.

"They're trying hard," coach Mike Holmgren said. "It breaks my heart."

The glass isn't half full or half empty in Seattle. It's lying on the ground in pieces.

Injuries prevented prominent starters Matt Hasselbeck, Nate Burleson, Deion Branch, Leonard Weaver, Lofa Tatupu and Patrick Kerney from playing for Seattle.

Of those, only Weaver, the fullback, and possibly Kerney, the Pro Bowl defensive end, appear likely to return this season and contribute near full capacity.

Bouncing back from 2-6 would be difficult even if Holmgren could somehow heal his injured charges. Recent history says this team is doomed.

Thirty teams started with 2-6 records from 2001 through last season. Twenty-five of them finished 6-10 or worse. Three made it to 7-9. Two made it to 8-8.

Ten of the 30 finished 4-12.

The Seahawks face a 10 a.m. PT start at Miami in Week 10. They return home to face the 5-3 Arizona Cardinals and 6-2 Washington Redskins, followed by a road trip to Dallas and a home game against New England.

Two and 11 is more likely than the Seahawks would ever admit.

None of them ever could have imagined this.

"Never in my wildest dreams," Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant said. "For the six years I've been here, it's been nothing but great feelings around here. We've been winning a lot of games.

"This is different to a lot of guys on this team. We're just trying to figure this thing out."

A look at 10 signs pointing against a Seahawks comeback in 2008:

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Eagles 26, Seahawks 7

November, 2, 2008
11/02/08
7:28
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

SEATTLE -- The Seahawks' free fall into oblivion, interrupted briefly by a Week 8 victory in San Francisco, resumed in a big way at Qwest Field.

Seneca Wallace's 90-yard scoring strike to Koren Robinson set a misleading tone for the Seahawks. Their shortcomings, many related to injuries, slowly but steadily doomed them to their sixth defeat in eight games.

It's tough envisioning a way for Seattle to reverse its current slide without injured starters Matt Hasselbeck, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson, Patrick Kerney and Lofa Tatupu. Even fullback Leonard Weaver missed the game Sunday, a foot injury sidelining him after a 116-yard receiving performance against the 49ers.

This isn't about intensity or grit for Seattle. This isn't about Mike Holmgren having one foot out the door. The Seahawks are simply overmatched against good teams. Expect more results like this one, interrupted by the occasional victory, as the season progresses.

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