NFC West: Rapid REaction NFC 16

Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 13, Jets 3

December, 21, 2008
12/21/08
6:54
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks saved one of their best performances of the season for Mike Holmgren's final game as Seattle's head coach.

Holmgren takes pride in his play calling and he found a rhythm in that department thanks largely to a better-than-expected ground game. Maurice Morris, running behind a line featuring zero opening-day starters, rewarded Holmgen's faith in him by topping 100 yards on the ground.

The game will be remembered for snowy conditions and Holmgren's final appearance as the Seahawks' head coach at Qwest Field. The future also looked a little brighter for Seattle in this game.

Defensive linemen Brandon Mebane and Darryl Tapp made timely plays. Tight end John Carlson delivered in the red zone by catching a high pass despite tight coverage. Cornerback Josh Wilson, a playmaker at times this season, picked off Brett Favre twice. Wilson also had a sack.

The victory allowed Holmgren to revel in walking around the stadium to thank fans for 10 mostly successful seasons. A victory over Arizona in Week 17 would arm Holmgren's successor, Jim Mora, with a three-game winning streak heading into the offseason.

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 17, Rams 16

December, 21, 2008
12/21/08
4:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The 49ers are officially a new team under Mike Singletary. If there were any doubts, the 49ers erased them by scoring two late touchdowns to overcome a 13-3 deficit at the Edward Jones Dome.

This 49ers' effort was a bit like quarterback Shaun Hill -- not pretty, but ultimately effective. The 49ers were horrible for much of this game, but they delivered when the stakes were high. Coaches appeared close to benching Hill at one point, but sticking with him was the smart move -- and not only because of the ultimate result. Hill has done enough to finish the regular season as the starter. Benching him would have undercut Hill's longer-term efforts to lead the team.

Singletary has won four of his past six games as interim coach. A victory over the Redskins in Week 17 would make any decision to fire Singletary an unpopular one among fans and players.

The opposite is true for the Rams. They like Jim Haslett, but keeping him after nine consecutive defeats -- and a likely 10th on the road against Atlanta in Week 17 -- seems politically impractical as the team tries to win back fans.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 47, Cardinals 7

December, 21, 2008
12/21/08
4:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals' late-season fade is tarnishing their accomplishments and reviving questions the team had seemingly answered.

  • Can the Cardinals compete against good teams? They could during a 27-23 road defeat to the Panthers, but that was in October. They have allowed an average of 41.8 points in losses to the Giants, Eagles, Vikings and Patriots over the last five weeks.
  • Is the Cardinals' style of offense sustainable? Only under ideal conditions. The good defenses, unconcerned about an Arizona running game that doesn't exist, have succeeded in pressuring and punishing Kurt Warner. The Patriots continued the trend in the worst way -- up the middle. Warner never had a chance.
  • Does Arizona have enough mental toughness? The team hasn't shown much since clinching the NFC West title. Coach Ken Whisenhunt thought he saw it when the Cardinals bounced back from consecutive road defeats to beat the Bills and Cowboys. He has pointed to specific examples as evidence more recently, but getting blown out repeatedly has made the case a lot tougher to advocate.
  • Is Warner the right quarterback for the long term? The question sounds ridiculous on the surface. After all, Warner has put up MVP-caliber numbers most of the season. But if the offense in its current pass-happy form proves unsustainable, can the Cardinals be sure Warner would flourish in a more conventional attack?
  • Are the Cardinals still tough at home? An overtime victory over the Cowboys in Week 6 seemed to validate Arizona's home-field advantage. But the home-field edge in Arizona is a tenuous one. We've seen opposing teams' fans fill large portions of University of Phoenix Stadium. And after losing two in a row at home, the Cardinals appear vulnerable. If they lose their regular-season finale to Seattle, a first-round playoff defeat would leave the Cardinals with a three-game home losing streak to end the season.
  • Is Tim Hightower the answer at running back? The Cardinals thought so when they benched Edgerrin James for the promising rookie. But the team hasn't run the ball frequently enough to find out if Hightower can carry the load. And when Hightower fumbled deep in Cardinals territory Sunday, James replaced him.
After their most recent defeat, the Cardinals are the first team since the 1961 Raiders to trail 28-0 or worse at halftime in consecutive games, according to Elias Sports Bureau. They trailed 34-0 at halftime in a loss to the Jets earlier this season. While winning the NFC West title stands as progress no matter what happens the rest of the way, Arizona could conceivably finish this season with a losing overall record -- and lots of questions to answer.

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