NFC West: Seahawks-Rams

Rams' Jackson calls out Seahawks' Curry

November, 30, 2009
11/30/09
9:58
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Rams running back Steven Jackson is an elite player, a team leader and someone who commands respect throughout the NFL.

It's significant when someone of his stature calls out another player.

Jackson, speaking during his weekly show on 101 ESPN St. Louis, had harsh words for Seahawks rookie linebacker Aaron Curry. The two clashed during the regular-season opener at Seattle. The NFL fined Curry for going after Rams rookie Jason Smith's knee, the first of several fines against Curry early in the season. Jackson and Curry clashed again Sunday.

"Some guys don’t know how to be pros and I feel he has not learned that yet," Jackson told 101 ESPN St. Louis. "Someone is over there not teaching him what it means to be a pro. It’s all right to jaw jack but unnecessary hits and taking shots at guys that are defenseless, or going after guys because they are high-profile guys and he is trying to make a name for himself, it’s not professional."

Jackson said he made it clear to Curry that he would not back down.

"You don’t get your name based on that because you’re going after another high-profile guy," Jackson said. "You get your name and your status because of your work and your play in it. I’m just sitting there jaw-jacking a guy and letting him know that I’m not backing down. It’s obvious I’m injured, it’s obvious that I haven’t practiced all week and if we want to go head-to-head for 60 or 70 plays in a row, I’m willing to do so. I’m not going to back down. I’m going to let him know there’s a whole another monster, a whole another level in the NFL and this is not Wake Forest or the ACC."

The Seahawks selected Curry from Wake Forest with the fourth overall choice. Jackson shot down the idea that Curry was trying to play a certain way to fulfill his high draft status.

"I don’t see our rookie, No. 2 pick overall, going out and doing that," Jackson said of Smith. "It's easier to make a name in other ways than going out there jaw-jacking and trying to draw attention to yourself. It’s a professional game and this is a livelihood and I don’t intentionally go out there and trying to -- I’m a pro about it. I would hope that he learns that."

We'll probably hear Curry's side of the story when players become available for interviews Wednesday.

Seahawks, Rams pretty much even?

November, 30, 2009
11/30/09
6:20
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The Seahawks have defeated the Rams 10 times in a row, but the gap is apparently closing.

"It's always a tough one to swallow when you feel like it's two even opponents playing a tough football game," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told reporters Monday.

Do you see the Seahawks and Rams as pretty much even?

"If you would have said that our defense was going to hold Seattle to 265 (yards) total, a quarterback rating of 65 (percent), and 95 yards passing, I would have said that was going to be pretty good," Spagnuolo said, "but you got to stop them from running the football. I credit Seattle in that regard."

I thought the Rams were going to win one of their last couple games, but that was before they lost Marc Bulger, Mike Karney, Jason Brown and Jason Smith, with Steven Jackson playing through back trouble. The Seahawks will almost certainly finish this season stronger, in my view.

Fourth-down decisions pivotal in division

November, 29, 2009
11/29/09
10:54
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All four NFC West head coaches made critical fourth-down decisions Sunday, with mixed results:

Rams

The situation: The Rams faced fourth-and-4 from the Seattle 34 with 1:50 remaining in the first half of a tie game.

The decision: Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo decided to go for it.

Potential reasoning: Josh Brown had already missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt. The Rams had gained 33 yards on a third-and-4 play earlier in the drive. The Rams entered the game 1-9. What did they have to lose?

What happened: Quarterback Kyle Boller threw to receiver Donnie Avery. Seattle cornerback Kelly Jennings made an aggressive play on the ball, batting it away. Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson picked off the pass and ran 65 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Seattle lead.

My take: This one is tough to justify because 4 yards is a relatively long way to go. Running the ball isn't much of an option in that situation. The Rams were playing the Seahawks tough to that point. The game got away from them a bit after the interception.


49ers

The situation: The 49ers faced fourth-and-1 from the Jacksonville 37 with 1:58 remaining in the second quarter of a game they led, 10-0.

The decision: 49ers coach Mike Singletary decided to go for it.

Potential reasoning: Quarterback Alex Smith was functioning efficiently. The defense was pitching a shutout. Putting the hammer down in this situation could help break open the game.

What happened: Smith threw deep to tight end Vernon Davis for a 30-yard gain. The play sustained a touchdown drive as the 49ers built a 17-0 lead.

My take: Attempting a 55-yard field goal at Candlestick Park wouldn't have been a safe decision, and a punt might have netted only 17 yards on a touchback. Going deep down the field was a gutsy call.


Seahawks

The situation: The Seahawks faced fourth-and-1 from the St. Louis 18 while leading 17-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The decision: Seahawks coach Jim Mora decided to go for it.

Potential reasoning: The running game was functioning effectively and this was a chance to potentially blow open a close game.

What happened: Matt Hasselbeck handed off to Justin Forsett for an 11-yard gain. The Seahawks scored on the drive to take a 24-10 lead, all but putting away the game.

My take: This was a high-risk, high-reward play. Kicking a 35-yard field goal would have produced a two-score differential that the Rams probably would have had a hard time overcoming. The play worked, so Mora comes out OK, but this was a gamble that could have backfired in a big way.


Cardinals

The situation: The Cardinals faced fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 45 with 6:07 remaining in the fourth quarter of a game Arizona was leading, 17-13.

The decision: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt decided to punt.

Potential reasoning: Punter Ben Graham is playing at a high level this season. This was a chance to pin the Titans deep in their territory. Failing on fourth-and-1 would have changed field position in a close, relatively low-scoring game.

What happened: LaRod Stephens-Howling downed Graham's punt at the Tennessee 2. The Cardinals forced a turnover on the ensuing Titans drive.

My take: The Cardinals' ground game has improved, but a failed fourth-and-1 in this situation would have ceded momentum and field position at a critical point in the game. For the Cardinals, taking their chances against Vince Young seemed like the right call at the time.

Scare for Rams rookie Smith

November, 29, 2009
11/29/09
8:09
PM ET
Rams right tackle Jason Smith went to the hospital in an ambulance after suffering more concussion-related symptoms during the game against Seattle.

Smith wasn't even playing. He was inactive.

The second player chosen in the 2009 NFL draft watched the game from the sideline until experiencing those symptoms.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo did not immediately have details.

Sitting in a loud stadium wouldn't seem like the best way to recover from a concussion. Noise sensitivity is known to accompany concussions. But it's tough to know what might be bothering Smith, or the cause, without more information from medical professionals.

A play from Seattle's secondary? Yes

November, 29, 2009
11/29/09
2:32
PM ET
Kelly Jennings gets credit for making a physical play on the ball and setting up fellow Seattle cornerback Josh Wilson for a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Opponents have exploited Jennings' lack of size over the years. He outmuscled Donnie Avery on this play.

Wilson again showed his playmaking ability in picking off the ball and taking it all the way back. He now has two touchdowns this season, one more than Deion Branch.

Seattle safety Jordan Babineaux appeared to be shaken up late in the half. He has been showing improvement in recent weeks.

Also on the injury front, the Rams had to feel relief upon seeing center Jason Brown walk to the locker room. Brown appeared to suffer a painful leg injury late in the half. The team is calling the injury a sprained knee, listing Brown's return as questionable.

That suggests the injury is not as serious as it appeared.

Bad teams, bad game in St. Louis

November, 29, 2009
11/29/09
2:13
PM ET
What a horrible, lifeless game between the Seahawks and Rams to this point.

Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant has two more penalties, giving him seven this season even though he opened the season on the physically unable to perform list.

Everyone knows the Rams are weak at receiver, but they are going to four-receiver packages in this game -- and having success. Ruvell Martin has a 33-yard reception. Enough said.

Cameras showed Seattle coach Jim Mora screaming something on the sideline.

It was the first sign of life from either team, as far as I could tell. What a snoozer.

Julius Jones inactive for Seahawks

November, 29, 2009
11/29/09
12:01
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Starting running back Julius Jones is among the players Seattle named inactive against the Rams in Week 12.

The Seahawks have become a passing team. They have favored quite a few three-receiver personnel groupings.

Backup Justin Forsett is pretty well suited to those groupings.

Also inactive for Seattle: Jamar Adams, Mike Gibson, Mansfield Wrotto, Red Bryant, Cameron Morrah and Derek Walker. Mike Teel is the third quarterback.

Jackson active for Rams against Seattle

November, 29, 2009
11/29/09
11:51
AM ET
The Rams have declared their inactive players for Week 12 and Steven Jackson's name was not on the list.

Their inactive players include quarterback Marc Bulger, defensive back Danny Gorrer, fullback Mike Karney, offensive lineman Roger Allen III, guard Richie Incognito, tackle Jason Smith, receiver Jordan Kent and running back Chris Ogbonnaya.

Not having Karney hurts the running game. I would expect more reps for third receiver Danny Amendola and second tight end Daniel Fells.

Adam Goldberg starts for Smith at right tackle. Mark Setterstrom starts at right guard.

Thanks to Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com for passing along the info.

Around the NFC West: Loss hurts Haslett

December, 15, 2008
12/15/08
10:46
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' late implosion might have put a "dagger" in Jim Haslett's bid to remain head coach in 2009.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Edward Jones Dome resembled a mausoleum before kickoff, never a good sign. He thinks the team needs a new head coach to complete a franchise makeover.

More from Miklasz: The Rams aren't getting enough from their money players.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch encourages the Rams to keep losing to help their draft position. The team would pick second overall at present.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says Haslett's plan for the future could use a few short-term victories for validation.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams got a huge half-game from cornerback Jason Craft, let go by the Saints earlier this season.

Also from Coats: A report card with a B-minus grade for Marc Bulger and a C-plus for coaching.

Norm Sanders of the Belleville News-Democrat quotes Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe as saying he didn't get deep enough on the pass from Seneca Wallace to Deion Branch.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Bulger can relate better to receivers after making an 11-yard reception from the Wildcat offense. Bulger: "I take for granted what those guys do. When that ball is in the air, it seems like it is in the air for a long time." 

Also from Korte: A report card with a B-minus grade for the offensive line and more high marks for linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

More from Korte: Bulger gives a vote of confidence to Haslett.

VanRam of Turf Show Times says the blame should go beyond the big-money players. Others, from Joe Klopfenstein to Derek Stanley, must also be held accountable.

Around the NFC West: Wallace rallies Hawks

December, 15, 2008
12/15/08
10:27
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks needed an inspired second half to edge the Rams, but they'll take it.

Also from Farnsworth: Seneca Wallace bounced back from the pounding he took in the first half.

More from Farnsworth: Rookie John Carlson moved into the Seattle record books with more catches in a season than any tight end in Seahawks history. Also, tackle Sean Locklear suffered a dislocated toe late in the game. Finally, Jordan Babineaux scored his second touchdown of the season.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks were more relieved than celebratory following their first victory since October.

Also from O'Neil: Steven Jackson was the Rams' player of the game with 107 yards, but Seattle held him to 20 after halftime.

More from O'Neil: Carlson downplays his individual achievements.

More still from O'Neil: Winning this game was more important than moving up in the 2009 draft, in his view.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says Deion Branch predicted his big reception late in the game, even though the Rams apparently thought he was joking.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune was there when Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren began his postgame news conference by suggesting he'd forgotten how to analyze a victory.

Also from Hughes: A detailed explanation for how the Seahawks set up the pivotal pass to Branch late in the game. Getting safety Oshiomogho Atogwe out of position was key.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says an impassioned Wallace rallied the Seahawks after ripping into them at halftime.

Also from Boling: Carlson has become adept at finding openings in coverage when plays break down.

Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 23, Rams 20

December, 14, 2008
12/14/08
4:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

This game figures to have long-term implications for both franchises.

The Rams' inability to beat a 2-11 opponent at home -- with thousands of empty seats in the Edward Jones Dome -- deals a potentially severe blow to Jim Haslett's chances for a return as head coach.

Seattle receiver Deion Branch's strong performance, including a pivotal reception to set up the winning field goal, makes his continued employment more palatable. Branch has 16 receptions for 244 yards and three touchdowns for Seattle in three road games against the Rams. A strong finish to this season enhances Branch's role in the Seahawks' future plans.

This game also figures to affect draft order for 2009. We can now expect the Rams to select ahead of the Seahawks near the top of the draft.

Action favors 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks

December, 14, 2008
12/14/08
12:29
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The predictions for games involving NFC West teams are rolling in at a record pace. I've been inputting predictions as part of the "You called it" feature for Week 15.

Based on the first 106 people to make predictions, the average predicted scores look like this:

  • 49ers 21, Dolphins 20
  • Cardinals 29, Vikings 23
  • Seahawks 23, Rams 16
We've had 60 percent of people picking the 49ers (63 to 42). We've had 73 percent picking the Cardinals (73 to 27). We've had 76 percent picking the Seahawks (76 to 24). We'll keep taking predictions up until kickoff.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

We're back with another chance to join Elion 245, Leesters and habitat730 as the only forecasters to predict NFC West scores and outcomes exactly.

Simply use the comments section of this entry to predict a predict a final score for the NFC West teams and their opponents in Week 15.

Will the 49ers knock off the Dolphins? Can Arizona take the third seed in the NFC by beating the Vikings? And what about that Seahawks-Rams game? 

A quick look at our three Wall of Fame members and their spot-on predictions:
  • Elion245. Forecast the Redskins' 20-17 victory over the Seahawks in Week 12.
  • Leesters. Forecast the Bears' 27-3 victory over the Rams in Week 12.
  • habitat730. Forecast the Cardinals' 34-10 victory over the Rams in We 12.
The fine print: Those submitting predictions for "You called it" must pick the winner correctly for their scores to be considered. Scoring is easy to calculate. The difference between a 20-17 prediction and a 31-14 outcome would be 14 points. We would calculate this by adding the difference between 20 and 31 to the difference between 17 and 14.

Audibles: NFC West Week 15 preview

December, 12, 2008
12/12/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Minnesota Vikings (8-5) at Arizona Cardinals (8-5), 4:05 p.m. ET

Kurt Warner has five touchdown passes, one interception and a 3-0 record in three career starts against the Vikings.

For all the talk about Arizona needing to establish a ground game, Warner continues to carry the offense. Arizona almost certainly isn't going to run the ball effectively against the Vikings' usually stout run defense.

MVP honors might be his to lose after the Saints' Drew Brees failed to put up impressive numbers while fading from the playoff picture during a Thursday night defeat. Warner needs 313 yards passing to move past Brees for the NFL lead after 13 games.

And with a division title already in hand, Warner could be on his way -- unless the Vikings' Adrian Peterson upstages him, always a possibility.

Seattle Seahawks (2-11) at St. Louis Rams (2-11), 1 p.m. ET

The loser moves up in the 2009 draft order, no consolation for a couple of coaches with uncertain futures.

While Seattle's Mike Holmgren plans to coach again in 2010, the Rams' Jim Haslett needs a late push to make his case for coming back next season. The Seahawks haven't won since Oct. 26. The Rams haven't won since Oct. 19. Together, the teams have lost their past 13 games.

The Seahawks have looked better recently, particularly with a healthy Seneca Wallace leading the offense in Week 14. Neither team is good enough to trust as a favorite, however.

San Francisco 49ers (5-8) at Miami Dolphins (8-5), 1 p.m. ET

The 49ers' chances took a hit when Frank Gore suffered a sprained ankle against the Jets. His expected absence could put more pressure on Shaun Hill, not necessarily a bad thing as the 49ers continue to evaluate their quarterback situation.

If Hill leads the 49ers to victory without support from Gore, ownership might have a hard time replacing interim coach Mike Singletary and possibly Hill. But after winning their last two games despite suffering nine fumbles, losing only two, it's fair to wonder if this is when the breaks even out.

Click here to access the NFL Pick Center, a service for ESPN Insiders where fans can view two different simulation models for every NFL game. 

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