Tuesday, October 16, 2012
NFC West Stock Watch
By Mike Sando
1. Alex Smith, 49ers QB. Three interceptions and four sacks marked a rough day for the 49ers quarterback. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. followed up Smith's performance with an Insider piece pointing out Smith's limitations relative to other quarterbacks. Williamson: "Smith isn't a bum. He is a solid NFL quarterback and can make plays with his arm and his legs. But when comparing the 49ers to the other top teams in the NFC like New York, Chicago, Green Bay and Atlanta, forcing Smith to win games is the recipe for victory against the 49ers."
2. Jim Harbaugh, 49ers coach. The 49ers' 26-3 defeat to the New York Giants was their most lopsided at home since 2009. An occasional defeat generally wouldn't knock down a coach's stock, but there were extenuating circumstances surrounding this one. The statement Harbaugh released Friday might have come off as bold and brash if the 49ers would have backed it up with a fundamentally sound performance against the Giants. They did not.
3. Greg Zuerlein, Rams kicker. Zuerlein had been a team MVP candidate before missing 52- and 37-yard field goal tries that were well within his range during a 17-14 defeat to the Miami Dolphins. Zuerlein also missed a 66-yarder for a shot at forcing overtime. All three missed wide to the left. Coach Jeff Fisher: "The wind really took the last one. He clearly had the distance. It's just too bad for him. The other two, the short one, I think he probably pulled it a little bit and the other one the wind took it -- the longer one, the 50-plus yarder." There was plenty of special-teams blame to go around for the Rams. Zuerlein had made 15 consecutive field goal tries to begin his career, so his misses stood out.
4. Misguided fullbacks. The Rams' Brit Miller tried to return a kickoff and fumbled, setting up a Dolphins field goal in a game St. Louis would lose by three points. Reagan Maui'a, the Arizona Cardinals' backup fullback, incurred a delay penalty for spiking the ball following a 7-yard reception to the Buffalo 36-yard line in the fourth quarter. The drive died a few plays later as the Cardinals, down 16-13 at the time, missed a scoring opportunity. Arizona lost valuable field position and wound up suffering a turnover on its next possession.
1. Russell Wilson, Seahawks QB. Wilson played a leading role in Seattle's 24-23 victory over New England. He showed outstanding deep accuracy and poise under pressure in winning for the fourth time in his last five starts. Wilson completed five passes for 200 yards on throws traveling more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. That included the winning 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with 1:18 remaining. Wilson threw the ball 55 yards with a smooth delivery requiring no extra effort. A 50-yard strike to Doug Baldwin showcased everything that makes Wilson dangerous. He rolled left to avoid pressure. He quickly set up to throw along the yard-line number at the Seattle 12. With a defender rushing toward his front side, Wilson threw the ball 50 yards in the air and back to the middle of the field. Baldwin caught it inside the left hash.
2. Wide receivers. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald passed 10,000 career receiving yards, joining Randy Moss as the only players to reach the milestone before age 30. The leaping one-handed grab Fitzgerald made along the sideline didn't count because he was out of bounds. Still, it was worth a mention. Moss had a 55-yard reception for the San Francisco 49ers. St. Louis' Brandon Gibson had a seven-catch, 91-yard game. Teammate Chris Givens had a 65-yard reception for his third consecutive game with a catch longer than 50 yards. Rice caught the 46-yard game-winner against New England in the final two minutes. Fellow Seahawks receivers Golden Tate (66-yarder) and Doug Baldwin (50-yarder) had even longer receptions for the team.
3. William Powell, Cardinals RB. An undrafted free agent in 2011, Powell carried 13 times for 70 yards as Arizona set a season high with 182 yards rushing. Powell also had one reception for 8 yards. He was easily the Cardinals' most effective running back.
4. Pete Carroll, Seahawks coach. The team's ability to post a 4-2 record while developing a rookie quarterback provides some short-term validation for Carroll's plan. Conventional wisdom said the team should have gone with Matt Flynn. Conventional wisdom said starting a rookie quarterback would undermine efforts to outscore teams led by Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Tom Brady. Seattle is 4-0 against those quarterbacks. The formula has worked most of the time so far. As for in-game coaching, Carroll came out fine. The Patriots' failure to get even a field goal attempt from deep in Seattle territory right before halftime recalled the time in 2010 when Carroll lost a similar gamble. Bill Belichick was on the wrong side this time.