Monday, September 28, 2009
Around the NFC West: News and views
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
MINNEAPOLIS -- Generally I'd hang around in an NFC West city until Monday night.
The basic problem this week: Minneapolis is not an NFC West city. And so I'm catching an early flight back to the West Coast, complicating efforts to produce the usual team-by-team files with links to pertinent postgame coverage.
I'll single out one story per team and provide my own commentary before catching that flight and heading home. Perhaps this will stand as an upgrade over the usual links. I trust you'll let me know.
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' offensive play calling on their final possession was too conservative, putting Brett Favre and the Vikings in position for the winning drive. Ratto: "Truth is, quarterback Shaun Hill has developed enough rapport with (Vernon) Davis that they can become part of the ball-control plan, and besides, there was no way of knowing Favre didn't have any more late-game magic in him. The play calls gave the Vikings a chance to win that they hadn't really merited."
My view: The 49ers have ended all three of their games the same way, by lining up with only one wide receiver and running three times in a row. I do think there are times when offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye should show more trust in Shaun Hill. This was not necessarily one of those times. The 49ers had thrown eight previous times on third down in this game without converting one of them, including a third-and-1 play when they tried to spread the field with three receivers instead of running. Their best pass-protector, left tackle Joe Staley, had suffered a leg injury late in the game. Barry Sims was at left tackle. If Raye had called for a pass and something had gone terribly wrong, the 49ers would be hearing about how they strayed from their identity at the worst possible time, and how Raye should have known the passing game hadn't done anything on third down all game, even with Staley. The 49ers' defense allowed a 32-yard touchdown pass on the final play when only a 32-yard touchdown pass could beat them. That was the bigger story to me.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams should start Kyle Boller at quarterback in Week 4 even if Marc Bulger is healthy enough to play. Miklasz: "At least he made some plays. At least he performed CPR on this offense. And if nothing else, Boller's mobility is a plus. But the Bulger apologists are already on the attack, immediately dissing Boller as they dutifully stand by their man. Of course, these are the same people who insisted that no QB could function in this Rams offense because the offensive line and receivers are a detriment. The QB has no chance, we were told. OK, so why was Boller able to move the offense, finish drives with a punch and put points on the board?"
My view: There's a difference between being a Bulger apologist and realizing Bulger wasn't to blame for everything. Boller did give the team a spark. He should start as long as he continues to spark the team. Boller is bigger and better on the run. Those two traits give him an advantage playing behind an offensive line that doesn't protect very well. Bulger would be better suited for a precision offense. There is nothing precise about this group right now. Give the ball to Boller and see what happens.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Seahawks coach Jim Mora was "seeing red" after kicker Olindo Mare missed twice during a 25-19 defeat to the Bears. Mora: "We're not going to fight our asses off and have the field-goal kicker go out there and miss two fields and lose the game. It's not going to happen."
My view: That wasn't all Mora said about Mare, but you get the point. Kickers make for easy targets. The bigger story is how quickly losing will erode the restraint Mora has shown to this point in his tenure as the Seahawks' head coach. Seattle is probably going lose games regularly as long as its best players are hurting. We're only to Week 3 and already Mora is rolling on the kicker, and rolling hard. What happens if Peyton Manning throws seven touchdown passes against his shorthanded secondary in Week 4? What if Seneca Wallace throws five picks? Mora has done a better job controlling his emotions recently. His emotions seemed to control him Sunday.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' defeat Sunday night "hurts for many reasons, self-esteem included. The Cardinals had a chance to climb back into first place, re-establishing themselves as the class of the NFC West. They had caught a break earlier in the day when the 49ers lost in the waning moments to Brett Favre's Vikings. Yet after that game was over, 49ers coach Mike Singletary implored his players to get their heads up. According to witnesses in Minnesota, Singletary told his team they would see the Vikings again in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the 49ers seem to have stolen Arizona's magic. And the Cardinals better use the upcoming off week to find their soul, along with some answers."
My view: The Cardinals allowed 80 points in Weeks 3 and 4 last season. They were inconsistent then, as now. The two red-zone turnovers against the Colts changed everything Sunday night. The Cardinals could not afford to arm Peyton Manning with free possessions. They paid when they did. The biggest priority should be to help Kurt Warner get healthier during the bye week. The pounding he has taken so far has left me less convinced Warner can make it through the season. I felt the same way at times last season and Warner persevered. The Cardinals are otherwise relatively healthy. That gives them a better chance to figure out things eventually.