Grading the NFC West: Week 16

The Seahawks and Cardinals both pass the grade after impressive wins last week while the Rams flunk out in one key area after falling to the 49ers.


-- QB Matt Hasselbeck completed better than 80 percent of his passes for a third consecutive game. Hasselbeck again showed a firm grasp of the offense in leading Seattle to the end zone on three of its first five possessions. TE Jerramy Stevens caught a TD pass for the third game in a row. The team rested WR Darrell Jackson after the first few series. The pass protection was solid, and Hasselbeck's rating was 137.7.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- RB Shaun Alexander breezed to 139 yards on the ground against a watered-down Colts defense. Indianapolis was resting numerous key players on defense, and Seattle capitalized. Alexander scored two of his three TDs on the ground as the Seahawks controlled the line of scrimmage.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- An injury to top CB Marcus Trufant forced the Seahawks to play the final three-plus quarters without their top three cornerbacks. The Colts didn't go out of their way to exploit the depth problems, but backup QB Jim Sorgi was able to move the ball consistently through the air. The pass rush had its moments, notably when DT Marcus Tubbs sacked Sorgi and forced a fumble. DT Craig Terrell caught the ball and returned it inside the Indianapolis 20. The play killed any thoughts of a miraculous Colts comeback.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Tubbs' return from a calf injury has bolstered the run defense in recent weeks. The return of LB D.D. Lewis also helped. Lewis delivered some big-time hits. Colts RB Edgerrin James carried 13 times for 41 yards before the Colts pulled him from the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The Seahawks blocked a first-half field-goal try to leave Indianapolis with three points to show for a pair of extended drives with QB Peyton Manning in the game.

COACHING: A -- Coach Mike Holmgren and his staff deserve some credit for helping the team stay focused through an unusual week of preparations. The death of James Dungy, son of Colts coach Tony Dungy, changed the dynamics of the game. Seattle didn't try to ignore the tragedy. Instead, the team observed a moment of silence after practice Thursday, addressing the issue head on. The players responded with another consistent effort.


-- The sideline and middle-of-the-field pass returned with Jamie Martin at quarterback, and he completed 33 of 41 for 354 yards and a touchdown. WR Torry Holt who had just 16 yards on three catches the week before, caught 10 passes for 163 yards against the 49ers. The only negatives were two interceptions, one in the end zone that snuffed a second-half scoring opportunity.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The running game was stuffed consistently by the 49ers defense. Steven Jackson had 28 yards on 16 carries, and Marshall Faulk added a meager 5 yards on three attempts. The long run was 7 yards by Jackson, who was stopped for a 1-yard loss on a key fourth-and-1 play in the fourth quarter. Six of Jackson's runs went for no gain or minus yardage.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The Rams came up with no interceptions and sacked Alex Smith five times. However, Smith completed 12 of 16 passes for 131 yards and had a passer rating of 98.7. He hit key plays that extended drives and led to touchdowns.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Once again, big plays doomed the defense, as 103 of 217 rushing yards came on two plays, both for touchdowns. Maurice Hicks started the game with a 73-yard touchdown run, and Frank Gore gave the 49ers the win with a 30-yard score. Hicks, Gore and Terry Jackson combined for 188 yards on 21 attempts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Dane Looker actually made an impact on punt returns with a 10.8-yard average, including a season-high (for the team) of 17 yards. The coverage units were solid, and PK Jeff Wilkins hit field goals of 50 and 51 yards.

COACHING: B-minus -- A fourth-and-1 run when a field goal would have given the Rams a six-point lead was questionable. Other than that, interim coach Joe Vitt is doing the best with what he has. He made the right decision starting Jamie Martin at quarterback, and Martin responded with a career-high in passing yards to give the Rams every opportunity to win this one.


B-plus -- One interception kept this from an A grade. Josh McCown threw for two touchdowns and 294 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- It produced only 75 yards, but at least the Cardinals stayed with it, rushing 32 times.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- Philadelphia quarterback Mike McMahon struggled all day. He was sacked four times and completed just 12 of 33 passes.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Eagles ran just 17 times, partly because they fell behind by 20 points. The tackling was much better.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Kicker Neil Rackers made two of three field goals, but the return teams didn't produce and the kickoff coverage was weak.

COACHING: B -- They made a nice adjustment at halftime, going to a more basic offensive package. Defensively, the blitzes had Philadelphia off-balance all day.

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