Around the NFC West: Cards looking to go 3-0

Taking a look inside the camps of the 49ers' three divisional rivals in the NFC West, along with report cards for the Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks in Week 2 games.

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ARIZONA CARDINALS
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The Cardinals have displayed versatility on both offense and defense in their two games that should serve them well for the rest of the season.

In the opening day victory over the 49ers, the Cardinals concentrated on running the ball. And while the statistics weren't great, they dominated time of possession in the second half.

Against Miami last Sunday, they aired it out. Quarterback Kurt Warner passed for three touchdowns and had a perfect passer rating. Receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald each had more than 100 yards receiving.

The defense was equally as versatile. In the opener, the Cardinals took some chances and blitzed quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan. Against Miami, they played it more conservatively and prevented big plays. The Dolphins' longest gain was 20 yards, and they had only four plays that went for more than 15 yards.

"They're kind of feeding off each other, which is a good thing," said coach Ken Whisenhunt.

The Cardinals are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and they have scored 20 or more points in each of those games and more than 30 in six of them. Dating back to last year, the Cardinals have won four straight, their longest winning streak since 1999.

The Cardinals offense displayed an impressive amount of diversity on Sunday. They went from four wide receivers to two tight ends. They ran the no huddle a time or two. They used multiple personnel packages and a ton of motion.


"What you can only hope you can accomplish from that is you will force defenses to play a little bit more vanilla," Whisenhunt said. "If we have an idea of what they're doing, then I think we'll have a better chance of being successful."

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The Cardinals are 2-0 for the first time since 1991. They haven't been 3-0 since 1974. Only two players on the roster were alive then: QB Kurt Warner, 37, and DT Bryan Robinson, 34.

Two defensive players, strong safety Adrian Wilson and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, have played on offense this week. What's next? An offensive player going the other way?

"Anquan (Boldin) came to me and said he wants to play safety now," said coach Ken Whisenhunt. The Pro Bowl receiver just wants to blitz, but that's not likely to happen. "We can't get too crazy," the coach said.

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RB Edgerrin James now has 15,022 yards from scrimmage in his career. He's the 14th player in NFL history to reach that milestone.

"It's a nice accomplishment," James said, "but I've got to continue working. At the end of my career, I'll look back and see what I've accomplished."

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QB Kurt Warner had a perfect passer rating for the third time in his career. That ties an NFL record held by Peyton Manning.

"It's always nice to justify yourself in any way, shape or form by having games like this and letting people know ... that I can still play at a high level. I'm humbled to be in Peyton's class in that regard. Let's hope that there's a few more in the barrel, too."

Warner is the first Cardinals quarterback to have a perfect rating since Jim Hart did it in 1975.

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WR Anquan Boldin gave a brief pre-game speech, telling his teammates it was OK to win a game going away. "These are the games we're supposed to win," Boldin said, "and not just barely win. It's not a crime to go in and put teams out of the game right away."

PLAYER NOTES
--- RB J.J. Arrington was inactive for the second straight week. Barring injury, it's hard to see how he's going to get on the field. RB Tim Hightower and FB Tim Castille share the third-down back role.
--- DE/OLB Bertrand Berry has sacked the quarterback in each game this year. Berry is playing a part-time role behind starter Travis LaBoy.
--- SS Adrian Wilson became the second defensive player to see action on offense. Wilson lined up on the wing on one play and tried to block the edge. He missed his assignment but blocked a defender on the next level. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played on offense for the second straight week. He lined up at receiver but didn't get the ball.
--- RB Tim Hightower became the first rookie in team history to score rushing touchdowns in his first two games. Hightower, the team's third-down back, has scored on runs of 1 and 2 yards.
--- RG Deuce Lutui was replaced late in the game by Elton Brown. The two have been in close competition all off-season, and Brown is continuing to push for time.
--- NT Gabe Watson hopes to make his season debut this Sunday in Washington. Watson hasn't played yet because of a fractured kneecap suffered last summer. He's practiced on a limited basis for two weeks and should be ready to increase that workload this week.

REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Kurt Warner went retro against the Dolphins, looking like the guy who won two MVPs in St. Louis. He had a perfect passer rating and hit Anquan Boldin for three TDs. Warner hasn't committed a turnover in three games.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- It's hard to criticize the run game too much, because the Cardinals didn't make a point of trying to win via the ground. They were successful enough on some draw plays and Edgerrin James at least kept the threat of the run alive.
PASS DEFENSE: A -- The Dolphins' longest gain of the day was 20 years, and QB Chad Pennington, one of the league's most accurate passers, completed only 50 percent of his throws. The Dolphins' receivers are below average and the Cardinals made them look like it.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Dolphins didn't do much here, either. The defensive front controlled an offensive line that's inexperienced. A solid effort.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Neil Rackers made one field goal attempt and missed another, but the miss was nullified by a Dolphins penalty. Rackers put one kick out of bounds. Punter Dirk Johnson had another excellent outing.
COACHING: A -- Ken Whisenhunt and his staff put together excellent game plans on both sides of the ball. On offense, they spread the field with receivers and exploited the Dolphins' coverage tendencies. Defensively, the Cardinals didn't do anything fancy because they didn't have to. They just let their guys win individual battles. Whisenhunt is doing a nice job of keeping this team grounded after a 2-0 start. The Cardinals haven't been 2-0 since 1991.


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ST. LOUIS RAMS
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This is how bad it's gotten for the Rams: Fans are supposed to take solace in the fact that at least the game was close in the fourth quarter. How times have changed.

After being outscored 79-16 and outgained 963-367 in losses to the Eagles and Giants, it's fair to wonder when this team will win a game with Seattle, Buffalo, Washington, Dallas and New England in the next six weeks.

"The bottom line is that we can't expect to win games playing the way we are playing," coach Scott Linehan said after Sunday's 41-13 loss to the Giants." Last week was different than this week. I think you guys would agree that for three and a half quarters we were right there. There is no question in my mind that we didn't finish and they did. You can't win games in the National Football League playing three quarters here and two quarters there."

Still, the Rams were fortunate the score was only 20-6 after three quarters. The Rams had totaled an astonishing 101 yards (58 at halftime), while the Giants had 333.

The Rams opened the game missing on their first four third-down plays to make it 15 straight to start the season, and they broke that streak only because running back Steven Jackson gained 22 yards on a checkdown by quarterback Marc Bulger on 3rd-and-17. A missed tackle by the Giants enabled Jackson to get the first down.

For the season, they are now a woeful 3-for-24. Sunday, they had eight third downs with at least 10 yards to go (10, 12, 16 (twice), 17 (twice), 19 and 28. Their 14 third-down plays (one resulted in a first down by penalty) averaged 11.6 yards to go.

Big plays are also a rarity for the Rams, and once again there have been too many by the opposition. In two games, the Rams have allowed 655 passing yards and the passer rating against them is 129.2. A week after allowing four pass plays to total 220 yards, the defense once again was victimized by big plays. There were four plays of 30 yards or more for a total of 126 yards, while 308 of the Giants' 441 yards came on 16 of their 62 plays.

Yet, after wide receiver Torry Holt wrestled the ball away from Giants safety Kenny Phillips in the end zone, the score was 20-13 with 10:46 remaining in the game. On the kickoff, linebacker Chris Draft leveled returner Ahmad Bradshaw at the 18-yard line. Suddenly, the Edward Jones Dome was alive, but the defense caved in again.

The Giants marched 82 yards in seven snaps, making the score, 27-13.

"That defined the game," Draft said.

In the second half, prior to three final kneel-downs, the Giants totaled 249 yards on just 24 plays and scored touchdowns on three of four possessions. The only time they were stopped came when a holding call on guard Rich Seubert helped stop a drive.

When Linehan was asked what happened to his team after the Holt touchdown, he stated the obvious by saying, "They drove down and scored. You guys were at the same game I was at. That is how you lose. That is not how you win. That's what happened. We let them score."

Said cornerback Ron Bartell, "Somehow, some way, we have to fix what's going wrong."

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Rookie DE Chris Long had the first sack of his career against the Giants. Said Long, "It felt good to get that monkey off my back. A lot of people judge things by statistics. I can't get caught up in that. I just have to improve, improve, improve."

Long played mostly at left end with Leonard Little out with a toe injury. He had been playing mostly right end since the offseason.

"It's fun," Long said. "I get to go against (Eagles left tackle) Tra Thomas, I get to go against the Giants' entire offensive line, Brandon Jacobs, Eli Manning, all the guys I have been watching on TV I get to battle it out with."

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In two games, the Rams have averaged 3.7 yards a play and their opponents 7.2. Amazingly, the Rams have yet to run an offensive play from the red zone.

At the end of his brief time in front of the media Sunday, coach Scott Linehan was asked what it will take for this team to win. He said, "It is going to take a great effort and a win on the road like the one we have coming up this week to prove to ourselves and to the people that support us that we have what it takes. It starts with me, and then to our coaches and our players, period. That is it; the buck stops here."

PLAYER NOTES
--- WR Keenan Burton was having an MRI to check out a knee injury that occurred in the season opener. Burton experienced swelling during the week. It is thought he has a torn meniscus, which would keep him out for a few weeks.
--- WR Donnie Avery will get work at different positions this week so he can get on the field. Avery has practiced only at Torry Holt's position, and now will be worked at the other receiver spots, including the slot.
--- LG Jacob Bell was inactive Sunday because of a hamstring injury suffered in the season opener. Bell was better at the end of the week, and it's hoped he will be available for Sunday's game against Seattle.
--- WR Eddie Kennison has a chance to be active for Sunday's game against Seattle, especially if WR Keenan Burton is sidelined for a few weeks because of a knee injury.

REPORT CARD VS. GIANTS
PASSING GAME: C-minus -- QB Marc Bulger was sacked six times and passed for just 177 yards, 67 of which came on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Torry Holt and a 22-yard pass and run to RB Steven Jackson. The latter was the Rams' first third-down conversion of the season after 15 consecutive misses. For the season, the Rams are 3-for-24 on third down.
RUSHING GAME: D -- Jackson got just 13 attempts, and totaled 53 yards with a long of 15. As a team, the Rams rushed for just 68 yards, and nine of that came on a run by Bulger.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- Giants QB Eli Manning did what he wanted, completing 20 passes to eight different receivers and had a passer rating of 131.4. A 32-yard pass to Dominik Hixon was a back-breaker in the fourth quarter and led to the touchdown that gave the Giants a 27-13 lead.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Whether it was Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward or Ahmad Bradshaw, they all had their way against the Rams' defense. Bradshaw had a 31-yard touchdown and Jacobs had a 30-yard run. The trio combined for 203 yards on 28 attempts, an average per carry of 7.3.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Donnie Jones had his second straight outstanding game, averaging 55.7 yards with a net of 43.0. One 50-yard punt return by Hixon with several missed tackles was a negative, but the kickoff coverage was solid (four returns, 23.3-yard average). PK Josh Brown had two 54-yard field goals. The return game was poor, and Dante Hall doesn't have the burst he once did.
COACHING: D -- Players have to execute, but players have to be put in a position to make plays. Rookie WRs Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton were active, but hardly played. SS Corey Chavous is out of position too often. CB Ron Bartell can argue with an official, and there is no accountability. Head coach Scott Linehan will have to show he won't lose this team very early in the season.


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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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The Seattle Seahawks' injury woes at wide receiver have reached a surreal level.

The Seahawks on Monday learned that Logan Payne suffered a tear of his medial collateral ligament and is out for the season, placed on injured reserve.

And Seneca Wallace, the team's backup quarterback who was being pressed into service as a wideout, pulled his calf muscle and will miss three weeks to a month.

It leaves the Seahawks without Payne, Wallace, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram and Ben Obomanu.

"It's a little bit unusual," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren understated.

Besides having to sign a quarterback to the practice squad to replace Wallace during the week, Holmgren said the Seahawks also must sign two more wide receivers to augment their already creaking receiving corps, led by second-year vet Courtney Taylor, rookie Michael Bumpus and Billy McMullen, who was signed as a free agent last week.

Holmgren said there are several possibilities, including executing a trade because they have been over the free-agent list on multiple occasions and clearly don't like what is out there. They released Samie Parker four days after signing him last week.

"We have to consider (a trade) because you wind up looking at the same list (of free agents) all the time," Holmgren said.

The Seahawks then went out Tuesday and traded a late-round draft pick to the Denver Broncos for veteran Keary Colbert. They also signed free-agent Koren Robinson, who has formerly been in the Seattle system.

"I don't know about the football side of it at all. I haven't seen him play in a long time," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "But, I guess what I care about more is that he grew up and really matured and got his life turned around in the right direction. I saw him this off-season. He's married, has a child, has another one on the way, so I'm really happy for him. I'm proud of him."

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After watching the film of Seattle's 33-30 overtime loss to San Francisco, coach Mike Holmgren took some issue with several of the calls made by officials, including a pass interference call on Kelly Jennings in the end zone that negated an interception by Deon Grant.

The Niners subsequently scored. "There was contact, is what I was told," Holmgren said skeptically. "He should've had the interception."

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DE Patrick Kerney said the defensive pass rush's focus has to be to cause turnovers. They got eight sacks against Niners QB J.T. O'Sullivan, but they were unable to force one fumble. "We have to do a better job," Kerney said, "because obviously the quarterback is the most vulnerable player."

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QB Matt Hasselbeck said he should be playing baseball instead of football, a reference to his completion percentage of 45 percent. "That's not going to cut it as a quarterback," Hasselbeck said.

PLAYER NOTES
--- WR/QB Seneca Wallace suffered a pulled calf muscle and is out for 3-4 weeks.
--- WR Logan Payne tore his medial collateral ligament and is out for the rest of the season.
--- CB Kelly Jennings broke his rib against San Francisco. He will have limited participation in practice this week but is expected to play against St. Louis.
--- WR Deion Branch, recovering from knee surgery, is not expected to play this week against the Rams.
--- OT Sean Locklear, who has a sprained knee, will practice this week and is 50-50 to play against the Rams.

REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- For the second consecutive week, QB Matt Hasselbeck had a less than stellar performance, completing only 50 percent of his passes (18 for 36) while throwing two interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD. Of course, Hasselbeck has lost all of his top receivers to injuries.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Starting for the injured Mo Morris, Julius Jones gained 127 yards on 26 carries, carrying the Seahawks' offense. As a team, the Seahawks gained 169 yards on 34 carries (a 5.0 average) and scored two rushing touchdowns.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- The secondary allowed 38-year-old Isaac Bruce, who went without a reception in the opener, to catch four passes for 153 yards, including a 63-yarder. QB J.T. O'Sullivan, making only his second career start, threw for 321 yards, the first Niners quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards since 2004.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The defensive line did a very nice job against Frank Gore, who has caused whom Seattle trouble in the past. Gore was limited to just 61 yards on 19 carries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- New punter Jon Ryan shanked two punts and had another blocked. K Olindo Mare did a nice job converting all three of his field goal attempts. Josh Wilson had a 54-yard kickoff return.
COACHING: C -- Mike Holmgren had to make do with only three receivers. But he played it very conservatively near the end of regulation instead of aggressively trying to move into position for a game-winning field goal after taking over at his 11 with 2:37 left in regulation. The Seahawks wound up punting and never saw the ball again. San Francisco's Joe Nedney missed from 41 yards on the final play in regulation but nailed a 40-yard game-winner in overtime.



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