Behind Enemy Lines – How the West was lost?

With a loss to the Carolina Panthers on the road, the Rams fell into second place in the NFC West and the Cardinals lost to the 49ers in a back-and-forth battle in the desert.

St. Louis – Without RBs Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk, the bulk of the Rams' offensive production fell on the shoulders of 42 year-old QB Chris Chandler and he wasn't up to the task.

Chandler threw a career-record six interceptions in a 20-7 loss to the suddenly surging Panthers and now the Rams are looking up in the NFC West, down one game with three to play.

"I think (Chandler) got rattled early," head coach Mike Martz said. "I think any time you throw some picks in the game, as quarterback, it really is unsettling. At that point, he had a hard time recovering."

"After everything I did good last week to help this team win (against San Francisco), I can take all the blame for this loss," Chandler said.

After falling behind 14-0 late in the first quarter, Martz pulled his defense aside and lambasted them for their lack of effort. The unit responded with some tough run defense and played well for the remainder of the game.

"They had that shocked look in their eyes a little bit," Martz said. "I got in their face pretty good. A couple of them ended up coming out of it and making some plays for us.

"This is really tasting bad right now," Chandler lamented. "The defense played outstanding. Everyone played well enough that we should've won this football game. I didn't hold up my end of the bargain. It's that simple. There's lots of ways you can say it, but that's what happened out there."

On the injury front, two players who will be needed down the stretch playoff run, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa and S Aeneas Williams, both aggravated shoulder injuries during the game. Tinoisamoa returned twice and finished the game. He should be ready for next week according to Martz.

Williams is a different story. He re-injured his shoulder during the teams' first defensive series and never returned.

"It's real sore right now," said Williams. "I have to see a specialist some time this week to try to get a final, more in-depth analysis. I've just got to make sure I get well before I get back out there."

Martz announced his prognosis will be tentative for the rest of the season.

Next Game: @ Arizona, December 19th

Arizona – Head coach Dennis Green went back to QB Josh McCown because of an injury to rookie John Navarre and stayed with him even when the team fell behind early in the third quarter 28-3. His faith in McCown paid off as he led a torrid comeback that resulted in the Cardinals tying the score 28-28 with less than a minute to go.

The Cardinals ended up losing the game but their comeback was reminiscent of the game earlier in the season with San Francisco, when the 49ers late comeback fell just short.

"It's amazing," McCown said. "It's a funny league for that to happen. For the tables to be turned and us be the ones to come back, and not to seal the deal. It hurts. We needed this game."

McCown threw a career high 44 passes, completing 26 of them for 307 yards and one interception. While he had a career day, one pass will stick with him for the remainder of the season.

With the ball on the 49ers 4 yard-line and the Cardinals driving for what looked like the go-ahead touchdown, McCown saw TE Freddie Jones come open in the endzone and lobbed a pass his way.

"I didn't think I could get any more wide open," Jones said. "I looked back and all I could see was the ball coming. I said, 'Oh yeah, that's game time. That's game time.'"

But Niners CB Joselio Hanson came off of his man and tipped the pass away from Jones and the Cardinals had to settle for a chip-shot field goal by K Neil Rackers.

"If you've ever had anything stole from you, that's what it felt like," Jones said. "I couldn't tell you who the dude was that knocked the ball down, but I do know that he just rained on my parade."

The Cardinals are now 4-9, but the future looks bright in the valley of the sun as the team has become competitive in the second half of the season.

Next Game: vs. St. Louis, December 19th

San Francisco – Amid rumors that his head might be on the "chopping block", head coach Dennis Erickson led his team to an improbable 31-28 overtime victory over Arizona in Tempe.

"I'm not going to answer any questions about rumors that are out there and meetings and all the different things," Erickson said. "I'm not going to waste your time or mine talking about rumors."

If it was his last game as the head coach of the 49ers he will go out a winner because of two unlikely heroes. QB Ken Dorsey and RB Maurice Hicks helped lead a veritable offensive explosion and the team held on as the Cardinals did their best to come back.

Dorsey's fourth career start was his best by far as he found a rhythm and was able to get to his second and third options on most of his passes.

"The offensive line did a great job and Mo's (Hicks') runs made me feel comfortable," Dorsey said. "It gave me back the confidence that I could do this."

Hicks, taking the place of the unproductive Kevan Barlow, rushed 34 times for 139 yards and one touchdown.

"This is like a breath of fresh air. It's like a whole lot is lifted off my shoulders right now to just get this far," Hicks said. "I'm just helping my team to find a way to win. It feels real good right now."

In regards to Erickson's future with the franchise, general manager John York said that while they would be evaluating everything over the final three weeks of the season, that Erickson's contract would be honored and he would not be asked to step down.

"Again, I think we need to evaluate several things," York said. "This has been a disappointing season. We knew it would be a difficult one, but no one expected it to be 2-11."

Rumors swirled on Friday that Erickson was the University of Mississippi's front-runner and York was asked if he had been contacted about Erickson by University representatives.

"Mississippi doesn't need my permission to contact Dennis," York said in reference to NFL anti-tampering rules that state opposing NFL teams must formally ask for permission to contact any member of the coaching staff.

Next Game: vs. Washington, December 18th

.NET Reporter Scott Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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