NFC West News & Notes - 10/4/05

The Seahawks and Rams prepare to meet after matching (and infuriating) losses to NFC West opponents, and the 49ers and Cardinals reflect on their historic Mexico City showdown in today's NFC West News & Notes.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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The Seahawks will have all kinds of incentive to beat St. Louis on the road this week, but will they have enough receivers to match the Rams' punch for punch? The question gained relevance when WR Bobby Engram suffered cracked ribs during a 20-17 overtime loss at Washington.

The team had already been monitoring the status of receivers Darrell Jackson (knee) and WR Peter Warrick (hamstring). WR Alex Bannister, who played mostly on special teams, ceased being an option when he went on injured reserve with a broken clavicle. TE Jerramy Stevens even left the game for a while, although he returned.

Engram suffered the injury on Seattle's first offensive play Sunday. He stayed in the game and caught nine passes for 106 yards, but he tightened up considerably as the game progressed. The team removed him from the game in the fourth quarter and Engram immediately went into treatment mode as trainers secured an ice bag on his left side.

"It was tough (when he left the game)," QB Matt Hasselbeck said. "There were times when we didn't have Bobby or Darrell or Jerramy. It was like, all hands on deck. Who do we got?

"Some of the plays we had in the game plan, we weren't able to run them because we didn't have enough healthy guys. It makes it tough."

REPLAY

The Seahawks lost at Washington in overtime, 20-17, on a 39-yard field goal by Redskins K Nick Novak. Seattle had a chance to win in regulation, but K Josh Brown bounced one off the left upright from 47 yards as time expired. The loss dropped Seattle to 2-2.

Washington held the ball for nearly 22 minutes in the first half, but the Redskins' lead was only 7-3. Seattle's defense played great on first and second down, but the third-down defense was horrible. Washington converted 13-of-18 chances on third down overall.

QB Matt Hasselbeck (94.4 rating) and RB Shaun Alexander (20-98-1) played well in the second half as the offense finally got some chances. Engram turned in a gritty effort with nine catches for 106 yards despite cracking ribs on the Seahawks' first offensive play.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Shaun Alexander got stronger as the game wore on and nearly became the first player since 2003 to top 100 yards rushing against the Redskins. The Redskins held him to 98 yards in part because his 20th and final carry went for no gain. The play was important because Seattle missed a 47-yard field-goal try on the next play. A few yards from Alexander might have prevented K Josh Brown's attempt from hitting the left upright.

--WR Darrell Jackson played despite a sore knee. He caught seven passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, but did not appear to be 100 percent.

--MLB Lofa Tatupu led all players with 10 tackles Sunday. He also had a sack. This was another improved effort from the rookie. He is quickly becoming one of the better players on the defense.

--K Josh Brown missed two field goals Sunday, including the potential game-winner from 47 yards as time expired in regulation. Seattle lost in overtime, 20-17. Brown made 23 of 25 chances last season, so he has already missed as many through four games as he did all last season.


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ARIZONA CARDINALS
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Josh McCown's starting performances haven't always been pretty, but he's been more effective than most starting quarterbacks in recent team history. The Cardinals won their first game of the season last week, defeating San Francisco in Mexico City. McCown passed for two touchdowns, doubling the number of touchdowns the team scored in its first three games.

McCown, starting in place of the injured Kurt Warner, is now 8-9 as a starter. He missed some open receivers early against the 49ers, and overthrew others. But he settled in and turned in a nice performance. Unlike Warner, McCown can make plays with his legs. That's important, because the offensive line is still shaky. It improved last Sunday, although the 49ers defense was not at full strength. McCown passed for 385 yards, a career high, and the two touchdowns. Just as important, he wasn't intercepted.

The Cardinals desperately need that kind of performance because Warner is expected to miss at least two more games. He is targeting his return for Oct. 23 against Tennessee, after the bye week.

It's expected that Warner will take over the starting job when he returns, but McCown could make things interesting if he continues to play well.

REPLAY

The Cardinals put themselves behind 14-0 in the first quarter by giving up two fumbles that were returned for touchdowns. But they dominated the rest of the way in a 31-14 over the 49ers at Mexico City. The defense played the way the coaches had envisioned at the beginning of the season. The 49ers found it impossible to move the ball, as the Cardinals shut down the run game and pressured quarterback Tim Rattay.

The Arizona offense showed some life, too. Neil Rackers kicked six field goals, running his consecutive streak to 16. But the club also scored two touchdowns, doubling its total from the first three games.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Kurt Warner has a torn right groin that's likely to keep him out at least one more game. He hasn't ruled out returning this week against Carolina, but that's doubtful. The most likely scenario has him returning for the Oct. 23 game against Tennessee. That is the game after the team's bye week.

--K Neil Rackers has made all 16 of his field-goal attempts this season, setting a team record for consecutive successful attempts. It's also an NFL record for the first four games of the season. Rackers had six more Sunday night against the 49ers after making four in each of the two previous games. The previous record of 11 was held by Bill Gramatica and Greg Davis.

--The club has serious problems at cornerback. Both starters are out. David Macklin aggravated a hamstring injury Sunday night, and Antrel Rolle is out for the season with a knee injury that is more severe than originally believed. Raymond Walls, playing in place of Rolle, suffered a groin injury. He is expected to be at least questionable for this week's game, leaving the team dangerously thin at cornerback. Walls' injury, along with that of Macklin, left rookies Eric Green and Lamont Reid to play most of the second half Sunday night. Robert Tate, signed last week, was the nickel back.

--WR Anquan Boldin caught his first touchdown pass of the season. He had eight catches for 116 yards and one touchdown against the 49ers.

--RB J.J. Arrington is clearly the team's No. 2 running back behind Marcel Shipp, and that could be a nice role for him this season. Shipp gives the offense a spark, but Arrington has more speed and can make some plays on the outside or in the passing game.


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ST. LOUIS RAMS
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With division rival Seattle coming to St. Louis this Sunday, the Rams hope to settle down and continue the home-field advantage they have built since 1999. The Rams are 40-9 in regular-season games since that season, and being home could get the team to rid itself of the bitter taste in its mouth from another poor road performance. The growth of the defense that had seemingly been happening through the first three weeks of the season vanished Sunday as the Rams allowed 456 yards to the Giants and had no takeaways after having seven in the first three games. The pass defense made quarterback Eli Manning look like a seasoned veteran and wide receiver Plaxico Burress a Pro Bowler. Burress caught 10 passes for 204 yards, and continually victimized the Rams secondary.

Through the first three games, the defense had limited the number of big plays, allowing only 12 pass plays of 20 yards or more and five running plays of 10 yards or more. However, the Giants had five such pass plays, two of which went for touchdowns, and seven running plays, one for a touchdown. In fact, those seven plays accounted for 99 of their 164 rushing yards, while the pass plays went for 158 of Manning's 296 yards. The Giants' receivers other than Burress had just 92 yards.

"We just didn't respond well early," running back Marshall Faulk said.

Said safety Adam Archuleta: "We've got to get better. This was unacceptable."

Coach Mike Martz, who missed the team's practice Friday because he was hospitalized with a sinus infection, said the Rams weren't physical enough on both sides of the ball. In fact, Martz called a rare team meeting at Rams Park Sunday night after the Rams returned from New York.

Against Seattle, they will have to raise the level of their game. Because they fell behind so quickly against the Giants, and since tight end Roland Williams was lost for the season on the second possession of the game because of a dislocated knee, there was little opportunity to run the ball. Quarterback Marc Bulger broke the team record for pass attempts for the second time this season. In the opener, Bulger attempted 56 passes, then broke that mark Sunday with 62.

The Rams had just 14 rushing attempts from running backs. In addition to Williams, the Rams were playing without tight end/fullback Brandon Manumaleuna, who has an injured knee. Said Martz, "The issue for us was losing a tight end. We had two-tight end packages and a deuce package with two wide receivers that was very extensive for this particular game. We'll never do that again. Once we lost him, we lost everything. We lost two-thirds of our offense in the second half."

REPLAY

The Rams outgained the Giants 476-456, but five turnovers and no takeaways led to a 44-24 defeat. The Giants led 27-7 in the second quarter, but the Rams battled back to cut the deficit to 27-17 at halftime. The game then took a decided turn in the third quarter. On the first possession of the second half, the Rams drove to the Giants 6-yard line and were facing a third-and-3 situation. On a reverse, running back Steven Jackson made a poor flip and wide receiver Shaun McDonald couldn't handle it. The Giants recovered the fumble, then drove 87 yards on eight plays to score a touchdown and take a 34-17 lead.

The Rams defense allowed the Giants to score on eight of their 11 possessions.

PLAYER NOTES

--TE Roland Williams suffered a dislocated knee on the team's eighth offensive play against the Giants. He will be lost for the season.

--TE Cam Cleeland, who played for the Rams last season but was not signed by any NFL team this year, is scheduled to take a physical Monday and sign a contract if he passes.

--TE/FB Brandon Manumaleuna was inactive for Sunday's game against the Giants. Manumaleuna practiced Thursday, but was then downgraded to questionable and did not practice Friday.

--FB Madison Hedgecock, the team's seventh-round draft pick this year, started at fullback Sunday against the Giants with Brandon Manumaleuna sidelined by a knee injury.

--WR Isaac Bruce was inactive against the Giants because of a toe injury suffered the week before against Tennessee.

--RT Alex Barron held up well in the first start of his career going against Giants DE Michael Strahan. Strahan had the only sack of the game for the Giants, but it came on a stunt.


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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
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Coach Mike Nolan made the first move of his tenure with the 49ers that caused more than a few raised eyebrows in the locker room. Outside linebacker Jamie Winborn lost his starting job one week, and then he lost his place of employment. Although Winborn never requested a trade, Nolan advised him to clear our his locker and go home while he made calls around the league to try to find Winborn a new NFL home.

"It might be the first one that grabs everybody's attention," Nolan said. "But that's what has to happen around here a little bit for us. It wasn't with the intent of grabbing everyone's attention." Winborn, who is signed through this season with a $1.75 million salary, was not a hot commodity. The 49ers hoped to be able to unload Winborn's contract for a conditional seventh-round pick. If the 49ers were forced to release Winborn, they would owe him his entire salary.

It is unclear why Nolan decided to part ways with Winborn after three games. Nolan said Winborn was not a disciplinary problem. But, obviously, Nolan did not admire Winborn's style of play. Winborn was one of the 49ers' better athletes, but he had a reputation for straying from his assignments to make plays. "I don't have to have a big confrontation to know where someone stands," Nolan said. "I don't need to fight about it. When I see it, however you tell me, I kind of know. I don't need to lose sleep over it.

"We're just in the beginning stages of trying to get the thing right. I do like the direction we're going."

Nolan's timing for dumping Winborn could not have been worse. Starting outside linebacker Julian Peterson did not play in the 49ers' game Sunday night in Mexico City due to a right hamstring strain. With Winborn at home, the 49ers gave fourth-year player Brandon Moore his fifth career start.

REPLAY

The 49ers scored two first-quarter touchdowns on defense, but their offense was atrocious in squandering the lead in a 31-14 loss to the Cardinals in front of 103,467 fans at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. The game was the NFL's first regular-season contest played outside the United States, and it also drew the largest crowd for a regular-season game. "Obviously," 49ers quarterback Tim Rattay said, "we played horrendous."

Rattay was benched midway through the fourth quarter in favor of top draft pick Alex Smith. The 49ers managed just 168 total yards while surrendering 463 to the previously winless Cardinals.

PLAYER NOTES

--Rattay was not pleased to be benched in the middle of the fourth quarter against Arizona when he said he thought his team still had a chance to pull out the victory. Coach Mike Nolan said he would continue to evaluate the quarterback position. Rattay completed 11 of 21 passes for 126 yards and an interception.

--CB Mike Rumph was lost for the season with a torn muscle in his foot during his first practice after moving back from free safety, where he started the first three games of the season.

--LT Anthony Clement, who played the first seven seasons of his career with the Cardinals, made his first start for the 49ers against his former team. Clement started in place of Jonas Jennings, who missed the game with a right shoulder strain, and struggled mightily in his 49ers debut.

--WR Johnnie Morton made his first start for the 49ers when Arnaz Battle was inactive for Sunday night's game because of a right knee strain.

--CB Derrick Johnson, making his first career start, returned an Arizona fumble 79 yards for a touchdown. But he missed the second half with a groin injury. He was listed as doubtful for this week's game against the Colts on the preliminary injury report.

--WR Brandon Lloyd had his second consecutive 100-yard receiving day, catching seven passes for 102 yards against Arizona.


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