NFC West News & Notes - 10/5/05

Report cards, news, notes and quotes for and from each NFC West team.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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Seattle coach Mike Holmgren defended the way he handled the final 49 seconds of regulation during his team's 20-17 overtime loss Sunday. A case could be made that he wasn't aggressive enough in picking up additional yardage before K Josh Brown attempted what would have been the game-winning field goal as regulation expired. Brown's kick bounced off the left upright from 47 yards. It might have been good from closer because the ball was hooking at the end.

"Yeah, I would like to have gotten closer," Holmgren said. Seattle had gained possession when CB Kelly Herndon picked off a pass.

"When Herndon intercepted the ball, he could have gotten some yards on the return and he kind of reversed his field trying to make a play," Holmgren said. "It was an aggressive move, but that cost us some yardage. Then on first down, we ran and we got four (yards). Then the second-down play was the one -- I don't think we blocked it very well, and they got us.

"By that time, the clock was where it was and I really had no choice at that point. I was not going to throw the ball. I was going to run it and get as close as we could."
Seattle had one timeout remaining when the offense took the field on first-and-10 from the Washington 33 with 49 seconds left. The score was tied. RB Shaun Alexander gained four yards on first down. Holmgren let the clock run to 19 seconds before calling another run, this time for no gain. Holmgren then used his final timeout with 1 second left.

Brown then missed from 47 yards.

Holmgren decided against passing because he didn't want to risk the kind of mistake the Redskins suffered when Herndon picked off QB Mark Brunell to set up Seattle's final fourth-quarter drive.

"We had battled so hard to come back and be put in that position," Holmgren said. "I didn't want to do anything (to blow the game). That maybe would have been too difficult to handle if we had done something right there that didn't give us a chance.

"Now, as it turns out, we miss a kick and went into overtime anyway. I tried to get more, but I tried to get it with the run."

NOTES, QUOTES

--CB Shawn Springs spent his first seven NFL seasons with the Seahawks before signing with Washington as a free agent in 2004. He was therefore quite familiar with what Seattle likes to do offensively. Springs, 30, was effective when matched against WR Darrell Jackson. "I was laughing because D-Jack was trying to get me with moves and stuff," Springs said. "I said, 'D-Jack, you know I've seen it all.'"

Springs saved some praise for Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck, who helped tie the game with 83 seconds left by leading a 14-play, 91-yard touchdown drive. "I was proud at Matt today," Springs said. "I thought we had Matt jumping around all day, moving around, coming off his reads and putting pressure on him. The last drive, he just came out cool. He made a guy miss on the open side and got the big first down. It was fourth-and-1 and he ran it. He made a guy miss and got out of it.

"He was just hitting the tight end. Even when Darrell and Bobby (Engram) went down (with injuries), he was hitting guys underneath. I mean, I was impressed."

-- The Redskins jumped to a 14-3 lead in the third quarter thanks in part to a 29-yard penalty. Seattle coach Mike Holmgren thought officials erred in flagging SS Michael Boulware for pass interference. Washington faced third-and-10 from the Seattle 33 when Seahawks strong safety Michael Boulware broke up a pass for David Patten. The players collided and officials flagged Boulware. The 29-yard penalty on third-and-10 moved the Redskins to the Seattle 4, setting up a touchdown pass. "I have a problem with that one," Holmgren said. "I thought that was a great play by Michael. I didn't see the replay or do anything like that. I just, when I saw it, that's a good play." Although he was somewhat cryptic with his words, Holmgren later said that his stance was confirmed by the NFL.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--KJR Radio in Seattle is reporting that the Seahawks re-signed WR Jerheme Urban to their roster on Tuesday afternoon. Originally released by the team on September 13, Urban has a familiarity with the offense that might allow the Seahawks to conduct a limited search for an additional set of hands to compensate for the possible losses of Bobby Engram and Peter Warrick due to injuries. The Seahawks released DE Alain Kashama in order to create Urban's roster spot. Urban practiced with the team today and will be in the lineup on Sunday when the Hawks travel to St. Louis to visit the Rams.

--QB Matt Hasselbeck completed 26-of-38 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown Sunday. His rating was 94.4. Hasselbeck led touchdown drives of 85 and 91 yards in the second half. He didn't get many first-half opportunities because Washington held the ball for all but eight minutes.

--RB Shaun Alexander nearly became the first runner in eight games to top 100 yards on the Redskins. He finished with 98 on 20 carries. "If he had got 100 yards, we'd be running after practice," said Redskins CB Shawn Springs, who played for Seattle through 2003. "We haven't given up a 100-yard rusher in a long time. We run before practice if we give up a 100-yard rusher. My coach, it's a whole different atmosphere here in Washington, the way we play defense."

--K Josh Brown had no explanation for why he missed two 47-yard field goals during an overtime loss at Washington on Sunday. His final miss would have won the game as regulation expired. The ball bounced off the left upright. "Honestly, the kick was perfect," Brown said. "I hit a great ball. Unfortunately, the upright got right in the way. It's one of those situations I'm not real familiar with at all. It's hard to feel anything right now, more than just knowing that 52 other guys battled out for 60 minutes and I have one second and it didn't work. It's a pretty unfortunate feeling. It's pretty downing, but we've got 12 ballgames to go -- a long ways. We'll win games, that's for sure."

--WR Bobby Engram sounds doubtful for the Rams game this week. Coach Mike Holmgren did not rule him out Monday, but he came close. "Bobby, he is one of the toughest nuts I've ever had," Holmgren said. "He got his ribs cracked on the first play of the game and played a lot in that game. But he is really sore. We have to be careful on what we do with him. The doctor is going to let me know. Cracked ribs, they just rest and they just kind of have to heal. There is nothing much you do with them. But he certainly couldn't play a football game. Just how long it's going to be, I don't know."

--WR Darrell Jackson is bothered by a sore knee. His status this week is not immediately known.

--TE Jerramy Stevens dislocated a finger Sunday, but continued playing.

--RT Sean Locklear is expected to stay in the starting lineup this week because Floyd Womack needs to get some work before jumping back in the lineup following a triceps injury. Womack will not practice much this week because he will be tending to a death in the family, coach Mike Holmgren said.

--CB Jimmy Williams will continue handling punt-return duties.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. REDSKINS

PASSING OFFENSE: B --
QB Matt Hasselbeck was at his best leading a 14-play, 91-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes of regulation. He finished the game with a 94.4 rating that reflected one of his better performances in a hostile environment. WR Bobby Engram suffered cracked ribs on Seattle's first offensive play, but he still managed to beat Washington for 9-106-0. The pass protection was generally sound.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- RB Shaun Alexander carried 20 times for 98 yards and a touchdown against a Redskins defense that ranked third in the league coming into the game. Alexander scored on a 3-yard touchdown over the right side. He added a 34-yard run up the left side when Seattle needed to get something going offensively. On the down side, the line did not block well when Seattle tried one last running play before attempting a 47-yard FG as regulation expired. Alexander gained no yards on the play and K Josh Brown subsequently hit the left upright as time expired. The Redskins then won in overtime.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- Seattle entered this game leading the NFL in third-down percentage allowed (23.4). The Redskins had struggled on third-down conversions. No matter. Washington converted 13-of-18 third-down opportunities, including 7-of-8 on third-and-9 or longer. The pass rush simply didn't get there after the first two drives. Fatigue was surely a factor as Washington held the ball for nearly 22 minutes in the first half, but that was no excuse.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Seattle held Washington to less than 4 yards a carry, somewhat of a surprise given the Redskins' powerful offensive line. MLB Lofa Tatupu was particularly effective. The rookie from USC finished with 10 tackles and a sack. DT Marcus Tubbs and DT Chuck Darby also worked well against the run. The Redskins did manage some success on the ground when DT Rocky Bernard and DT Craig Terrill rotated into the lineup. That was pretty much expected. The overall run defense was strong, however. Seattle forced the Redskins to throw from inside the 5-yard line at one critical juncture.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D --
K Josh Brown missed twice from 47 yards, a key factor in the overtime defeat. Brown set a franchise record in 2004 by making 23-of-25 attempts for a 92 percent success rate. He had made all three tries before Sunday, so his two misses came as a surprise. Seattle also suffered three penalties on kick returns, leading to unfavorable field position.

COACHING: C --
Coach Mike Holmgren took some heat for the way he handled the final minute of regulation. Seattle had one timeout remaining when the offense took the field on first-and-10 from the Washington 33 with 49 seconds left. The score was tied. Alexander gained four yards on first down. Holmgren let the clock run to 19 seconds before calling another run, this time for no gain. Holmgren then used his final timeout with 1 second left. Brown then missed from 47 yards. The case could be made that Holmgren was not aggressive enough in gaining a few extra yards before the field goal attempt.


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ARIZONA CARDINALS
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The Cardinals played their best defensive game of the season Sunday night in the 31-14 victory over San Francisco. But injuries have caused considerable concern about the lack of depth at two key positions. Cornerback Antrel Rolle is out for the season after surgery Monday revealed the meniscus damage in his left knee was more severe than first believed.

Rolle has no ligament damage, which will help his long-term prognosis. In the short term, however, the club might have to find more cornerbacks. Raymond Walls, who started Sunday in place of Rolle, has strained muscles in his left hip and groin area. He might not be able to play Sunday. David Macklin, the team's other starter, didn't make it past the first quarter with a strained hamstring. It's doubtful he'll play this week.

If Walls and Macklin can't play, that means the two starters will be rookies Eric Green and Lamont Reid. The only backup is veteran Robert Tate, who had an interception against the 49ers. The Cardinals probably won't decide about a roster move until they get a more accurate gauge on Walls' situation. If he's not better by Tuesday or Wednesday, they likely will add a cornerback to the roster.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Neil Rackers has made his first 16 field goals of the season, setting an NFL record for the first four games of the season. Rackers had six field goals Sunday night against San Francisco. He also had seven touchbacks. The NFL doesn't keep records for touchbacks, but no one has had that many in a game since Jason Hanson did it for Detroit in 1993. Rackers is in the last year of his contract, and the club is interested in re-signing him before the end of the year.

--The Cardinals defense didn't allow a point, or so much as a field goal attempt. The 49ers crossed midfield just twice. It helped that the 49ers' offensive line is suffering because of injuries, but it was still the best the Cardinals defense had played this year. "We blitzed more and we got on our giddy-up, so to speak," Green said. "I think that was probably our best defensive game. I don't know if we've ever held a team to no points, no field goal attempts and maybe no ball on the 30-yard line."

--Fred Wakefield, a converted defensive end, started his first game at right tackle and played well, Green said. It was Green's idea to move Wakefield. It's one of the few moves on the offensive line that seems to have worked out for Green. "It's kind of nice to be right sometimes, at least," Green said. "Not that I keep score or anything."

--QB Josh McCown might not get style points, but he gets results, at least better ones than other Cardinals quarterbacks. Since first becoming a starter in late 2003, McCown is 8-9. During that time, other Cardinals quarterbacks are 0-6.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Kurt Warner isn't likely to return this week from a strained groin. The target date for his return is Oct. 23 against Tennessee. That's a week after the Cardinals' bye.

--QB Josh McCown set a personal record with 385 yards passing Sunday. He's not likely to replace Kurt Warner permanently, but it's at least something coaches will have to consider if the Cardinals win again and McCown plays well.

--WR Anquan Boldin is at his best when working the middle of the field. That's where he had success against the 49ers. He had eight catches for 116 yards and his first touchdown of the season.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald was finally used in the right way Sunday night against the 49ers. Fitzgerald excels in single matchups on the outside. It's there he can best use his size, strength and jumping ability. He caught seven passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.

--OT Oliver Ross is hoping to return from a broken right hand on Oct. 23 against Tennessee, the week after the bye. Ross had surgery to repair the break.
--KR Reggie Swinton finally produced. After a slow start this year, he returned a punt 25 yards against San Francisco.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS

PASSING OFFENSE: B --
Josh McCown had two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He was sacked, however, and fumbled. That resulted in a touchdown for the 49ers.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Marcel Shipp didn't gain a lot of yards, but he makes things happen with the ball. McCown scrambled for 32 yards.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- Bertrand Berry applied great pressure and the 49ers passed for just 160 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The 49ers had nowhere to run, gaining just 51 yards. It was the best effort by the Cardinals in weeks.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A --
Neil Rackers has made 16 straight field goals this season, and the punt return team finally produced.

COACHING: A --
The club didn't collapse after spotting the 49ers a two touchdown lead. The move to a formation of two receivers and two tight ends helped solidify the pass protection.


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ST. LOUIS RAMS
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It was back to the future for the Rams' defense after the unit melted down Sunday in a 44-24 loss to the Giants. Through the first three games, the Rams had allowed 67.7 rushing yards a game and 3.1 yards per rush. They also had seven takeaways, after totaling just 15 last season. However, the defense came up empty Sunday, forcing no turnovers and allowing 164 rushing yards and 5.7 yards per attempt. In addition, the secondary had no answer for Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who caught 10 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.

"There's nothing tricky about what they did," defensive end Tyoka Jackson said. "Nothing at all. None of that stuff happens if you just be where you're supposed to be and make a tackle." The biggest problem, as it was in 2004, was permitting big plays. Through the first three games, the defense had allowed 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.

The seven runs accounted for 99 of the Giants' 164 yards, while four of the pass plays were for 30 yards or more and the five plays totaled 158 of quarterback Eli Manning's 296 yards. Aside from Burress, the remainder of the Giants' receivers had just 92 yards. "When his number was called, he was making plays," strong safety Adam Archuleta said of Burress. "He had a good day."

Said cornerback Travis Fisher, "We couldn't stop him. He's a big, tall guy, and that's to his advantage. But we just didn't give ourselves a chance." Added cornerback DeJuan Groce, "He's a good receiver, but there some blown coverages and... that's what gave him a lot of yards." Acknowledging that the Giants have offensive talent, Archuleta couldn't abide by what the Giants did, scoring on their first five possessions and eight of 11 in the game.

"That doesn't mean they get to score 40 points," Archuleta said. "I don't care how good an offense is. That's ridiculous. They just beat us up in all phases defensively. We've got to be better. Period. Everybody. This is unacceptable."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The game took a decided turn in the third quarter. The Rams had fought back from a 27-7 deficit at the half, and then marched down the field on the first possession of the second half. They faced a 3rd-and-3 play from the 6-yard line, but 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, and then drove 87 yards on eight plays to score a touchdown and take a 34-17 lead. "That was big," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "If we put the ball in the end zone there, you never know how it turns out. Like last week, Archuleta's play was the play of the game. This definitely was the turning point in the game this week."

It turns out running back Marshall Faulk was supposed to be in the game to execute the handoff, but wasn't. "Marshall always does it, and Marshall wasn't in the game," Martz said. "And that's an issue for me. We've always practiced it with Marshall. And he's supposed to be in the game at that time, so there was some confusion. That's a coaching deal all the way."

Perhaps so, but Jackson's nonchalance created the turnover. "It was my fault," Jackson said. "Being the player I am, I kind of wanted to keep the ball myself. At the last minute, I decided to go ahead with the play."

--Quarterback Marc Bulger set franchise records with 62 pass attempts and 40 completions, and the Rams only had 14 rushing attempts by their running backs. At halftime, they had zero yards rushing. Contributing to that was the fact the Rams fell behind so quickly. In the season opener, after falling behind San Francisco 28-7, Bulger attempted 56 passes. In addition, tight end Roland Williams left the game with a dislocated knee on the Rams' eighth offensive play of the game. With tight end/fullback Brandon Manumaleuna inactive because of a knee injury, the only healthy tight end was Jeff Robinson.

Said coach Mike 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." The 40 completions came without wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who was inactive for the game because of a toe injury.

Torry Holt had seven receptions for 84 yards, but he was eclipsed by Shaun McDonald (9-for-121) and Dane Looker (8-for-90). Kevin Curtis added six catches for 78 yards.

Said McDonald, "If you lose the game, it doesn't matter if you go for 500 yards. It's all about 'W's.'"

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES


--FS Michael Hawthorne could be in danger of losing his starting job after being consistently out of position Sunday against the Giants. Mike Furrey could be in line for the start or rookie O.J. Atogwe, who was been inactive for the last three games.

--FS O.J. Atogwe, who was benched after the first game because of mistakes on special teams and has been inactive since, could be active this week and get a shot to play at free safety.

--FS Mike Furrey could possibly get a chance to start this week with coaches disappointed with the play of Michael Hawthorne.

--TE Roland Williams will need major surgery after suffering a dislocated knee Sunday against the Giants. He was placed on injured reserve Monday.

--TE Cam Cleeland was scheduled to arrive late Monday night and sign a contract with the Rams.

--FB/TE Brandon Manumaleuna is close to being able to play after missing Sunday's game because of a knee injury, but will remain out if there's any risk of further injury.

--WR Kevin Curtis missed some time Sunday because of blurred vision.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. GIANTS

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus --
QB Marc Bulger passed for 442 yards and was only sacked once, but the majority of the yards came after the Rams fell behind. Still, playing without WR Isaac Bruce, the Rams were able to move the ball with a varied passing game. Bulger set franchise records for attempts (62) and completions (40).

RUSHING OFFENSE: D --
The loss of TE Roland Williams to a knee injury and the big early deficit rendered the running game useless. Of the team's first 25 plays, four were runs, and the Rams had zero net yards at halftime. Running backs Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk combined for 33 yards on 13 carries, and each had an 11-yard run. Their other 11 attempts totaled 11 yards.

PASS DEFENSE: F --
QB Eli Manning looked like brother Peyton and WR Plaxico Burress resembled Jerry Rice as the Rams' defense had no answer for the Giants' passing game. Manning had four touchdown passes and threw for 296 yards with no interceptions. The Rams had just one sack. Burress accounted for 204 of Manning's 296 yards, while TE Jeremy Shockey and WR Amani Toomer contributed touchdowns.

RUSH DEFENSE: D --
RB Tiki Barber had 128 yards on 24 carries, 82 of which came in the second half as the Giants were padding their lead. He had five runs of 10 or more yards, and those plays accounted for 66 of his 128 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus --
The coverage units were solid, and kickoff returner Chris Johnson showed some promise with two returns that ended up past the 40-yard line. However, Jeff Wilkins missed a 48-yard field goal at the end of the first half that would have brought the Rams to within seven points, and punter Reggie Hodges was poor again with two punts of 39 and 29 yards.

COACHING: B --
Second guessers jumped coach Mike Martz for the mishandled lateral in the third quarter, but if it had worked, Martz would have been considered creative. Lack of execution doomed the play. The coaches prepared RT Alex Barron well, and he was stout in the first start of his career. Going against DE Michael Strahan, Barron had no false starts and QB Marc Bulger was sacked just once in 63 pass plays.


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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
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Coach Mike Nolan certainly was not pleased with the play of 49ers quarterback Tim Rattay, and Rattay was not pleased he did not get a chance to turn it around late in the fourth quarter. Nolan did not have an answer Monday when asked who will be the 49ers' starting quarterback this week against the Colts.

Rattay struggled in the 49ers' 31-14 loss Sunday night to the Cardinals, a game played in front of an NFL regular-season record crowd of 103,467 in Mexico City's Azteca Stadium. When the 49ers took over trailing by two touchdowns with 8:29 remaining, Nolan opted to send backup quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall selection in the draft, into the game. Rattay completed 11-of-21 passes for 126 yards and an interception before getting benched.

"I don't ever want to come out of the game," Rattay said. "I felt we still had a chance to win. I was very upset about it. But it's the coach's decision, and I always respect the coach's decision." Nolan said he would evaluate the position Monday and Tuesday, along with his assistant coaches, before deciding who will be the 49ers' starting quarterback.

"After I'm through evaluating, the guy who gives us the best chance of moving forward, that will be the decision I make," Nolan said.

Smith saw his first extended playing time Sunday against the Cardinals. He completed 6-of-10 passes for 34 yards. He was also sacked twice. "I got to run the two-minute offense," Smith said. "I saw some pressure, saw some blitzes. Obviously, I'd like to see it in a different situation. But it was good reps, nonetheless."

NOTES, QUOTES

--There was a lot of excitement in the air when the 49ers played the Cardinals in front of an NFL regular-season record crowd at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. And the 49ers seemed to be feeding off that emotion when they scored two defensive touchdowns in the first quarter. "Yeah, we had a good start," said linebacker Derek Smith, who recovered a fumble in the end zone for the first score -- just nine seconds into the game. "But you have to play 60 minutes of good football."

The 49ers' feelings about the historic game were decidedly mixed because of the way the game turned out. "It was a good experience," Smith said. "If we would've won, it would've made it a lot better."

--Niners owner John York and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue appeared together Sunday evening in Mexico City. York said they communicate regularly on the topic of a potential new 49ers stadium. "We're working it -- working hard -- on a regular basis," York said.

--Kicker Joe Nedney, taking full advantage of the 7,400-foot elevation, booted the opening kickoff through the uprights for a touchback. The ball was retrieved and handed to Pro Football Hall of Fame representative Joe Horrigan to be put on display in Canton, Ohio. The game was the first regular-season NFL contest played outside the United States.

--Fourth-string quarterback Cody Pickett was active for the first time this season, and saw action on special teams. The 49ers experimented with Pickett in a special-teams role during the exhibition season. He was on the field for punt returns and eight kickoff returns -- seven of which were touchbacks. "I did my best with the opportunities I had," Pickett said. With Pickett on the field, teams that face the 49ers have to be wary of the possibility of the 49ers' using his skills on trick plays.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--LB Jamie Winborn is still the subject of trade talks, and the 49ers are hoping for a seventh-round pick to take Winborn's $1.75 million salary off their books. Coach Mike Nolan dismissed Winborn from the team, but made it clear that it was not a disciplinary action. If Winborn is not traded, the 49ers will probably release him. They would still owe him his entire salary.

--WR Arnaz Battle (right knee) did some running prior to Sunday night's game, but it was determined he was not ready to play. Nolan said he is hopeful Battle will be available for this week's game against the Colts.

--LT Jonas Jennings will be listed as questionable with a right shoulder strain. Jennings sat out Sunday night's game against the Cardinals and was replaced by Anthony Clement, who struggled mightily.

--CB Derrick Johnson is expected to be out of action for a while with a groin pull. Johnson got his first NFL start Sunday night and responded with a 78-yard fumble return for a touchdown. He started because of injuries to Ahmed Plummer and Mike Rumph.

--DE Bryant Young has been the club's best player through the first five games of the season. Young has an NFL-leading six sacks, including two Sunday night. One of his sacks resulted in a 49ers touchdown on a fumble recovery in the end zone.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. CARDINALS

PASSING OFFENSE: F --
The 49ers did not score any offensive points, and even Rattay admitted that the execution was "horrendous." The 49ers managed just 117 passing yards, including the five sacks for minus-43 yards. Rattay completed 11-of-21 passes for 126 yards and an interception, and rookie Alex Smith completed 6-of-10 for 34 yards. Receiver Brandon Lloyd had seven catches for 102 yards, but he lost a fumble in Arizona territory.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus --
Kevan Barlow ended up with decent numbers, rushing for 45 yards on 10 carries. But the 49ers ran the ball only 14 times and were unable to convert first downs in the run game. They collected just one rushing first down in the game. Frank Gore, who appeared to be coming on strong, rushed twice for 4 yards.

PASS DEFENSE: D --
The 49ers have gotten torched in each of their four games this season. They figured to have it easy against Cardinals backup quarterback Josh McCown, but he came through with a huge day. McCown completed 32-of-46 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers' first touchdown came when Bryant Young's sack resulted in Derek Smith's fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown. Cornerback Willie Middlebrooks struggled in pass defense in his 49ers debut.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Not only did the 49ers hold the Cardinals to a 2.9-yard average per rushing play, but they also scored a touchdown when Travis Hall forced a fumble, which was scooped up by Derrick Johnson and returned 78 yards for a touchdown.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- Because of the thin air in Mexico City, the return game was pretty much eliminated, especially on kickoffs. However, the 49ers allowed Cardinals punt returner Reggie Swinton to average 14.2 yards on five punt returns.

COACHING: D --
The 49ers have not shown much improvement through the first four games. Coach Mike Nolan admits he has a lot of work to do, but says he is seeing progress. It has yet to be noticeable on the field. Nolan messed up last week when he decided to try to trade linebacker Jamie Winborn, who was caught by surprise by Nolan's decision. The 49ers could have used him Sunday against the Cardinals with Julian Peterson out of action.


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