The Seahawks are using their bye week to get away, get healthy and get over their 37-6 loss at Chicago. Players and coaches met Monday, as usual, before breaking for a full week. Coaches remained in the office for another day or so, but nothing formal was scheduled. Just about everyone had scattered by midweek.
"They've been practicing hard, working hard," coach Mike Holmgren said. "We have a number of guys who need the time off because of injury. We did this last year, and they very much held up their end of the bargain."
The Seahawks won eight consecutive games following their bye last season. They went into that bye week riding the good feelings of their improbable last-second victory over Dallas. This time, the Seahawks are coming off their fattest margin of defeat since the 1997 opener.
Would this be the time to tighten the screws?
"I wasn't going to be punitive about it," Holmgren said of the lax bye-week schedule. "We played a stinker and we took one on the chin, and that's what it is. It happens.
"They've been practicing hard, working hard." The Seahawks are 3-1 even though they haven't scored a touchdown in two of their four games. The offense has lacked continuity for long stretches, particularly against good defenses.
In the past, Seattle has used the bye week to fix problems through self-scouting. Holmgren felt that wasn't practical this time. "Because the bye is a little bit early, the idea of self-scouting and making dramatic changes are not quite as important as if you had the bye after the half-way point," he said.
The staff did some self-scouting and analysis early in the week, but nothing too heavy. Pass protection is one area that needs improvement. Seattle has allowed 13 sacks through four games after allowing only 24 last season.
"One, we have to get the ball off on time," Holmgren said. "Two, a couple of sacks Sunday night, you had a great player going against a young player, (Tommie) Harris, who is young, but he took advantage of Chris (Spencer) a couple times.
"When you're rocking on your heels, and you have to throw it, and the other team knows it, and they have a good pass rush anyway, you're a little bit vulnerable, a little bit more vulnerable."
Seattle's protection improved as last season went along.
"We've had stretches before, where all of a sudden we felt we need sharper protection and we've done it," Holmgren said. "We're going to do the same thing this time. There's not a panic sense in the room.
"We just do what we always do, roll up our sleeves and go back to work. I'm giving them some time to clear their heads a little bit. We're 3-1, and they're off to a good start, and they've done some good things, and they've worked hard. Now I want them to look at the game, understand what happened in the game, and then put it behind us."
Holmgren hopes the time off energizes a team coming off the shortest offseason in its history. Tight end Jerramy Stevens, strong safety Michael Boulware and cornerback Jordan Babineaux are expected to return from injuries following the bye. Running back Shaun Alexander could miss a couple more games.
"The last couple of years, we've been able to win the game prior to leaving on the bye, so it always made the time a little more fun," Holmgren said. I feel comfortable with this. The guys that are hurt are going to stay and get their treatment. There will probably be some guys coming in, lifting, and things like that. The guys that have family out of the area have a chance to go see their family, spend a few days with them and then come on back."
Seattle resumes its normal schedule Monday. The team plays the Rams in St. Louis on October 15.
--The Seahawks' blowout loss in Chicago was an embarrassment. The Bears had their way up front. "Neither of our lines played well enough," DE Bryce Fisher said, "and all of us are going to have to come back in here ready to understand that it doesn't matter how fast you are if a team can line up and mush you." Seattle's defense had played well against Detroit, Arizona and for three quarters of a 42-30 victory over the Giants. The Bears were able to get their ground game going, opening up the pass for QB Rex Grossman. The Seahawks must regroup.
"We stopped them early in their run game but they stayed with it and then came back to cutting some things back, trying to catch some soft spots on the back side of our defense," Fisher said. "They've got one receiver who is pretty darn fast (Bernard Berrian) and their quarterback was able to stay in there and they blocked us pretty well up front and not too many teams have been able to do that."
--Seattle allowed five sacks against the Bears, but none on the 16 plays when the team went to its four-receiver set. That doesn't mean the Seahawks had great success with Bobby Engram, Deion Branch, Darrell Jackson and Nate Burleson on the field together. QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed two interceptions from the package. "To be honest with you, after you watch the film, (the Bears) should have had a more difficult time with it," Hasselbeck said. "We didn't communicate well at the line of scrimmage. We got some people blocking the run and some people blocking the pass on the same play.
"Ultimately, that's my fault. It's my job to communicate with everybody on the field on what we're trying to do.
"Sometimes it's difficult when you're playing on the road. That's the kind of stuff we've to get fixed. My job is to make sure that all 11 guys are doing the right thing, or the same thing anyway. Then I have to do my job."
BY THE NUMBERS: 9-plus -- The Seahawks' average to-go distance on third down has exceeded nine yards in three of four games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They all have a lot of pride, all the players do. Typically they come back and want to show their teammates, show me, show you, show their family, show everybody that that was not the way we are. That this is the team we're going to be. ... I expect them to bounce back very well." -- Holmgren on how the Seahawks will respond to getting blown out in Chicago.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Seahawks wanted to bring back LB Isaiah Kacyvenski, but it didn't work out. Seattle released Kacyvenski, its special-teams co-captain, to make room for the addition of RB Marquis Weeks before the Chicago game. The plan was to bring back Kacyvenski this week, but that fell through when the Rams signed him instead. As a vested veteran, Kacyvenski will continue to draw his Seahawks salary while also getting paid by the Rams. Weeks remains on the roster as the primary backup to Maurice Morris, but the team is keeping its options open while starter Shaun Alexander recovers from a broken foot. Free-agent running backs Arlen Harris, Jonathan Wells, Ali Culpepper, Andre Hall, Jerod Void and Damien Rhodes were in town for tryouts this week.
--LB Julian Peterson is tied for the team lead with two sacks. Peterson had made a smooth transition after signing with Seattle as a free agent from San Francisco. One key to the transition: Some of his current coaches were previously with the 49ers.
--RB Marquis Weeks remains on the 53-man roster for now, but that will change once RB Shaun Alexander returns from a broken foot. Weeks carried three times against the Bears, all in garbage time.
--WR Nate Burleson wore a splint on his left thumb for the first few games. The bye week should let the soreness calm down. Burleson has dropped more passes than usual.
--WR D.J. Hackett has made plays when given opportunities to play, but he will remain inactive for the foreseeable future. The team is going with Darrell Jackson, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and Bobby Engram as its active receivers on game days.
--P Ryan Plackemeier's net average took a beating against the Bears, dipping to a mediocre 35.3 yards thanks to some poor punts. Plackemeier has three punts downed inside the 20 and six touchbacks. His 45.3-yard gross average reflects a strong leg, but he still has to master the finer points of his craft.
There's a lot more riding on Matt Leinart's left arm than reversing a 1-3 start for the Cardinals season. The fate of Cardinals operations chief Rod Graves, who is still around despite his contract having expired in May, and coach Dennis Green, whose team has lost twice as many games as it has won in his first 36 games, rides with Leinart. Anyone who signs on with this outfit, with its miserable history, has to understand that it is tantamount to working without a net -- and now Graves and Green are facing the real possibility of taking a hard fall. A quarter of the year is gone, and the Cardinals are on pace to finish 4-12. That's after they went 6-10 in Green's first year and 5-11 last season.
The rookie Leinart, the 10th selection in the first round of the draft in April, will make his first pro start when the Kansas City Chiefs visit. The Kansas City Chiefs, whose defense ranks third in the NFL. The Chiefs, who last week pummeled another weak NFC West foe, San Francisco, in a merciless shutout in Kansas City. Leinart showed signs during preseason of being the real deal, but can he reach his lofty potential in games that matter fast enough to save Graves and Green?
The Cardinals have their own stadium -- finally -- and the league schedule-makers set up a slate geared toward facilitating a fast start. The Cards had never opened at home nor played three of their first five games at home since moving to Arizona in 1988. Three successive season-opening NFC West games were set up for the Cardinals in the front-loaded home slate.
Almost everyone anticipated that the Cardinals would be 3-1, or, at worst, 2-2, at this juncture. But they're 1-3 and have scored 34 points in their past three games combined after scoring 34 in the opener.
There are a multitude of reasons for the skid beyond the sub-par work of quarterback Kurt Warner, who is being sacrificed by the Cardinals as Leinart steps in. Edgerrin James has carried 88 times, third-most in the NFL. Yet for the first time in his career he completed the first quarter of a season without a 100-yard game and the Cardinals rushing average actually is a yard a game worse than last year, when it was dead last in the NFL and among the worst since the NFL-AFL merger.
The defense still can't make the critical stop. Yet the team is throwing Warner under the bus. It's not as nasty as it was a couple of years ago when the Giants dumped him for then-rookie Eli Manning. But it is similar. The Cardinals just signed Warner to a three-year contract in the off-season. But they didn't expect him to fumble 10 times, throw five picks and take 12 sacks in the first four games.
"We made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes that just aren't us," Warner said. "I think sometimes you get into a situation where you start to press. Everybody's trying to make that one play to get us going, to pick up the rest of the guys. It's a tough way to play the game of football. Usually when that happens, you're never as good." Leinart was supposed to watch and learn this year. Now, evidently, he will get on-the-job training. Green said the move isn't a one-game trial.
"We've got the guys here," Leinart said. "I think we just have to believe in ourselves and get some confidence back. The season is not over. It's only four games old.
"I'm not an arrogant or cocky guy, but I have a lot of confidence from my college days. I feel like I can play and now I just have to go out and get the reps and get more experience. I feel like the more experience I get the better I'll play."
Let us see if he is still brimming after Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and Co. take their shot at Leinart Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. The Kansas City Chiefs hold a 6-2-1 lead and have won three of the past four, including a 49-0 thrashing at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 1, 2002 in the last meeting. Kansas City QB Trent Green passed for two touchdowns, Chiefs RB Priest Holmes rushed for two more and Dante Hall returned a punt 90 yards for a TD -- second-longest ever vs. the Cardinals, in the most one-sided setback in franchise history and the first shutout suffered by the Cardinals in 105 games.
--LT Leonard Davis is as perplexed as anyone about the unit's failure to produce through the first quarter of the season and took to heart criticism this week by coach Dennis Green. Green said the unit needs to "quit whining and get off their butts and start doing the job." "So my play, it's definitely has to get better," said Davis, the second player chosen overall in the 2001 draft. Davis has yet to hit his stride in his third season at LT after he made his mark in the league initially as a mauling RG.
"I watched myself on film, and I don't really see the same person I'd seen in the past," Davis said. "It's always been we make or break the team, and right now we're breaking the team, so we've got to find out what we can do to get better at what we're doing. The O-line as a unit, we've got to stick together because it's hard times right now, and that is where we're going to need each other the most."
During the off-season, the team hired Steve Loney as offensive line coach to end the woes up front.
--The Cardinals continue to take heat over their choice of the University of Phoenix as winner in the naming-rights derby at the new stadium in Glendale, Ariz. So far, no one connected with Glendale, which facilitated the deal and put $10 million into it when no other Phoenix-area community cared to make it happen, has commented publicly on "Phoenix" being in the stadium's new name, with Glendale excluded. Officially, the name doesn't change from Cardinals Stadium until the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority meets later this month to discuss it. But the board's rubber-stamp OK is anticipated ...
The for-profit university, founded in Phoenix more than 30 years ago, would pay $154.5 million to the Cardinals over 20 years for the naming rights.
--Coach Dennis Green made no attempt to give the company line, be politically correct or sugar coat his team's 1-3 mark through the opening quarter of the season, which includes last weekend's 32-10 thrashing at Atlanta that cost QB Kurt Warner the starting job. "This is ludicrous," Green said. "This is absolutely ludicrous."
Although the change at QB seemingly would point the finger at Warner -- he did fumble 10 times in four starts -- it fails to address the real problem: lousy play by the offensive line and the defense's failure to tackle at critical moments.
"We started the season feeling we would be one of the best offenses in the National Football League," Green said. "Anybody who has been around me can understand my frustration right now. I don't have an explanation for it. But I'll try like heck to find one and try to do something about it."
--RB Edgerrin James, one of the game's premier rushers, was signed during free agency to reverse the fortunes of the league's worst rushing attack. James, through four games, has 88 carries, third-most in the NFL. Yet the Cardinals are tied for 30th in the league in rushing, averaging 70.3 yards a game. That's nearly a yard per game worse than last year, when they finished last. "We've just have to figure out what we have to do to get some wins," James said. "That's the crazy part. We've got so much talent. For some reason, we're not clicking. I don't know what it is. We've got to figure it out soon."
BY THE NUMBERS: 11.3 -- Cardinals average scoring in the past three games with an offense that was believed to be on the verge of becoming a scoring machine -- after it scored touchdowns on its first three possessions in the opener and rang up a league-leading 34 points on opening weekend. It has since scored its next 34 points in three games combined.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "No matter how you slice it, the more we lose, the more ground we've got to make up. You don't want to have your fate in someone else's hands." -- OLB Calvin Pace, on the Cardinals' 1-3 start that includes two losses to NFC West opponents.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Now in its third frustrating season, the move of Leonard Davis to LT is proving to be questionable at best despite Davis having been a college All-American at the position at Texas. Davis made his mark as a rookie in the NFL as a mauling RG. Who can forget his pancake of Pro Bowl LB Brian Urlacher, or Davis essentially shot-putting Bears FS Mike Brown? The Davis move is among what now appears to be three key blunders by coach Dennis Green along the offensive. And those are now coming back to threaten his job security. The offensive line is the prime reason why a team that has WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson, RB Edgerrin James and QBs Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner has started 1-3 and produced 10, 14 and 10 points in its past three games.
Green's other personnel blunders on the line: cutting veteran starting C Pete Kendall on the eve of training camp in 2004 when there was no other experienced C on the roster, forcing rookie Alex Stepanovich to start 16 games before he was ready (center remains an iffy spot with Stepanovich still in the lineup), and parting company with veteran LT L.J. Shelton, the move made to facilitate moving Davis outside.
The team needs to make a quick decision on its plans for Davis. He is in the final year of his contract. There had been speculation that it would use some of its $10.5 million cushion under the salary cap to extend his contract this year before he becomes a free agent, if his play warranted it. So far, it hasn't. But then, what could he do for the team if he were moved back to the spot where he once thrived, RG?
--QB Matt Leinart, a rookie chosen 10th overall in the first round, makes his first pro start Sunday when Kansas City visits. He will attempt to become the team's first rookie quarterback to win in his initial start since Gary Keithley 33 years ago. The Cardinals have not had a left-handed QB of note in 10 years, since Boomer Esiason's brief stay with the team.
--RB Edgerrin James for the first time in his pro career completed the first quarter of a season without a 100-yard rushing game. But James can't say he's not getting the ball. He has toted it 88 times, third-most in the league. Those figures are an indictment of the team's offensive line. He has rushed for 100 yards 49 times. He still could become the second-fastest ever to 50 100-yard rushing games. James has 100-plus yards rushing in three of his four outings vs. the Chiefs, all while he was with Indianapolis.
--WR Anquan Boldin has eight third-down receptions, tied for third in the NFL, for 107 yards. His 295 yards, along with Larry Fitzgerald's 316, make him part of four NFL tandems with at least 295 yards each through the season's first quarter. Fitzgerald and Boldin are on pace to post 1,000-yard receiving seasons each for the second straight season.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald is tied for second in the NFL with 19 first-down catches. His 316 yards, along with Anquan Boldin's 295, make him part of four NFL tandems with at least 295 yards each through the season's first quarter. Fitzgerald and Boldin are on pace to post 1,000-yard receiving seasons each for the second straight season.
--WR Bryant Johnson, the forgotten third receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, is tied for second in the league with two catches of 40 yards or more. He is the burner who keeps foes' defenses honest.
--SS Adrian Wilson, whose eight sacks last year set an NFL record for a defensive back, is on pace to equal that mark with two through the first quarter -- but that ranks him only in a third-best tie among defensive backs. Last weekend, Wilson also broke Hall of Famer Larry Wilson's 31-year-old franchise record with a 99-yard interception return at Atlanta.
--QB Kurt Warner lost his job after 10 fumbles, five interceptions and 12 sacks through four games. He was the opening-week NFC Offensive Player of the Week and he'd just become the second-fastest player to reach 20,000 passing yards in NFL history (76th game), behind Dan Marino, who got there in 74.
--CB Eric Green appears to have reclaimed the starting job on the right side opposite Antrel Rolle. Eric Green had replaced him, and then suffered an injury that gave Matt Ware a start vs. the Rams. Green was back vs. the Falcons but played poorly, leading coaches turn to David Macklin, who was benched after the opening series of the season and made inactive Week 2. Green was with the first until Wednesday.
GAME PLAN: One might think the team would scale back the offense to help first-time rookie starting QB Matt Leinart, yet with all of the weapons in the unit, coach Dennis Green might be more inclined to let him make full use of them. Let the kid show what he's got. Leinart was very impressive in his preseason work, but he faced defenses playing largely vanilla and often vs. backups.
Edgerrin James has the third-most carries in the league despite his having played the first quarter of the season without a 100-yard game, and he undoubtedly will continue to get a heavy workload.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: QB Matt Leinart, a former Heisman Trophy winner who tore up his college competition, vs. Kansas City's stingy defense, which yields 239.7 yards a game, third-fewest in the NFL. What an initiation for Leinart in his first pro start. Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham must be rubbing his hands together and grinning from ear to ear as he draws up blitzes for the occasion. His unit has not allowed a touchdown pass in a franchise-record 12 consecutive quarters. Leinart saw his first pro action late in last week's thrashing at Atlanta and the left-hander played like a rookie tossed into a garbage-time game. He did, however, dazzle observers with his work during the preseason, but that's a very different world.
--Cardinals SS Adrian Wilson, a Pro Bowler who continues to find new ways to terrorize QBs, vs. Chiefs QB Damon Huard, who with the league's second-best passer rating -- 106.9 -- certainly isn't playing like a backup. Wilson last year set an NFL record for a defensive back with eight sacks. He has two more through the first quarter of this season, putting him on pace to equal that production. Then last week, Wilson set a franchise record with a 99-yard interception return off Michael Vick at Atlanta. Wilson is the Cardinals leader not only in sacks but also interceptions, with two. But in his eight career starts, Huard is 6-2 and he's coming off a monster week (18 of 23, two touchdowns, 78.3 percent) in a rout of another lame NFC West team, San Francisco.
INJURY IMPACT: The team is going to have to look for another excuse. It suffered no significant new injuries in last weekend's reaming at Atlanta. The final player who was sidelined, LB James Darling (calf), appeared ready to return vs. the Chiefs but may have aggravated the injury on the practice field. He remains questionable. vs. the Chiefs.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
Rams coach Scott Linehan saw enough of him when he coached in Minnesota for three seasons. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger simply likes competing against the best that have ever played the game. Despite the fact he's nearing the end of a storied career, Packers quarterback Brett Favre can still strike fear into an opponent. "I don't think he's lost anything personally," Linehan said as his team prepared to play the Packers in Green bay Sunday. "I know one thing, I don't want the ball in his hands at the end of a game. I've seen that too many times being on the other side of the ball. He's one of the best this game's ever seen. You respect him. You don't fear any opponent, but you certainly have to respect everything he can do, and he's done it at a high level for more years than most quarterbacks ever could."
Asked about preparing to play against Favre, Linehan said, "I think getting ready for Brett is the obvious, but there are some other players on that offense as well. He and Donald Driver have been hooking up now for a number of years, and have been quite a combination. I know Ahman Green didn't play last week because I think of a tight hamstring. We expect him to play this week so you've got a guy who has played at the top level, the top of the game, for a number of years, hasn't missed a game in forever, who I've seen at his best, and not at his best. When he's at his best, I don't think there's anyone better. They also can sneak up on you with a pretty lethal running attack when they get their running game going too. Being in that division for three years, this is the kind of game that you'd really better be ready for."
Asked about playing against Favre, Bulger said, "You don't want to play against a legend because they're going to be good, but it's just one of those things that make you appreciate where you are. Growing up watching (Joe) Montana, (Steve) Young, and (Dan) Marino, sometimes you don't realize that you're playing in the NFL and there are some legends. I lost that (opportunity) to play with one, with Marshall Faulk, while he was here. Obviously (Favre) is one of the best ever and to get to play against him will be pretty fun, just watching him."
Linehan said playing Favre, even at this stage of his career, means respecting what he can do at any time. "I don't think he's lost anything personally," Linehan said. "I know one thing, I don't want the ball in his hands at the end of a game. I've seen that too many times being on the other side of the ball. He's one of the best this game's ever seen. You respect him. You don't fear any opponent, but you certainly have to respect everything he can do, and he's done it at a high level for more years than most quarterbacks ever could."
As for how to defend Favre and the Packers' offense, Linehan said, "I think most of the things you do, is you look and see what type of scheme, defensively ... like our team might look at something that's been effective recently. Because he's been in the league for so long, you look at what's been, for the most part, the most effective way to defend the guy. I'm not sure there's a lot of them. He's dissected many a defense in his career. I think they've tried almost anything. I think you've just got to be sound.
"I think the biggest thing when you play a quarterback of his caliber, you don't want to give him anything because he'll take it. He's like any other quarterback. If you make him earn it and they beat you, you've got to tip your hat to him, but you don't want to give him anything because that will cost you. We don't do a lot of copying what other people do, but certainly all of our schemes are similar, and you evaluate it and study it and say, 'This has been the most effective,' and maybe lean toward something a little bit more because of what you see on film, especially recently."
Linehan did make an admission when asked if playing in Lambeau Field is different than being at other stadiums. "I wouldn't be telling you the truth if I said no," he said. "It's still my favorite place, other than where my home crowd is, to play. We played there every year when I was at Minnesota. It was always a great game. A great venue. The fans are loyal and noisy and loud, and get after you, and it makes it that much more fun if you can figure out a way to win the game. There's something about ... you know you're in the NFL when you walk out there on that field. There's something special about it."
SERIES HISTORY: 87th regular-season meeting. Rams lead, 44-40-2. The Rams' last victory over the Packers in Green Bay was in 1995, the opening day of the team's first game in St. Louis. Since '95, the Packers have won three of the five regular-season games. Two years ago, the Packers beat the Rams in Green Bay, 45-17.
--Although the Packers released CB Ahmad Carroll, making it a question who will be the team's nickel back, Rams QB Marc Bulger expressed respect for starting corners Charles Woodson and Al Harris. "I think the whole defense is pretty basic," Bulger said. "They give you different looks; everyone in the NFL does, but it's not like Gregg Williams (of the Redskins) or anything. We're going to know what they're doing. With the corners they have, they have the luxury of doing that because they can shut down a game at times."
--After the Rams' win over Detroit, it was mentioned to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett that his record is now 5-3 against offenses run by Mike Martz. However, Haslett refused to take credit for last season, when his Saints defeated the Rams with Martz not coaching because of a heart ailment. "He didn't coach there last year, so I don't count that one," Haslett said.
He then claimed beating Martz wasn't any more significant than winning against someone else.
"I enjoy beating anybody," Haslett said. "A win is a win. The one thing you have to say about Mike is that he has always put good offenses out on the field. They got a lot yardage yesterday. But, the bottom line is who wins the game. We won the game. We got the turnovers. That's kind of like the past history playing him when he was here as the head coach in St. Louis. They'd racked up a lot of yards on us, but we'd get seven or eight turnovers and win the game."
--Coach Scott Linehan says he didn't think much about the fact the Rams are 3-1 and tied for first place in the NFC West. "It's not our nature to talk about where we're at," he said. "Like I said, you've got to acknowledge the fact that we're achieving some things as far as where we want to be and that, but once you get there, you've really got to treat the game ... I know it sounds like an old cliche, but you've got to treat the game individually for what it is. Teams that get ahead of themselves usually pay for it. I think it'd be a big mistake if you took into account what your record is or the circumstance of that game, because every week you throw the records out in the NFL.
"I've been in a position where we haven't had as good of a record, and played good against a team that had a better record, and I've been on a team that had a real good record, should have won the game, and the team that we were playing snuck up on us. I don't know if it's that I'm superstitious, or whatever it is, but I just think it would be inappropriate to be harping on where you're at right now. You've just got to focus in on the game at hand."
Asked if he's even a little excited, Linehan responded, "No. In fact my family tends to think that I'm doing it on purpose, but I don't know. You try to downplay when you win a game ... it's better than the alternative. You've got to try to keep a pretty level head about where you're at. If you drop one, I think you've got to be the same way. If you don't do that, then you're just going to ride a wave that you can't get yourself out of. I think that's the most important thing."
--LB Pisa Tinoisamoa continues to play with a dislocated elbow, not unlike the 2004 season when he played virtually all season with a shoulder that would pop in and out. Asked if Tinoisamoa's positive approach serves as an example for other players, coach Scott Linehan said, "You can't bottle that up. If you could, I would like to have more of that. That's a great example of a guy leading by example. He's not trying to impress anybody, it's just how he thinks, how he plays. It's inspiring to me. I'd be surprised if that isn't the case for the players and other coaches. I know we've talked about it as coaches. It's a pretty big-time thing for a guy to be able to do because it just shows you ... the guy's playing with a pretty significant injury that you can play the game of football with, but if you weren't tough as nails, I'm not sure a lot of other guys would do it."
BY THE NUMBERS: Plus-10 - The Rams' turnover ratio after four games. That has been accomplished with 13 takeaways and only three turnovers. In 2005, the Rams were minus-10 for the season, and they were minus-24 in 2004.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You wouldn't be a football fan or an NFL fan if you didn't think about all that. Once you start playing, it's another state, another game. You do have fun with the tradition. I'm real big on the tradition of the league, and where you play and those kinds of things." - Rams coach Scott Linehan when asked if hears the voice of John Facenda of NFL Films in his head talking about the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field before playing there.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LB Isaiah Kacyvenski is expected to contribute immediately on special teams after being signed Tuesday. Kacyvenski was Seattle's special teams captain until being released last Saturday. To make room on the roster, the rams released S Dwaine Carpenter.
--FB Paul Smith will not play Sunday against Green Bay after suffering a concussion as well as fracturing some small bones near his eye against Detroit. Smith probably won't return until after the Rams' Oct. 22 bye.
--LT Orlando Pace practiced on a limited basis Wednesday after missing Sunday's game against Detroit because of a concussion suffered Sept. 17 against San Francisco. Pace played the following week against Arizona, but did not feel well afterward. He is questionable for Sunday's game against Green Bay and will be evaluated day-to-day.
--CB Fakhir Brown was limited in practice Wednesday because of tenderness in his ankle, but is probable for Sunday's game against the Packers.
--LB Isaiah Kacyvenski, who signed Tuesday after being released by Seattle on Saturday, practiced with the Rams for the first time Wednesday. He is expected to be active Sunday against Green Bay, and participate on most of the special teams units with FB Paul Smith out because of an eye injury.
--TE Dominique Byrd, who has yet to be active for a game this season, is improving and is getting closer to being active for a game. With FB Paul Smith sidelined by an eye injury, Byrd could play some H-back to make up for Smith's absence.
GAME PLAN: Get a lead and take the crowd out of the game. Offensively, the Rams will once again try and get the ball in RB Steven Jackson's hands at least 20 times running along with other touches receiving. After four games, Jackson leads the league with 531 yards from scrimmage. The passing game has been improving on a weekly basis, and is more effective when the run is utilized.
Defensively, as long as the Rams limit the big play, they can control Brett Favre and the Packers.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, who are both on Pace to catch passes for more than 1,200 yards, vs. Packers CBs Charles Woodson and Al Harris, who are as solid a cover duo in the league.
Rams DT La'Roi Glover, one of the most consistent inside defenders in the game, vs. Packers RG Jason Spitz, a rookie who is getting his baptism under fire in the NFL.
INJURY IMPACT: LT Orlando Pace has a better chance of playing this week than he did last week, but a lot will depend on what happens in practice Thursday and Friday. If Pace can't play, Todd Steussie will again be the left tackle with Adam Goldberg playing left guard.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
While it is a big week for professional football fans in the San Francisco-Oakland area, the 49ers don't appear likely to get wrapped up in the provincial rivalry. Both teams have plenty of problems, heading into Sunday's game. The 49ers are coming off a 41-0 shellacking at the Chiefs. They see their hopes of contending for a playoff spot starting to evaporate. So bragging rights or anything else that could come from a good showing against the Raiders have been pushed aside, as the 49ers try to take care of their own business.
"Maybe if we were 4-0, I'd say it would be that way, but the fact we're in the situation we are, it's more about us at this point," 49ers linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. "We got to turn the ship around. It's less about a rivalry and this and that, and more about getting our ship right."
The 49ers (1-3) are not in a position to take any of their opponents lightly, including the Raiders (0-3). The 49ers have actually been established as a 31/2-point favorite for the game. "We just played a Kansas City team that was 0-2 and they came out and wanted that win," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "Here's another team that's winless and I'm sure they'll be hungry for that first one as well. We need to anticipate getting in a dogfight every week. There are not going to be easy wins. We need to expect battles."
The 49ers went back to practice this week with a lot to learn about themselves. Smith, a second-year pro, is gaining some valuable experience during his first season as the full-time starter. "I'm learning as I go through these things," he said. "I think this team has continued to come together. I can see it. It's apparent this team wants to be good. It has that drive and motivation. Right now it's a matter of understanding how to get there. I think we're learning that. The potential is there for this team to be good; the pieces are in place to be successful. Now it's a matter of how to go about things and prepare."
Receiver Antonio Bryant said he has been on teams when he heard players in the locker room counting down the games until the end of the regular season. He said he believes he sees a commitment among his teammates to turn things around. The 49ers have lost the past two weeks to the Eagles and Chiefs, getting outscored 48-3 in the first half of those games. This week, coach Mike Nolan enacted a new policy in order to have his players take control of the team. Instead of selecting a different set of team captains for every game, Nolan had the team vote on captains for the entire season. Quarterback Alex Smith, left tackle Jonas Jennings, defensive lineman Bryant Young, cornerback Walt Harris and special-teamer Keith Lewis were voted by their teammates to represent the club at midfield for the coin toss prior to games.
The fact that Smith was the leading vote-getter on the team, according to Nolan, can only be seen as a positive sign for the direction the 49ers are going. "Alex being a second-year player, it says a lot about what the players expect from him," Nolan said. "It says more about what they think of him."
SERIES HISTORY: 11th meeting. The Raiders lead the series 6-4, although the 49ers have outscored them 227-187 in the series. The 49ers won the last regular-season meeting between the clubs, 23-20, in 2002 in Oakland.
--Coach Mike Nolan disputed an Internet report that defensive coordinator Billy Davis is likely to get fired at the end of the season, if not during the season. He said he is happy with the job Davis is doing.
Nolan, a former defensive coordinator, is a hands-on coach when it comes to his defense. He said he has veto power when it comes to which defense the club is running on a down-to-down basis. He often gives Davis suggestions on what to call during a game.
"Everybody has to share blame," Nolan said. "I know there are calls when I said, 'This is what I want to do, do this and this and this.'" He added, "I've been involved since I've taken this job in the defense quite a bit. I think it would be unfair, unjust and incorrect to point out somebody." Said Davis, "We couldn't be on the same page more than we are right now. We talk about everything openly. We plan things, talk about our players, and how we can get them better."
--Right tackle Kwame Harris, the 49ers' No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft, has had a difficult time winning over the fans. Harris is a good run-blocker but he has struggled in pass protection. He is often the subject of intense fan reaction when he gets called for penalties. He had a rough first half against Chiefs rookie defensive end Tamba Hali. "To be honest, I really don't think about it," Harris said. "I love our fans, but if I were to pin my moods or state of mind on their moods, then I'd be on a lot of medication."
--Respect is something that is earned in the NFL, and the 49ers have a long way to go in that regard. Never was that more apparent than in the team's 38-24 loss to the Eagles on Sept. 24. Coach Mike Nolan was told by NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira that the game officials made mistakes on at least three calls, resulting in 207 second-half yards, including a touchdown.
When asked what he heard from the league about the calls, Nolan asked the team's public-relations director what he could say. He was told he wasn't allowed to speak about the conversation with Pereira.
"We make mistakes on our own, as well. It's not somebody else's fault that we lost. That's our fault," Nolan said. But a source said the league admitted the incorrect calls were made on at least three critical plays, including Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson's 98-yard touchdown return in the third quarter. Patterson should have been ruled down by contact after his recovery at the Eagles' 2-yard line.
Also, a 60-yard pass to Eagles tight end Matt Schobel should not have counted because of an illegal pick that allowed Schobel to get open. That play led to a touchdown. And 49ers receiver Antonio Bryant's 49-yard reception to the Eagles' 8-yard line was nullified when running back Michael Robinson was called for an illegal chop block. However, the league determined that Robinson did not commit an illegal block after all.
--The 49ers' most outspoken and emotional player has put a muzzle on himself because he said he does not want to be the focus of negative attention. "I may say one thing for a particular reason but I have to take into account that other people might not take it that way," WR Antonio Bryant said. "So I don't have anything to say. The only thing I'm going to do is play football." When asked if this might take away from the emotion that makes him such a good player, Young said he will still play with the same fire.
"It's not about being emotional," Bryant said. "Like I told coach, you don't have to worry about me being motivated. I'm not one of the people you have to motivate. I'm one of the people you have to calm down. As we go through the week, I'm not working on getting motivated. I'm working on calming down. I'll already be excited. I was born excited." Bryant promised no more emotional outbursts during games. He was accused of "showing up" quarterback Alex Smith with some of his body language in the 49ers' first two games of the season. In the 49ers' 41-0 loss to the Chiefs, Bryant was a model citizen.
"There were plenty of opportunities for me to go crazy and go off. But it wouldn't change the outcome," Bryant said. "Definitely, if I would've said something or reacted in a certain way people would try to blow that up and the attention wouldn't have been on us getting our (rear ends) kicked 41-0. The attention would've been on Antonio Bryant showing Alex up or Antonio is doing this or that. That's what would've been the headline and the stories."
--Thirteen-year veteran Bryant Young is still the 49ers' best defensive lineman. Young is playing the final season of a five-year, $25 million contract, and the club would love to bring him back next season. However, the 49ers do not plan to negotiate during the season with Young. "That's something that's going to be on his terms," Nolan said. "Believe me, I think the world of B.Y. I think whatever he does is going to be on his terms."
BY THE NUMBERS: 31 -- Number of passing yards improvement quarterback Alex Smith has made from all of last season, coming on 32 fewer passing attempts with 20 fewer sacks than a year ago.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Yeah, but it's always a disappointment when it happens. Because you hit plateaus and valleys and you like to climb again. But each week you're hoping it's the next week. But you do expect that from young team that's maturing and growing. But you need more consistency than what we've given the last two weeks." -- 49ers coach Mike Nolan on the expected rough spots and bad games from a young team.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The 49ers recently extended the contracts of cornerback Shawntae Spencer and offensive lineman Adam Snyder, and they have talked to at least four other players about extending their contracts, too.
The team engaged in preliminary talks about signing guard Justin Smiley, safety Mike Adams, and running backs Frank Gore and Maurice Hicks to long-term deals. There does not appear to be any progress toward new deals with the players.
Smiley said coach Mike Nolan approached him after Snyder's deal surfaced to inform him that he fits into the team's plans. "It makes you feel good because I want to be here and be part of this team," said Smiley, who is signed through 2007. "I want to continue to play the way I've been playing and stay consistent. I've played really well so far this year and if I continue to do that, it's only going to help." Smiley said the 49ers have spoken to his agent but no contract proposals were exchanged. However, one source said the 49ers made a "low ball" offer to lock up Smiley to a long-term contract.
Adams and Hicks have both rejected the 49ers' proposals that were characterized as "good backup money." Both Adams and Hicks are scheduled to be restricted free agents at the end of the season.
Although the 49ers want to keep Gore around for a long time, both sides agreed to hold off on any long-term deal because of questions concerning his durability and how that might affect the contract.
--LB Derek Smith had a very active day for the 49ers against the Chiefs with a game-high 15 tackles. Smith was a key figure in containing Chiefs running back Larry Johnson, who gained 101 yards on 30 carries.
--LG Larry Allen has a chance to return to the lineup Sunday against the Raiders. Allen returned to practice for the first time since sustaining a knee sprain on the sixth play of the season opener at the Cardinals. He is still listed as doubtful for the Raiders game.
--DE Marques Douglas had his best game against the run since joining the 49ers. Douglas recorded eight sacks. Although the 49ers got beaten badly by the Chiefs, they managed to do a good job on RB Larry Johnson.
--TE Delanie Walker, a rookie, was active for the first time last week but did not get into the game. Coach Mike Nolan said Walker is likely to see action this week on special teams, and could get into around six plays on offense. Walker was out several weeks after sustaining a shoulder separation in the 49ers' final exhibition game.
--SS Mark Roman made a bid for more playing time with a strong showing against the Chiefs. He had five tackles, including a stop for a loss against RB Larry Johnson. He also broke up a pass for TE Tony Gonzalez in the end zone. Roman has split time with starter Tony Parrish in each of the first four games.
GAME PLAN: The 49ers must do a better job of starting the game. They've been outscored 45-10 in the first quarter of their four games this season, and 82-20 in the first half. The 49ers need to do a better job of executing, offensively and defensively, in the first half. Quarterback Alex Smith has to hit on some high-percentage passes early in the game. They would be wise to get the ball in the hands of Antonio Bryant early in the game, something they've been unable to do consistently this season. Bryant has 310 receiving yards in the first four games. Running back Frank Gore is a big key for the 49ers. He has rushed for 331 yards and has another 129 yards receiving. But Gore has to do a better job of taking care of the football. He has four fumbles in four games. In order for Smith to have time to throw, the 49ers will probably have to use a fullback, Moran Norris or Chris Hetherington, to help out Kwame Harris on Raiders DE Derrick Burgess, who led the NFL with 16 sacks last season.
Defensively, the 49ers must do a better job of using their scheme to get pressure on Raiders quarterback Andrew Walter. The 49ers have surrendered at average of 226.0 yards passing game. While the secondary has come under some scrutiny, the team's spotty pass rush is perhaps more responsible for the big day passing that Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard has last week in the 41-0 victory over the 49ers. The 49ers have been performed well against the run on first and second downs. "In the passing game, we're still a little short-handed," coach Mike Nolan said. "It's not necessarily on the back end. Sometimes it's up front from a pressure standpoint. There's no magic wand."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: 49ers CB Walt Harris and Shawntae Spencer, who have been less the problem for the team's pass-defense deficiencies than the toothless pass rush, vs. Raiders WR Randy Moss and Alvis Whitted, who have had little impact in the passing game mostly because of the team's unstable situation at quarterback.
--DE Bryant Young, who is still the 49ers' best defensive lineman, vs. RT Langston Walker, whose inconsistent play is one of the reasons the offense has been unable to generate anything.
--RT Kwame Harris, who was handled easy by Chiefs rookie DE Tamba Hali last week, vs. DE Derrick Burgess, who has two sacks and figures to see a lot of double-team blocks.
--LB Derek Smith, who had 15 tackles in a strong performance against the Chiefs, vs. RB LaMont Jordan, who has been unable to get going with just 183 rushing yards and 13 receiving yards in two games.
INJURY IMPACT: LG Larry Allen (left knee) sustained a sprain of his medial collateral ligament on the opening drive of the 49ers' first game of the season. He returns to practice this week but is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Raiders.
--TE Vernon Davis (right fibula) is expected to miss at least another three weeks with the hairline fracture he sustained during their 49ers' game Sept. 24 against the Eagles.
--WR Taylor Jacobs (hamstring) is questionable because of a strain he sustained Sept. 17. He went through practices last week but was not active for the game against the Chiefs.