NFC West News & Notes - 10/24/05

NFC West News & Notes - 10/24/05

The Rams and Cardinals may have taken away victories on Sunday, but both teams lag behind the red-hot Seahawks. Meanwhile, the 49ers slip further down the ladder in today's NFC West News & Notes.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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The Seahawks are banged up heading into their bye week, but the injuries hurt a little less after an improbable 13-10 victory over Dallas during a hard-fought game Sunday. There was a feeling in the locker room that Seattle had finally gotten over the hump by beating a good team without playing particularly well, especially on offense. The Seahawks put together an 81-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes to tie the game. The defense then picked off Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the final seconds to set up the winning 50-yard field goal.

"I have been here three years and I don't really remember anything like this in the past," kicker Josh Brown said. "This was special."

The victory left Seattle with a 5-2 record heading into the bye. Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco are waiting on the other side of the bye. Seattle will be favored to win all three of those games, and the Seahawks have already proven they can prevail in games they're supposed to win.

Coach Mike Holmgren planned to give his players some free time this week. The expectation is that they will stay out of trouble and avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations. Free safety Ken Hamlin is recovering from skull, brain and hand injuries after an altercation in a notorious Seattle nightclub following a 42-10 victory over Houston last week.

"I am going to ask them to be very responsible this week because I am going to give them some time off," Holmgren said. "There is a trust factor that is going to be in play this week.

"We have to be every bit as motivated and every bit as intense and every bit as sound in the second half of the season. ... We're in good position now. We have a lot of games left to play."

REPLAY

Josh Brown made the winning 50-yard field goal as time expired to give the Seahawks a 13-10 victory over the Cowboys at Qwest Field.

The ending was most improbable because Dallas dominated for much of the game. But Seattle tied the game with an 81-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes, and cornerback Jordan Babineaux set up the winning field goal with a 25-yard interception return in the final 10 seconds.

Shaun Alexander became the franchise's all-time rushing leader, but he averaged only 2.9 yards a carry as Dallas put eight and nine defenders in the box all day. The strategy threw off Seattle because the Cowboys also mounted an effective pass rush for most of the game. But Dallas has struggled late in games this season, and Seattle was able to capitalize.

PLAYER NOTES

--DE Grant Wistrom got more and more pressure as the Dallas game progressed. His third-down sack with the Seattle defense backed against its own goal line proved pivotal in the second half.

--QB Matt Hasselbeck played an undisciplined game Sunday, and it nearly cost the Seahawks a chance at winning. But with the game on the line, he completed 22-yard passes to TE Jerramy Stevens and WR Jerheme Urban in leading the 81-yard tying TD drive in the final two minutes. Hasselbeck's 1-yard TD pass to TE Ryan Hannam came off a play-action fake that worked beautifully.

--WR Jerheme Urban caught a 22-yard pass late in the game to help Seattle put together the tying drive in the final two minutes. Urban had been released after the opener, but Seattle brought him back after losing its starting receivers to injury.

--K Josh Brown atoned for his 47-yard miss at Washington by drilling the game-winning 50-yarder to beat Dallas as time expired Sunday. Brown also made a 55-yarder in the first half, a record for Qwest Field.

--RB Shaun Alexander became the all-time leading rusher in Seahawks history Sunday with 61 hard-fought yards. Alexander's presence was felt in the red zone late in the game, too. With the Cowboys expecting Alexander to get the ball on second-and-1, Seattle went with a play-action pass that found TE Ryan Hannam for the touchdown. Alexander entered the game with a league-high 12 rushing TDs, so Dallas had to respect him in the red zone even though he averaged only 2.9 yards on the day.


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ARIZONA CARDINALS
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Finding a cure for the woeful running game was probably too much to expect in the team's off week. But the Cardinals couldn't even find a way to improve it marginally. The offense's strength is the passing game, but there has to be at least the threat of the run, and the Cardinals don't have it. They have yet to score a rushing touchdown, and they're averaging only about 3 yards a carry.

That creates problems in the red zone, and in controlling the clock when they have a lead late in games. Last week against Tennessee, the team gained just 55 yards on 22 carries. Starting running back Marcel Shipp had 8 yards on 14 attempts.

"The defense that (the Titans) played was overpowering up front," Arizona coach Dennis Green said.

The problem is, the same goes for this week's opponent, Dallas. The running game apparently isn't going to improve, so the club will continue to rely on the pass. That requires a bit of a gunslinger mentality by the quarterback.

"I had a shirt when I was little because I played so much basketball that said: 'When you're off, shoot until you're on,'" quarterback Josh McCown said.

REPLAY

The running game was horrible, and the passing game was spotty. But the Cardinals defense dominated the Titans in a 20-10 victory. Cornerback David Macklin returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and the defense forced another turnover that resulted in a field goal. Linebacker Karlos Dansby set up a touchdown with a sack and fumble recovery against the Titans, who were missing quarterback Steve McNair and their No. 1 receiver, Drew Bennett.

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Anquan Boldin did not have a reception in a game for the first time in his career. That's a span of 32 games. In each of his previous two games, Boldin had amassed more than 100 yards receiving. "How many plays did we have where the ball just wasn't there?" coach Dennis Green asked. "He caught two out of bounds. It was a defensive game."

--K Neil Rackers has made all 20 of his field-goal attempts this season, extending his team record. The Cardinals, however, can't be pleased with where Rackers kicked his two field goals against Tennessee: from 24 and 33 yards. That indicates a problem scoring touchdowns in the red zone.

--QB Josh McCown has a bruised left hand and a sprained left ankle, but he stayed in the game against Tennessee. McCown is expected to start against Dallas, although coach Dennis Green isn't making a commitment yet.
"When it's time to address it, believe me, I'll address it," Green said.

--OT Oliver Ross could return after missing the last three games with a broken right hand. Ross had surgery to insert pins. Fred Wakefield, who started in his place, did reasonably well considering he moved from the defensive line in the offseason.


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ST. LOUIS RAMS
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The Rams have just one goal in mind as they point toward Sunday's home game against Jacksonville: win to get to .500 and then take a well-deserved week off.
A 28-17 victory over the Saints pushed the team's record to 3-4 and gave interim coach Joe Vitt the first win of his career. They did it on a day where the team was playing without quarterback Marc Bulger, wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce and defensive end Leonard Little.

"We called it our Pro Bowl-less week," free safety Mike Furrey said. "A lot of people needed to step up and take advantage of their opportunity, and they did."
As for Vitt, who received a game ball from the team after the game, Furrey said, "He deserves it. He's had us prepared. He had us prepared last week. He had us prepared this week. He has earned all the respect of the players. Everybody is confident when we go into games, and he's doing an outstanding job. He deserves this win and the game ball."

Asked what he thought about his first win, Vitt said: "I'm thinking about Jacksonville right now. We have one more game until the bye. We've got to get to .500."
Asked if he can even savor the win for 10 minutes, Vitt said, "I can't afford to."

The Jaguars are coming off their bye, and they have shown themselves to be very tough defensively. The Rams will have to be better against Jacksonville than they were against New Orleans. There is a chance that Bulger, who injured his shoulder the previous week against the Colts, will be able to play. It is also hoped that Holt, and maybe Bruce, will be available.

Holt injured his knee Oct. 9 against Seattle, and he played the next Monday against Indianapolis. "When I first started out, it felt good," he said of the game against the Colts. "Then as the game went on, the soreness started to kick in. But I was able to fight through it. I didn't have a whole lot to give late in the fourth quarter."

Throughout last week, Holt was listed as probable on the injury report, but he was downgraded to questionable on Saturday. He told coaches he just wasn't able to play because his knee hadn't responded to treatment.

Bruce has now missed four games because of a toe injury, and he should be back after the bye if he can't play this week. Little left the team Oct. 18 after his brother Jermaine was murdered in Tennessee. The funeral was Saturday, and Little remained with his family while the Rams were playing the Saints.

REPLAY

Running back Steven Jackson scored two touchdowns and rushed for 97 yards as the Rams overcame a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to defeat the Saints 28-17.
A Donte Stallworth fumble led to the Rams' go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, and safety Mike Furrey sealed the victory with a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown. Furrey stole the ball from tight end Ernie Conwell as Conwell was falling backward and appeared to have possession and be down by contact. But Furrey grabbed the ball and ran for the final touchdown.

The play began with 2:10 to go in the game, and because the Saints were out of timeouts, they were unable to challenge the ruling on the field.

PLAYER NOTES

--DT Damione Lewis was ejected with 8:24 to play in the first quarter after punching Saints center LeCharles Bentley in the groin area. Lewis likely will be fined, and he could face further discipline by the NFL.

--WR Torry Holt missed the first game of his career Sunday because of a knee injury. Holt suffered the injury Oct. 9 and played against the Colts Oct. 17, but the knee did not respond to treatment last week.

--LG Claude Terrell suffered a neck injury in the fourth quarter against New Orleans and was seen leaving after the game wearing a brace. He was replaced by Tom Nutten.

--CB Travis Fisher played sparingly after the first quarter against New Orleans because of a groin injury. It's an injury that has bothered Fisher since training camp.

--CB Ron Bartell, the team's second-round pick this year, saw his most extensive action of the season because of a groin injury to Travis Fisher. Bartell played well against New Orleans, and he could begin seeing more playing time.

--DE Leonard Little did not play against New Orleans as he remained with his family in Tennessee after the Oct. 17 murder of his brother Jermaine. It is unknown when Little will return to the team.

--WR Isaac Bruce missed his fourth game because of a toe injury.


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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
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Running back Frank Gore has the kind of attitude that the 49ers coaching staff loves to see during this unsightly run of bad football. Gore, the team's third-round draft pick, has played well as Kevan Barlow's backup. He generally receives about one-third of the playing time but has been productive. Gore scored his first NFL touchdown in the last minutes of the 49ers' blowout loss to the Redskins when he ripped off a 72-yard scoring run.

"It felt good," he said. "It was my first touchdown in the NFL. I hope I showed my coaches that if I am in the game, they can believe in me and that I'm going to keep fighting no matter if we're up or down."

The 49ers have not talked about moving Gore into the starting lineup, but he might earn a little more playing time Sunday when the 49ers face the Buccaneers at Monster Park.

Gore went to the University of Miami with high hopes, but his college career was derailed by serious injuries to both knees. Redskins running back Clinton Portis, Gore's college teammate, said Gore ran Sunday as if he had never had any physical problems.

The 49ers invested a third-round pick in Gore because they started to see the old Gore return to form during his last few games in college. Although the 49ers have had more than their share of problems, coach Mike Nolan said he is happy with Gore and with his top two running backs.

"You'd think he's a 240-pound man sometimes the way he runs it up in there," Nolan said of Gore. "He's a tough nut. They're two entirely different type of runners. Frank hits the hole pretty quick. He doesn't dance much, whereas sometimes Kevan will dance around the hole. He can learn from (Gore)."

REPLAY

The 49ers surrendered their most points in 25 years as they were thoroughly outclassed in a 52-17 loss to the Redskins at FedEx Field. Rookie quarterback Alex Smith struggled again in his second NFL start, completing just eight of 16 passes for 92 yards with one interception and five sacks. He also lost one of his three fumbles.

"I learned a lot of character lessons," Smith said. "This is something that I've never gone through before and something I hope I will never go through again. It's not something I enjoy; not something I like. Hopefully, I can learn from it and we get past this."

PLAYER NOTES

--CB Shawntae Spencer took the blame for a blown coverage in the second quarter that resulted in Santana Moss' 32-yard touchdown catch in the Redskins' blowout victory. Spencer said he failed to check with safety Mike Adams prior to the snap to see that the defense had been changed. He thought Adams would provide deep help, so Spencer stopped running with Moss.

--LB Brandon Moore, starting in place of injured Jeff Ulbrich, recorded a sack and finished with seven tackles.

--QB Ken Dorsey has moved up to the backup role after the 49ers traded Tim Rattay to the Buccaneers for a late-round draft pick. However, the 49ers do not plan to take starter Alex Smith out of the lineup unless he is forced out due to an injury.

--RB Kevan Barlow rushed for 54 yards on 14 carries, including a 17-yard TD run in the first half against the Redskins. Barlow continues to hold onto his role as the team's starter.

--TE Trent Smith got more action in Sunday's game as the 49ers try to find a way to integrate their tight ends into the passing game. Smith caught two passes for 7 yards.

--WR Rasheed Marshall made his debut as a punt returner against Washington due to injuries to Otis Amey and Arnaz Battle. Marshall returned two punts for 12 yards.

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