The Week 5 NFC West Brief

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 2: Wide receiver Josh Morgan #84 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates his touchdown with teammate Michael Crabtree #15 after scoring in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL football game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 24-23. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

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The 49ers are in front and as of now are the overwhelming favorites to win the division. They've scored the most points, given up the least, are 2-0 on the road, 1-0 in the division, and have a legitimate defense. Their offense is coming around as well.

The Seahawks have waffled between being the worst team in the NFL to being a middling NFL team, but still have been outscored 97-58. At least they've won a division game?

The Cardinals have blown a couple of games already but are probably the 2nd favorite team to rebound and contend for the division. They've lost three in a row since winning their opening game. 

The Rams appear to be a mess and the fan base may be turning on them. Furthermore, it's looking like Steve Spagnolo is in the hot seat. Who'd athukit? They've been outscored by 67 points this year. Yeesh. 

Here's what the people that know these teams the best are saying about them:

Rams:

Recap: Bradford Brutalized 7 Times As Rams Drop To 0-4 - Turf Show Times
The St. Louis Rams made a pretty strong case today as the worst team in the league. Desperate for win, the Rams started lifeless and ended flat. Sam Bradford was sacked seven times, the team drew ten flags and dropped more than five balls.  A handful of fans who braved the Ed Jones Dome for the game showered the home team with boos and sarcastic claps. The week ahead will be a stormy for the Rams coaching staff and front office.  The custom for these recaps has been to diagnose the trouble areas, but there isn't any point in that today. The Rams failed collectively. The offense, defense, special teams and each unit within those all fell well short of expectations. If head coach Steve Spagnuolo was not on the hot seat prior to this game, he ought to be now.

Will The St. Louis Rams Fire Steve Spagnuolo? - Turf Show Times
The St. Louis Rams are averaging a meager 11.5 points per game. Their defense, supposedly ready for a big leap in its third year under head coach Steve Spagnuolo and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole, is allowing more than 28 points per game. Both numbers represent the second-worst averages in the NFL. Winless through four games, it was never supposed to get this bad for the St. Louis Rams. T

hey were supposed to walk away with the NFC West title, but that's little more than a pipe dream at this point.  What caused the mess? You can find any number of culprits, from dropped passes and woeful protection to a lack of pressure and poor coverage. While any one of those things have proven to be costly, it's the totality of them that has observers concerned. The Rams have picked up right where they left off last season when they came out flat and were exposed in a prime time battle for the division crown against the Seahawks in week 17 last year. 

Danny Amendola Injury: Surgery Likely - Turf Show Times
As if things could get any worse for the St. Louis Rams, now it looks like they could be without their top receiver for a long time, possibly the entire season. Danny Amendola re-injured his elbow in practice last week, the triceps muscle that connects to the elbow he dislocated. According to reports today, it sounds like Amendola is headed for the operating table. 

Rams vs. Redskins: Silver Lining - Turf Show Times
What a game, huh? Post game, Spags said he doesn't believe in moral victories. I don't necessarily agree with that, but there won't be a moral victory from this game. Right now the Rams stink. It wasn't hard to envision an 0-4 record before the season started, but no one expected the Rams to lose the way they have been this season. Once projected as NFC West champions, the Rams are now the walking mat for the league. The Rams will have to pick themselves up if they are going to beat the Packers coming out of their bye week. Hopefully, the Rams can show that they are closer to the 2010 Rams than the 2009 version when we watch them play again. Anyway, let's see if we can find some sort of positives from this game.

A House of Cards in a Windy Room - A Look at the Rams: Part 1 - Turf Show Times
Are the St. Louis Rams really as bad as their record portends? An 0-4 record to finish out the first quarter of the 2011 NFL season doesn't exactly suggest a Super Bowl appearance will be in the Rams future any time soon. So what has happened to this team? Virtually every "know it all" in the football biz considered the Rams to be on the cusp of being a contender for at least the NFC West championship. Somehow, those preseason predictions have faded, and are now replaced with thoughts of dark days past for a NFL franchise that has seen it share of woes when it comes to the win column.  

Blame sharks are rising from their hiding places in the deep sea of chance. Fingers point alternately, in growing numbers, to each of the four winds of NFL football: The owner, the front office, the coach and players. Who can blame Rams fans for wanting to know why their team is failing so miserably thus far. They bought into the hype, drank the Kool-Aid, checked "yes" box to hear about exciting new offers from a website's "select group" of partners, however you want to say it. The fans believed what was written or spoken. That we ( I count myself a fan) mixed in our own hyperbole is neither here nor there. We have a God given right to believe the players on our team can jump a bit higher, run a bit faster, catch a pass better (gulp!), than other teams do or can. So what happened to shake the ground beneath the feet of Rams fans and send them into the proverbial streets screaming for blood?  I have absolutely no idea...

Questions For Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo's Monday Presser - Turf Show Times
This afternoon St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo will give his usual day after press conference. He'll also give his usual answers. Typically, these things last about 20 minutes. After offering up the injury report and the usual bit about the disappointment and needing to focus on the week ahead, Spagnuolo will take a few softball questions before heading back to his office.  I have a few questions that I'd like to hear some answers for, or at least some excuses and at the very worst, talking points. Expectations were high for this Rams team, and they're playing worse than they did last year. That demands answers. 

49ers:

49ers vs. Eagles: Road Warriors! - Niners Nation
Apologies for my absence most of the day. I was away from my computer all day but fortunately I was able to listen to the radio broadcast of the game via NFL Mobile on my cell phone. It was a bit in and out but thankfully it all worked out in the end as the 49ers pulled off arguably the biggest win for the franchise since the 2003 playoff victory over the Giants (2002 season/2003 playoffs, I always mix that up). I'm actually going to go back and re-watch the game thanks to the power of my DVR. It was far from a pretty victory as the team had to battle back from a tough deficit, but at the end of the day, a win is a win is a win. And when you can do it on the road it is all the better.

The team has plenty to work on in the coming week before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town, but for now they are building a cushion as they work to improve in all facets of the game. I won't even pretend this team is the best team in the NFL. Both teams left a ton of points on the board, but the Eagles in particular blew a game they probably should have won. That's not to take away from the 49ers effort, because coming back from a 23-3 deficit deserves all sorts of praise. Throw in the fact that it was the first back-to-back road wins since 2006 and the first back-to-back east coast time zone wins since 2001 and there is plenty to be excited about. Head after the jump to check out some notable numbers from the game.

49ers Stun Philadelphia Eagles: What This Victory Means - Niners Nation
I listened to most of yesterday's game via the radio broadcast through my phone, but made sure to go back and watch the DVR'd version of the game last night. It took some time to calm down a bit from what I would argue was the 49ers biggest win since they beat the New York Giants in the 2003 wildcard playoffs. I'm not equating yesterday's win with a playoff win, but given how the subsequent eight years have gone, can you honestly say there has been a bigger win than yesterday? The 49ers have plenty to improve upon as they move forward if they want to be a competitive team beyond just in the NFC West.

However, in spite of their flaws, the San Francisco 49ers have put themselves in a position they have not been in for some time. Given how atrocious the NFC West is, back-to-back road non-division wins really are like gold. The 49ers may not be the best team in the NFL, but as we'll likely see with Football Outsiders playoff odds, those numbers will be going up even further. I am NOT predicting a playoff appearance with this post. I'm not even predicting further wins with this post. The Boston Red Sox were something like a 99% chance of making the playoffs at the beginning of September, and now they're golfing and probably not watching a whole lot of postseason baseball. The 49ers are not in a position to get complacent.

Justin Smith: Every Day He's Hustlin' - Niners Nation
While you could argue that a variety of plays were pivotal in the 49ers 24-23 victory over the Eagles, in my estimation the play of the game was the game-saving play by Justin Smith. The 49ers had just taken their 24-23 lead and the Eagles had the ball back with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. In four plays the Eagles moved from their 20 to their 46 and looked poised to break our hearts with a last second field goal. On 2nd and 5, Michael Vick connected with Jeremy Maclin on a short little wide receiver screen that opened up a huge lane and looked like it would allow Maclin to get down to the 49ers 31 yard line. Alex Henery had plenty of kicking struggles yesterday, but it would have been a fitting end if he got that last one right. Thankfully, defensive end Justin Smith made one of the more athletic plays I've seen a defensive end make in some time. There are plenty of times we hear a play described as game-saving. While that sometimes is a bit of an exaggeration, the phrase would seem applicable to Smith's play. Head after the jump to check out a few pictures of it in case you missed the game.

Who's Got It Better Than Us? Nobody!: 49ers Overcome Deficit to Defeat Eagles - Niners Nation
The San Francisco 49ers (3-1) are coming off of their most dynamic win that I have seen in years.  The team as a whole fought hard to win a difficult road game against an extremely talented team in the Philadelphia Eagles. This is a win that will be receiving national attention as the Niners showed the doubters what they are capable of. This was a true team victory – almost everyone contributed. 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree had 5 catches on the day, including a stellar 38-yard grab in double coverage between Nnamdi Asomugha and Jerrad Page. Frank Gore bounced back to his old self, chalking up 127 rush yards on 15 attempts and a crucial touchdown in the 4th quarter. I think the tailback rotation head coach Jim Harbaugh worked out between Gore and rookie Kendall Hunter is what really got the offense moving. Another rookie found his groove in week four; Aldon Smith had 1.5 sacks against the Eagles and was a disruptive presence the rest of the time. Smith displayed that his talent for pass rushing has indeed translated to the pros, and he can only get better from here on out.

Cardinals: 

Arizona Cardinals choke, lose to New York Giants 31-27 - Revenge of the Birds
The Arizona Cardinals blew another 4th Quarter lead, losing to the New York Giants 31-27 in the 2nd home game of the season. Hit the jump to see the (depressing) stats of a game dominated by RB Chris Beanie Wells, and another close game by the Cards.

Five Negatives From The Arizona Cardinals/New York Giants Week Four Game - Revenge of the Birds
Here I was thinking that I wasn't going to have to write a scathing review about the Cardinals' performance in yesterday's game against the New York Giants... And here I am doing just that. The Cardinals fell to the Giants 31-27 yesterday after failing to secure a ten point lead in the fourth quarter.  Rather than focusing on the crucial referee call (or lack of one) that sealed the fate for Arizona, let's focus on what the team should have done in order to avoid that situation all together. Here are five negatives from the game.

Five Positives from the Arizona Cardinals/New York Giants Week Four Game - Revenge of the Birds
3 loses and 8 points, that so far is the story of our season. Despite how angry, sad, or jaded you feel right now there is some hope for this team. While 1-3 isn't pretty, it could easily be the other way around. The team so far has been beating it's self more so than us getting thoroughly beat like what happened so often last year. We have been in these games and been position to win them. I rather be the Cardiac Cards than the Swagtangable Cards of last year. Obviously pieces are missing, like a pass rush and a line that can play consistently but they improved so far this season. The line did give up four sacks, but it also helped pave the way for a 138 yard, 3 TD performance. The best running performance Cardinal fans have seen in a long time. As Kolb settles down, as our team gels and as our rookies find their niches, there will be rough patches. And like the Sandman of ESPN says, with every loss there is a silver lining...

Cardinals/Giants: Bad Call On Potential Fumble, According To Rules, Isn't Bad Call At All - Revenge of the Birds - I think pretty much everyone thought he Arizona Cardinals were jobbed when Victor Cruz gave up the ball before he was touched in the fourth quarter. The TV analysts thought it was wrong, the fans thought it was a fumble, the replay showed it was a fumble and even Mike Pereira, former head of officiating, though it should have been called a fumble. It was a critical play because the Arizona defense, experiencing a letdown after having the call not go their way, gave up the deciding touchdown as Patrick Peterson was burned deep by Hakeem Nicks and Eli Manning. After the game, the NFL released a statement to clarify the ruling that was on the field and believed to have been a gaffe.

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