Around the NFC West: Rams' offense rises

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, has done a pretty effective job overall. Same goes for quarterbacks coach Dick Curl. Miklasz: "The major flaws are sacks allowed in the red zone (five) and the inability to run it in the RZ. And that's an area where Shurmur must be more creative. Shurmur also has to find more ways to keep the offense moving in the second half. That's been another issue. The Rams rank ninth in the NFL in first-half yards and 15th in first-half points. In the second half, they rank 30th in yards and 31st in points. Shurmur certainly has it in him to implement fresh ideas in the latter stages of games. But the Rams can't stand still in the second half. They can't be predictable. They need to add some second-half flourishes." It's sometimes tough to evaluate how well assistant coaches are performing. I know this: Quarterback Sam Bradford is going to make a lot of coaches look smart.

Also from Miklasz: five key areas for the Rams.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jason Smith's concussion symptoms dissipated quickly.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams rank eighth on run defense after finishing no higher than 20th since 2002. Defensive end James Hall on facing Frank Gore: "When you hit him, you feel him. He's a one-cut guy, and he's downhill. He can hurt you. I've got a lot of respect for the guy playing him over the years."

Also from Thomas: Hall and Chris Long have combined to give the Rams a strong pass rush so far.

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis passes along this quote from Smith regarding Bradford: ""I really have fun with Bradford being our quarterback. He's serious, but he cracks jokes and he knows when to do it. Sometimes everybody gets a little tight, tensed up but he knows when to smile and get us settled down. He's one of those -- it seems like he's been around this thing for a long time. I'm just happy he's on my team. I see why we could never beat OU when he was playing for them because the guy is so poised, so confident. He's a leader. He's standing back there with the ball in his hand directing traffic and leading the offense, which in turn soon one day he'll be leading the team. I'm sure you can ask any older guy, the vets--he doesn't seem like a rookie. He's real, he's just a complete guy."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says players have voted Leon Washington as the Ed Block Courage Award winner for 2010. The award, named for the former longtime trainer of the Baltimore Colts, honors players for their sportsmanship and courage. From edblock.org: "The Ed Block Courage Award recipient symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication. He is also a community role model. With this honor, he enters into an association which contrasts his fierce profession by becoming a major component of the Courage House National Support Network for Kids. He becomes an Ambassador of Courage for victims of abuse, violence and neglect." Washington's return from a career-threatening leg injury would have been remarkable even if the running back had merely become a modest contributor. Washington leads the NFL in kickoff return average.

Also from Farnsworth: The Seahawks are happy to welcome back Brandon Mebane.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the NFC West has not had two teams finish above .500 since 2003.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along Brian McIntyre's defensive personnel notes for the Seahawks through eight games. Aaron Curry has played about 68 percent of the defensive snaps.

Also from Williams: Mebane has made a few changes while recovering from a calf injury. Williams: "Mebane said along with rehabilitating his injury, he changed his diet and is drinking more water as a preventive measure to keep him healthy. And although it has been a struggle having to watch from the sideline, Mebane said he looks forward to getting back on the field on Sunday."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune sizes up the Seahawks halfway through the season. Coach Pete Carroll: "The feeling is we’re getting some guys back we’ve been waiting for. ... It feels better than it has. There’s a good feeling in the [locker room] that guys are coming back. We’re starting off again; it’s really like we’re starting all over again."

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle links to Mebane audio.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Beanie Wells thinks he could play more this week even if he misses practice time. Ken Whisenhunt's record says less practice time means less playing time.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals have already given up more sacks than they allowed last season. Kurt Warner's departure explains some of the difference. Warner could get rid of the ball just in time. Whisenhunt: "Teams are playing us with a lot more eight-in-the-box, bringing pressure. I don't think it's as much our linemen getting beat ... that's the way it's characterized. We've made quite a few mental mistakes with our backs in protection and completely missed guys. There was one guy a couple games ago where we had three sacks that were all on the backs -- poor decisions and missing blocks."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at the Cardinals' knack for scoring on return touchdowns.

Also from Urban: Derek Anderson talks about getting comfortable with the offense. Wells defends himself from criticism.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Bradford and 49ers safety Reggie Smith were college teammates and high school rivals. Bradford admitted that Smith picked him off a couple times in high school.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers coach Mike Singletary was OK with quarterback Troy Smith heading home to Ohio during the team's bye week. Singletary: "Troy Smith was here enough to get what he needed to get. And he's a guy that really works his tail off. He was here last night really late. But that's all of his personal business. But I have no issues with him leaving and going home and taking care of his family and doing the things that he needed to do."

Taylor Price of 49ers.com says the team has allowed only seven sacks in its past five games, with the offensive line generally doing a good job springing Gore.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Alex Smith sounded very doubtful for Sunday when reporters spoke with the 49ers quarterback.

Also from Branch: Reggie Smith will play more as the 49ers try to defend deep passes more effectively.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Alex Smith hasn't won enough games, regardless of whether Smith has good leadership skills.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' quarterback situation this year resembles the Raiders' situation last season. Kawakami: "If Troy Smith plays decently on Sunday -- and by all appearances, he will be the 49ers’ quarterback against St. Louis -- Singletary should get directly to the point: Troy Smith represents more of what Singletary wants in a QB and leader than Alex Smith ever could, so Singletary should just commit to Troy Smith for the rest of the season."

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Troy Smith stands as one of the shorter starting quarterbacks in 49ers history. Brown: "According to the team historian Donn Sinn, no one shorter than Smith has started at quarterback for the 49ers since 1969, when George Mira (5-11) was under center — way under center. There have been only a handful of 6-footers over the years, including Billy Kilmer, Jeff Kemp, Tim Rattay -- and now Troy Smith."

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers need to do a better job of defending against the deep pass.