The St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals were once seen as likely NFC West favorites this season, largely because their quarterback situations appeared to be improving.
The subject came up when I ran across Trent Dilfer at 49ers training camp. He made the point then that Sam Bradford, though apparently headed for a bright future, might be only the second- or third-best quarterback in the division for now. And he said the 49ers could win with Alex Smith because they would not ask too much from him.
Three months later, Smith is executing his duties better than the other quarterbacks in the division. The 49ers do not need him to carry the team.
Keith Goldner of Drive-By Football, writing for Advanced NFL Stats, offers evidence putting Smith in the same category Dilfer inhabited when Dilfer was part of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com has this to say about Smith during his player-by-player review of the 49ers' offense against Arizona: "While Smith was not always on target with his throws, his receivers got their hands on seven of his first eight incomplete throws. ... Missed wide-open receiver Michael Crabtree in second quarter for what would've been a 16-yard touchdown in second quarter. ... He got away from pressure on first play of fourth quarter but threw his second career interception in the red zone as linebacker Daryl Washington picked him off."
Also from Maiocco: player-by-player review for the defense. On Patrick Willis: "Started at middle linebacker and recorded a team-high seven tackles. He also had an interception, three passes defensed and one forced fumble. ... His forced fumble of Beanie Wells was initially ruled down by contact, but Willis urged coach Jim Harbaugh to throw the challenge flag. ... Called for unnecessary roughness on a fourth-down play when he hit Bartel as he was sliding."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is quite familiar with the Ravens' defense, given that he helped coach it in Baltimore several years back.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team is very happy with Leroy Hill's contributions at linebacker. Coach Pete Carroll: "He's one of the toughest guys on the team and if you’re going to pick one guy to go fight for you, a lot of guys would pick him. It was attractive when you talk about linebackers."
Also from Farnsworth: The Seahawks' last two opponents made little effort to run the ball.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Carroll defended Kam Chancellor's recent hits drawing penalties.
Also from O'Neil: a look at where the Seahawks stand after nearly two seasons under Carroll.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks currently stand 12th in the draft order for 2012. He discusses options with analyst Rob Rang.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic profiles Cardinals quarterback Rich Bartel. Somers: "It's fitting that the ball Cardinals quarterback Rich Bartel threw for his first NFL touchdown pass took a circuitous route to Sunday's game in San Francisco. A 'K Ball,' for use by kickers only, somehow was included in the Cardinals' ball bag and found its way into the game in the fourth quarter. A few seconds after receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught the deflected ball for a 23-yard touchdown, he handed it to Bartel, who had waited almost five seasons to get it."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team placed nose tackle Dan Williams on injured reserve, filling his roster spot by signing Ronald Talley from the practice squad. Urban: "The Cardinals actually made multiple moves on the practice squad. Filling Talley’s spot, the Cards brought back nose tackle Ricky Lumpkin. The Cardinals also released tight end Steve Skelton from the practice squad and replaced him with linebacker Brandon Williams, who was drafted by Dallas in 2009 before tearing his ACL in preseason of that year."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says protecting Sam Bradford should be the Rams' top priority. Miklasz: "Having Bradford rocked and slammed to the ground would be OK if the Rams actually had something to show for his bruises. Kurt Warner took more hits than any QB during the 'Greatest Show' glory days, but the trade-off resulted in one of the greatest performances in NFL history. ... Sam and the Rams are getting nothing in return for this steady QB abuse. They're last in the NFL in points per game (12), they're last in touchdowns from scrimmage (10), they have the league's worst third-down conversion rate (29.9 pct.) they rank 30th of 32 teams in yards per passing attempt (5.81), they are 27th in average yards at the point of the catch (5.5) and are tied with Jacksonville for the fewest number of TD passes (6)."
D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis has this to say about the Rams: "Large investments in the offensive line haven't paid off and now are going to be reshuffled again due to injuries. The cornerback position is a mess. Franchise quarterback Sam Bradford is taking a beating to the point where you hope it doesn't ruin his future. If someone asked me to identify the Rams offense, I don't think I could. I'm not positive the skill players tell me enough information so I can make that type of determination. The team is last in the league in scoring, and there are a few names inherently attached to that. But there's still six weeks left. Six weeks to prove that this team is close to breaking through." Noted: Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wasn't seeking "identity" in the traditional sense on offense. He wanted to mix up game plans from week to week and play to play, based on what gave the Rams their best chance. When I think of identity for this offense, I'm wondering what it does well. So far, the team has occasionally gotten the ground game going with inside handoffs from shotgun formations. Not much to go on.
Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams put another cornerback, Marquis Johnson, on injured reserve.