Around the NFC West: Kevin Kolb's return

Kevin Kolb practiced with the Arizona Cardinals despite his injuries last week, but he did not play Sunday.

That made me wonder whether the team was simply being smart with Kolb or whether other players fighting through their own injuries might wonder what was taking the quarterback so long.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says this appears to be the week Kolb will return from the toe and foot injuries that have prevented him from playing since Oct. 30. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "I think we're certainly a lot more optimistic about him being able to go this week. It's really going to depend on where he is Wednesday ... . But he made enough progress last week that you feel good about him being able to do it this week." Noted: Kolb returns in time for the schedule to get much tougher following a four-game stretch featuring three opponents with losing records. By season's end, I suspect Kolb's detractors will point to backup John Skelton's superior win-loss record without noting how badly Skelton has struggled even while the team went 3-1.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Beanie Wells is showing greater toughness this season.

Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus thought left guard Daryn Colledge stood out as one of the Cardinals' best players Sunday. Agreed.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers thoughts on the Seahawks' home defeat against Washington. O'Neil: "It is possible for two starting wide receivers to catch zero passes. It happened to Seattle. We were all witnesses. It's a little misleading because not only did Sidney Rice leave the game because of a head injury, but he caught a screen that was actually a backward pass and ruled a rush. The fact neither Rice nor Mike Williams caught a pass underscored the reality that Seattle is not pushing the ball downfield. The Seahawks' longest completion against Washington was for 24 yards, and that was the only pass to a wide receiver that gained more than 15 yards. Last week in St. Louis, the Seahawks had only two passes to receivers that gained more than 20 yards and one of those was thrown by Rice."

Also from O'Neil: Tarvaris Jackson could be getting worse thanks to his pectoral injury.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Pete Carroll's teams were highly penalized at the college level, too.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers thoughts on Steve Spagnuolo's job security heading into the final month of the 2011 season. Burwell: "The conversation all over town right now is fueled by an assumption that there's nothing Spagnuolo or anyone else out there can do to save jobs or turn this lost season around into something remotely positive. I'm not so sure of that. While I know owner Stan Kroenke is keeping a very close eye on what's already transpired, I keep hearing the same thing over and over again around the Rams Park corridors. He wants to see what lies ahead before he makes any conclusions about who should stay and who needs to go at season's end. It's not automatic that there will be mass organizational head-chopping."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams face a tough finishing schedule.

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' punt-coverage team is hurting. Nelson: "Two players were hurt on Patrick Peterson's return: Jones turned his ankle, and safety Darian Stewart suffered a concussion. Dominique Curry was on the field but playing with what Spagnuolo called a 'slightly dislocated" shoulder. Stalwarts Brit Miller and Chris Chamberlain were missing from the play because of hamstring injuries. Miller ranks third with nine special teams tackles; Chamberlain led the team last year with 19 special-teams tackles."

Also from Nelson: Sam Bradford should be OK despite tweaking his injured ankle.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Alex Smith did not see Delanie Walker wide open for a potential touchdown on the 49ers' first play of the game against Baltimore. Smith: "First play of the game, I'm really thinking, the way the play was designed, getting a completion, get the ball rolling. A little misdirection, get out of the pocket, and as soon as I threw the ball late to Vernon (Davis), I looked up and saw Delanie by himself, and I knew there was potentially a chance there. Now, it was the first play of the game. And you're thinking, 'Ah, I'm going to get a lot of opportunities, and I'll have several more.' But in a game like that, it turns out, looking back, that was a big missed opportunity."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle passes along Braylon Edwards' thoughts on the deep ball Edwards did not contest against Baltimore. Edwards: "(Smith) saw one thing, I saw another. That happens from time to time. That probably stems from us not being able to be out there a lot, with my injury. I saw a defensive back playing inside leverage, so I attacked his inside leverage to give myself more room on the outside as well as the quarterback. Alex saw me going inside so he assumed I was going to stay inside. It was a mistake on both parts. We just didn’t get it done and it led to an interception."

Also from Branch: Smith has 21 touchdowns with six interceptions in his last 16 starts.