Around the NFC West: 49ers' learning curve

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat explains why Michael Crabtree is having an easy time learning the 49ers' plays. The system requires Crabtree to know only his own responsibilities for this one game, not the full playbook or broader concepts.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News answers 49ers-related questions in a chat. Brown: "This whole team is built around the offense's ability to run the ball, move the chains and eke out just enough points. But the 49ers rank 29th in total offense and 16th in the running game. The 49ers made a subtle shift in the O-line this week, moving Snyder to guard. They also help that the presence of Crabtree will stretch the defenses at least a little bit. Otherwise, it's another week of 8-men in the box."

Deon Butler of the Seahawks reflects on his rookie season during his latest diary entry with Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times. Butler says the deep pass thrown to him against the Cardinals was overthrown. Sometimes a receiver gets thrown off his route and I thought Matt Hasselbeck suggested that was the case in this instance. I cannot recall for certain. Butler: "On a deep pass, once the ball starts to come down, you definitely know whether you're going to get to it or whether it's going to be real close or whether it's just overthrown. And that one was, 'Man, this one is overthrown. I've really got to get to this.' As soon as I started to see it come down, I was like, 'Man, if I get to this, I probably won't stay on my feet. I'll probably dive.' And I ended up diving. It was just a frustrating feeling when I landed, and I didn't have the ball. It was a third-down opportunity. It was a chance for a big gain early in the game, and Arizona had gotten out to a fast start. So it was a chance for us to change momentum. With so few opportunities that I'm presented right now, when I have a chance to make a play, I definitely want to be able to make it."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team isn't leaving for the East Coast until Saturday because the Sunday kickoff is at night. Urban also says he thinks Early Doucet will be active as insurance for Anquan Boldin. Urban: "I still think Anquan Boldin will play, but, already knowing Boldin has a sore ankle, the Cards can’t risk not having an extra receiver available not only if Boldin gets further dinged but also if Boldin will be limited in the packages he might play. That’s what happened in the season opener against the 49ers (when Doucet was still hurt and Lance Long was forced to be active). Many fans have asked me why Doucet hasn’t played more. The big problem? He’s never proven himself on special teams, something the receivers in front of him — Urban, Morey, Breaston — all do and do well."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams receiver Donnie Avery felt good in practice Friday. Coats: "Avery reported 'no problem at all' after fully participating in practice Friday. Avery, injured last Sunday at Jacksonville after grabbing a 17-yard touchdown pass earlier, sat out Wednesday and took only limited reps Thursday."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Colts' offense isn't the only concern for the Rams. Indy's defense also presents problems, particularly with Bob Sanders back in the lineup. Steven Jackson: "He's the life of that defense. Not taking anything away from (Robert) Mathis and (Dwight) Freeney, but he's a guy that fills the run pretty hard. He's a tough tackler. He applies the big hits. He gets the crowd into it. ... I really respect what he brings to that defense."