Around the NFC West: Getting chippy

Around the NFC West: Oct. 25, 2012

The NFC West's transition into a hard-nosed defensive division has facilitated more banter involving the teams than I can recall at any point since realignment in 2002.

So far this season we've seen:

  • Robert Griffin III complain about the St. Louis Rams playing too rough;

  • Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman talk smack to a legend, Tom Brady;

  • A memorable flap between San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride;

  • Verbal sparring between the 49ers and Seahawks over Seattle's tactics in the secondary, with both players and coaches involved in the exchanges;

  • Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell expressing hatred for the 49ers.

Those were obvious clashes. I've taken note more recently to subtler characterizations from Harbaugh and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll regarding how the 49ers' 13-6 victory over Seattle went down.

Harbaugh credited both teams' toughness. But he and Carroll differed dramatically in describing how the 49ers piled up 175 yards rushing, most against a Seattle defense since San Francisco had 178 at CenturyLink Field last season.

"Just point to the physical play of our offensive line," Harbaugh said. "Coming off the ball there were some big holes. Frank [Gore] ran well. Receivers were blocking. [WR Michael Crabtree] 'Crab' had a physical play early in the game breaking two or three tackles. But, it was just that kind of physical play. Some good plays were called and guys were feeling it and coming off the ball."

Carroll, speaking to 710ESPN Seattle on Monday, discounted any physical advantages the 49ers might have had along the line:

"They just hit a couple plays. We pressured a couple times and we were going the wrong way. When you pressure, you have an opportunity to be very vulnerable and we missed a gap and the ball, it looks like there is nobody playing defense. And it’s just a simple, we hit the 'B' gap instead of hitting the 'A' gap and they hit it better than we did. And so they were fortunate. It’s not like getting out-physicaled or they were tougher than us or anything like that. It was just, we went after them on a second-and-long and they popped it.

"The trap plays that got us were probably five different plays in there where they are influencing us at the line of scrimmage and we needed to read the blocking scheme better and attack it better. We didn’t respond until the last time they ran it. I said that wrong. There’s really three of the plays. Probably eight different plays that they ran, three of the plays we played well, five of them we didn’t and that was the difference of about 75 yards. That was what got them 170-something yards rushing as opposed to 105 or something like that.

"What's frustrating about it is it's easily remedied. That will get done. We got it done by the end of the game but not in that sequence there when they popped one. They are a very unusual running team. They run a lot of different style stuff and they make things up each week to give you a new scheme and they popped us on a couple and so they did a better job than we did.

"Normally what happens is you give up a run, they get another one and then you fix it. But the rotations of guys going through, they hit this in a nickel situation, Jason Jones hadn’t seen the play before and they got him. And then Alan [Branch] came back in and then eventually Clinton McDonald got in there and then he makes a play and stops the thing. But it was too late. And in that game, that was all it took. One small issue could be magnified in a game that close and unfortunately it was."