Around the NFC West: 49ers' demise

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' performance Thursday night against San Diego affirms their status as a bad team. Cohn: "The Chargers game was a terrific chance for the Niners, a juicy chance to prove they are good, to prove they’re not a joke, to prove they deserve our attention and maybe even our praise, a chance to make a statement to the league and their division. Oh, they made a statement all right. They demonstrated once again they are sub-mediocre. They are a bad outfit and, no matter what happens in their final two games, no matter if they make the playoffs, their confused coach needs to get fired for his own good."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat lists what the 49ers lost Thursday night, from one of their best defensive players to a kickoff return for a touchdown.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers suffered a self-inflicted defeat to San Diego. Maiocco: "And, now, the end appears near -- on so many different levels. The 49ers can be officially eliminated from the playoff hunt as early as Sunday, and coach Mike Singletary's tenure is likely winding to a close."

Also from Maiocco: Justin Smith says he didn't know it was an official he was shoving during a post-play dispute Thursday night.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers a 49ers report card from the team's game against San Diego. This one isn't going on the fridge anytime soon.

Also from Barrows: Singletary considered putting Troy Smith in the game at quarterback.

More from Barrows: The 49ers are pretty much toast.

More yet from Barrows: Broken hands could not sideline Patrick Willis or Takeo Spikes.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers again had trouble winning outside their division.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' performance against San Diego was a defining one for the team.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle passes along this damning quote from Singletary: "When we have an opportunity to take a step, I look for our team, in spite of the setbacks, to really take a step forward. We continue to stumble. It's a shame we missed a great opportunity right there."

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic explains why the touchdown Darnell Dockett scored for Arizona on a fumble recovery Sunday did not count as a defensive touchdown for fantasy purposes. Young: "Don't ask us to explain the logic on all this, but anytime there is a change of possession then the offense becomes defense and the defense becomes offense. Still, a defense is credited with a touchdown if the change of possession leads directly to a score. However, if the guy who picks up a fumble or intercepts a pass then turns the ball over and a teammate takes possession, he is no longer considered a defensive player. Thus, Dockett isn't credited individually with a defensive touchdown."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Jay Feely's performance against Denver has vaulted the kicker into the spotlight. On a side note: "Jay Feely is a direct descendent of one of our country's Founding Fathers, Roger Sherman, an influential member of the Continental Congress who was on the very committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals practiced in rainy weather Thursday, a departure from the norm. Somers also links to a story about quarterback John Skelton. That one is below.

Hank Gola of the New York Daily News offers a profile on Skelton featuring this comment from the quarterback's college coach: "I thought all along that John would be a better pro than Tim Tebow. John is suited to the pro game. He's 6-foot-6 and can throw the ball. I know this, John is not fazed by too many things and he loves to compete. Is he ready to play? Probably not as much as they'd like, but he did an awful lot of nice things out there Sunday and I'm sure he can build on those."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com links to video showing Cardinals teammates Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower racing one another.

Also from Urban: a look at Hightower's unusual season from Hightower's perspective.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Brandon Gibson is growing into a more prominent role in the Rams' offense. Gibson is getting more chances than teammate Danny Amendola, at least lately. Coats: "Over the last six games, Gibson has been targeted 45 times, has caught 32 passes and picked up 331 yards. In the same span, Amendola has been targeted 37 times, has 29 catches and 216 yards."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams could face quite a few Chiefs fans at the Edward Jones Dome in Week 15. Thomas: "When the teams last met here, in 2006, about one in five spectators in the dome was a Chiefs fan decked out in Kansas City red. They weren't shy about cheering for their Chiefs, either." Adam Timmerman, a guard with the Rams at the time, put it this way back then: It's pretty bad when you've got to go silent count in your home stadium."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the big-game buzz for the Rams-Chiefs matchup isn't something the Rams have experienced in a while. Burwell: "It is starting to feel like a big game now. The governor is coming to practice this morning. Seriously, Missouri's First Fan -- as knowledgeable and passionate a sports fan as any public servant I've ever known -- is hanging out with the Rams today (no word on when or if he will spend equal time with the lesser half on the other side of Interstate 70)."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams' Steven Jackson badly wants a return to the playoffs. Jackson hasn't been part of the postseason since his 2004 rookie season. Jackson: "I thought it would be an every year thing. I thought the playoffs would be something I'm accustomed to. But God willing, if we make it back this time, I won't take it for granted. I'll play each and every game, and each and every play, like I may not be back."

Jonathan Webb of stlouisrams.com checks in with Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur regarding Gibson's development. Shurmur: "My goodness, what a great improvement he’s made. For a receiver like Brandon Gibson, I think it’s about consistency. He’s been targeted more but he’s been catching more balls. So I think that’s the key. We talk about making the routine plays routinely. He’s embraced that and has found a way to get that done."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Brandon Fletcher is coming along in his development as a cornerback.

Also from Wagoner: The Chiefs-Rams game will be televised locally in St. Louis.

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says Jackson knows it's crunch time, and he's excited.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Leon Washington is lending support to Deon Butler after Butler suffered a leg injury similar to the one Washington overcame. Washington: "I really felt his pain. I really, really felt his pain. But I told him, ‘Hey man, you’ve got an example. You’ve got somebody who’s going to help you through the whole, entire process. Because you can do it.’ I know everything there is to know about that type of injury. So I’m going to be there for him."

Also from Farnsworth: Washington has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns to go with a healthy average on punt returns.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times lays out how the Seahawks could qualify for postseason at 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7.

Also from O'Neil: Mike Williams is eager to get back on the field for Seattle. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck: "If you were to go back in March and give these hypotheticals: 'OK, here's a guy who has been on the street for two years, that this whole organization and team would be so reliant on him being able to play,' you probably wouldn't believe it. But he has meant a lot to our team. He has really stepped up."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seattle secondary coach Jerry Gray, who expects more from his defensive backs as they adapt to playing more press coverage.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Barbara Babineaux will have a hard time knowing which team to support most when her sons play on opposite sides of the Atlanta-Seattle game at Qwest Field.

John Morgan of Field Gulls takes a closer look at Kentwan Balmer's performance with the Seahawks this season.