Rams eyeing NFC West 'crown'

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:27 PM ET

To open up we’ll steal a line from John P. Lopez of SI.com — ‘would even the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl take a 7-9 team’?

Good question.

Thanks to the San Francisco 49ers meltdown and the plucky play of the St. Louis Rams, the winner of the NFC West could emerge with a 8-8 record and save the NFL a load of embarrassment.

By virtue of their 25-17 victory over a disorganized looking 49ers team, the Rams can win the division title and finish at 8-8 with a win next Sunday over the hopeless Seahawks in Seattle.

If the Seahawks win — and that’s hard to fathom given how inept they looked in losing 38-15 to Tampa Bay — leaving both teams with 7-9 records, Seattle would get the nod due to their better divisional record. If that happens, everyone at NFL headquarters will be wearing paper bags over their heads.

What got decided on Sunday was that the 49ers will not be part of that final Sunday playoff mix as they suffered their 10th loss of the season.

Critics of head coach Mike Singletary will have a field day with the loss as his team looked ill prepared, his switch to Troy Smith from Alex Smith was a complete disaster and everything went south for the 49ers when after winning the coin toss, they elected to kick the ball.

That was the second bad move by SIngletary, his first being his gut decision to go with Troy Smith over Alex Smith.

Singletary was influenced by Troy’s play in San Fran’s 23-20 overtime victory over St. Louis back on Nov. 14. In that game, Troy passed for 356 yards and Singletary was looking for him to hit another home run.

Unfortunately, Troy Smith was completely off the mark, was overthrowing on just about every pass and in the third quarter had a meltdown on the bench following an interception when he engaged in a shouting match with Singletary.

It got so heated that 49ers receiver Ted Ginn Jr. at one point got between the two and tried to quiet the fiery quarterback by towelling his head.

Finally, with 9:30 left in the game and the 49ers trailing by eight points, Singletary switched to Alex Smith but he was unable to move the team with an authority.

On the day, Troy Smith was just 7-for-19 for 153 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Singletary has always maintained a posse of critics and the loss will lead to speculation that he will be sacked following what can only be described as a terrible season given that San Fran was the heavy favourite to win the division title.

To his credit, Singletary didn’t throw any of his players under the bus.

“Troy’s a passionate guy and the way he responded, that’s fine,” Singletary said of their confrontation. “He’s frustrated, I’m frustrated. We’re both trying to get something to happen on the field. That’s all it was.

“As the head coach, the most important quality for me is to be able to make a decision and be able to live or die with it. And not to turn around and blame it on somebody else.”

Rookie Sam Bradford had an efficient afternoon for the Rams as he was 28-for-37 for 292 yards and one touchdown. He also snapped out of a three-game slump of throwing no touchdown passes with five interceptions.

One more win and the team that went 1-15 in 2009 will be the division champs.

Chiefs the champs

The Kansas City Chiefs are the new champs of the AFC West and have the look of a team that is gaining confidence and steam.

The Chiefs stormed to their first AFC West title since 2003 thanks to their convincing 34-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans coupled with the San Diego Chargers stunning 34-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Just imagine how the 8-7 Chargers feel, having their season fall apart in Cincinnati against the Bengals. As far as humiliations go, that’s almost impossible to top.

Although the Chargers stumbled out of the gate and failed to mount their patented late-season charge, you have to give the unlikely Chiefs all the credit in the world for making the most of the situation.

Against the Titans, the Chiefs and quarterback Matt Cassel looked to take another step forward in their respective developments.

Cassel completed 12 of his first 13 passes and on the day was 24-for-34 for 314 yards and three touchdowns. He has been rock solid since returning to the lineup after missing a game due to an emergency appendectomy two weeks ago.

The victory moved the Chiefs to 10-5, the 10 wins matching their combined win total of the previous three seasons. They are also 7-0 at home.

The way they’re playing, they won’t be anybody’s pushover in the playoffs.

mike.rutsey@sunmedia.ca


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