NFC West: 2010 Week 11 Wrap Ups

Wrap-up: Falcons 34, Rams 17

November, 21, 2010
Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 11:

What it means: The Rams have improved, but they are struggling to take the next step. They remain alone in second place despite squandering an opportunity to beat a good team at home. The Rams play their next three games on the road. They'll probably need to win one of them to keep pace with the Seattle Seahawks over the next month.

What I liked: Quarterback Sam Bradford continued to protect the football, setting an NFL rookie record for most passes in a row without an interception, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Falcons did intercept him late in the game. The Rams' offense lacked punch, but Bradford tossed multiple touchdown passes. He completed 27 of 42 passes for 233 yards and a 84.7 rating. Brandon Gibson and Mike Hoomanawanui caught scoring passes.

What I didn't like: The Rams had serious issues on third down. They never really got Steven Jackson going on the ground. Their pass-rush couldn't get to Matt Ryan. The Rams entered the game leading the NFL in sacks, but they had none against the Falcons.

What's next: The Rams visit the Denver Broncos in Week 12.

Wrap-up: Bucs 21, 49ers 0

November, 21, 2010
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 21-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 11:

What it means: The 49ers severely damaged their NFC West hopes by falling to 3-7 heading into a stretch featuring four road games in five weeks. Their big-play offense wasn't nearly as exciting without the big plays. The 49ers appeared more conservative. The Bucs had something to do with taking away the downfield passes that had made Troy Smith successful in his first two starts as the 49ers' quarterback. Was this one bad game, or has Smith become easier to solve after opponents had a chance to size up his game over a longer period?

What I liked: Inside linebacker Patrick Willis continued to step up his game. He had two sacks and reached double figures in tackles. The 49ers also dramatically reduced their penalty count from last week.

What I didn't like: The 49ers could get nothing going on offense. Last week, a big-play offense overshadowed inefficient play on third down. The team continued to struggle on third down, converting only three times in 12 chances. Frank Gore managed only 23 yards on 12 carries. Smith tossed an interception for the first time this season.

Tomorrow's Talker: Should the 49ers consider going back to Alex Smith at quarterback? Will it matter? Can Mike Singletary salvage his job? This is desperation time for San Francisco. Singletary did not commit to Troy Smith for the remainder of the season. he left open his options. Constantly changing quarterbacks generally is not a good idea, but Troy Smith was not effective Sunday. The continuing third-down issues raise questions about overall offensive health.

What's next: The 49ers visit Arizona for a "Monday Night Football" game at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 31, Cardinals 13

November, 21, 2010
Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' game at Kansas City in Week 11:

What it means: The Cardinals are a bad team. They have lost five in a row. They last won 42 days ago. They are 3-7 and last in the NFC West. Arizona still has time to right its season. The Cardinals play one of the NFL's easiest schedules. They play their next three at home against San Francisco, St. Louis and Denver, followed by a trip to struggling Carolina. The NFC West division leaders will likely remain within reach. None of that will matter if the Cardinals don't play better. Their margin for error is about gone. There's little evidence to suggest this team has the offensive firepower to get a winning streak going.

What I liked: Arizona again scored on its opening drive. The Cardinals played pretty well on both sides of the ball early in the game. Coach Ken Whisenhunt played and won the field-position game when opting to punt on fourth-and-1 while trailing 14-3 late in the first half, but the Chiefs managed to run out the clock anyway. On defense, the Cardinals seemed to do a better job putting strong safety Adrian Wilson in position to play his style of game.

What I didn't like: The Cardinals hurt themselves with penalties. They were not a very poised team. They had a legitimate beef when officials failed to call the Chiefs for grabbing linebacker Gerald Hayes by the face mask following a reception. After all, officials had flagged Arizona's Beanie Wells for a face mask penalty in Week 3. Having a legitimate beef doesn't make retaliation a smart decision, however. The penalty Hayes drew for retaliating sustained a first-half touchdown drive for Kansas City. Center Lyle Sendlein committed a personal-foul penalty. Even quarterback Derek Anderson committed one, for throwing the football in frustration. The Cardinals had to know this wasn't their day when officials flagged guard Alan Faneca for holding -- the first holding call against Faneca this season and only the seventh against him since 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Tomorrow's Talker: The quarterback situation, of course. Anderson regularly threw the ball too high, hanging out his receivers. Early Doucet and Larry Fitzgerald took unnecessary punishment as a result. Former Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart took criticism from some, including Fitzgerald ally Cris Carter, for allegedly exposing Fitzgerald to injury with a high throw against Houston during the exhibition season. Anderson seems to make such throws more frequently. He also overthrew open receivers, including Steve Breaston on a deep ball in the third quarter. He missed Fitzgerald wide right on a short third-down pass in the second half. Anderson has generally done better in avoiding interceptions over the past few weeks, but he doesn't make enough positive plays. He isn't accurate enough.

Missing the Hyphen: The Cardinals missed injured running back LaRod Stephens-Howling when they tried to down Ben Graham's early punt at the Kansas City 1-yard line. Stephens-Howling probably would have made that play. Instead, the Chiefs took over at their own 20. The change in field position helped Kansas City pin the Cardinals at their own 8. The Chiefs got the ball back at the Arizona 38 on their next possession. They used the short field to score a touchdown and take a 7-3 lead. Trumaine McBride did down another punt at the 1 shortly before halftime. Arizona trailed 14-3 by that time, however.

What's next: The Cardinals return home to face the San Francisco 49ers on "Monday Night Football" in Week 12.