NFC West: 2011 Week 10 coverage

Wrap-up: Seahawks 22, Ravens 17

November, 13, 2011
Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 22-17 home victory against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 10:

What it means: The Seahawks beat a good team for the second time this season, improving to 3-6 heading into a favorable four-game stretch of the schedule. Win or lose, Seattle needed to build upon its recent success on the ground. That happened early in the game against a stout Ravens run defense, and again late in the game as Marshawn Lynch ground out 100-plus yards on the ground. The team lost rookie right guard John Moffitt to a knee injury, however, throwing off their plan for the line. The Seahawks also lost their most promising rookie, receiver Doug Baldwin, and their best receiver, Sidney Rice, to head injuries. But with the schedule lightening up, Seattle has a shot at threatening its seven-win total from last season.

What I liked: The Seahawks' defense took the game to Baltimore and prevented the Ravens from getting going on the ground or through the air. This was exactly the type of performance the Seahawks needed from their defense against a team that had scored at least 23 points in six of its eight games this season. Seattle scored its third-highest total of the season in part because the defense and special teams forced turnovers. Seattle built a 22-10 lead through three quarters thanks to four field-goal drives beginning at the Baltimore 19-, 42-, 18- and 4-yard lines. Lynch found running room early, helping the Seahawks jump to a 10-0 lead, gaining confidence. Lynch carried 32 times for 109 yards overall. David Hawthorne's interception was another big play for the Seahawks.

What I didn't like: The injuries were potentially costly. Strong safety Kam Chancellor, one of the best young players in the division, was also hurt. The Seahawks kept having to settle for field goals despite taking over in Ravens territory.

Divisional, uh, dominance: The NFC West went 4-0 during Week 10. That means no "silver linings" files for Monday.

What's next: The Seahawks visit the St. Louis Rams in Week 11.

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 27, Giants 20

November, 13, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO -- Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 27-20 victory over the New York Giants at Candlestick Park in Week 10:

What it means: The 49ers took another step in convincing skeptics they can defeat the top teams without a purportedly "elite" quarterback behind center. With Frank Gore contained early and sidelined by a knee injury for stretches, Alex Smith carried a larger share of the offense this week. He was up to the challenge, mixing in timely rushes to supplement his throwing while generally avoiding errors once again. The 49ers (8-1) maintained their five-game lead in the NFC West and looked like the second-best team in the league.

What I liked: Smith completed 19 of 30 pass attempts for 242 yards. He came through with the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. His lone interception wasn't his fault; the receiver dropped the ball and knocked it into the air. Inside linebacker Patrick Willis had a sack and multiple tackles for loss. Cornerback Carlos Rogers affirmed his status as one of the top free-agent additions this past offseason, collecting two interceptions. Justin Smith batted down the Giants' fourth-down attempt deep in 49ers territory to preserve the victory. The 49ers' offensive coaches did a good job freeing tight end Vernon Davis for a touchdown. They also showed creativity with a successful two-point conversion pass to Michael Crabtree, who lined up in the backfield on the play. This wasn't the best defensive performance by San Francisco from a statistical standpoint, but the defense made key plays in timely moments.

What I didn't like: Ted Ginn Jr.'s dropped pass before halftime led to an interception and robbed the 49ers of a needed scoring opportunity when the team was already in field goal range. Gore got nothing going when he was in the game and spent most of his afternoon on the sideline. The 49ers' Kendall Hunter did strike with an impressive 17-yard touchdown run at a key point in the game, but San Francisco's ground game was not consistent from play to play. Beyond Rogers, the 49ers' secondary had issues covering the Giants' receivers on deep routes, as feared. Eli Manning made a few perfect throws, but there were receivers open at critical times, including once when Mario Manningham couldn't quite catch up to what would have been the tying touchdown pass in the final minutes.

Versatility on offense: The 49ers put their tight ends' superior speed to good use. They lined up with two backs and two tight ends without sacrificing their ability to strike in the passing game. Delanie Walker caught six passes for 69 yards. Davis had three receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown. Walker's productivity had diminished in recent weeks with Braylon Edwards returning, but that changed in a big way Sunday. The 49ers completed only eight passes to wide receivers. The remaining 11 completed passes went to tight ends and backs.

Special-teams advantage: The 49ers' special teams continued to give San Francisco an edge. David Akers was automatic on field goal attempts. His surprise onside kick was also perfectly executed, and recovered by the 49ers.

What's next: The 49ers face the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park in Week 11.

Wrap-up: Cardinals 21, Eagles 17

November, 13, 2011

Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 21-17 victory at Philadelphia in Week 10:

What it means: The Cardinals improved to 3-6 with their second harrowing victory in a row. They ended a streak of 11 consecutive road defeats. Backup quarterback John Skelton improved to 4-2 as the Cardinals' starter, fueling questions about whether he should remain in the lineup ahead of injured starter Kevin Kolb. Skelton was up-and-down in this game, throwing a pair of costly interceptions deep in Cardinals territory, one returned for a touchdown. But he made key plays in the clutch, throwing the tying fourth-quarter touchdown pass for the second week in a row. This time, Skelton also threw the winning touchdown pass. Kolb, meanwhile, has a 1-6 starting record. Kolb has to be the starter when healthy given what the Cardinals have invested in him, but with the team winning two in a row with Skelton, the pressure on Kolb is growing.

What I liked: The Cardinals' defensive plan appeared sound. Arizona pressured and shadowed Michael Vick without giving up too much in the secondary. The matchups became easier for Philadelphia once the Eagles made receiver DeSean Jackson a surprise inactive. Rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson fared well against Jeremy Maclin, who suffered a shoulder injury and left the game. The defensive stop Arizona made on an early fourth-and-2 gave the Cardinals momentum early. Adrian Wilson's interception in the end zone, though nullified by a penalty, was an impressive play. Calais Campbell's interception in the red zone continued a run of big plays from the defensive end and free agent-to-be. The offensive staff did a good job getting Andre Roberts involved, a trend since Skelton took over for Kolb. Roberts' gain on a rushing play set up Larry Fitzgerald's first touchdown reception of the game. The fourth-quarter scoring pass Fitzgerald caught came on a tipped pass, giving him 70 career touchdown receptions and moving him past Roy Green for the franchise career record. Skelton has now thrown the tying fourth-quarter touchdown pass in consecutive games. Skelton threw the winning touchdown pass to Early Doucet. Cornerback A.J. Jefferson clinched the victory with a late interception.

What I didn't like: Skelton's pick-six interception from deep in Cardinals territory was costly. Skelton appeared to telegraph his intentions on the play. This was a close, low-scoring game. Skelton's error and two missed field goals from Jay Feely forced the Cardinals to play catch-up unnecessarily. Their margin for error appears too slim to tolerate those types of issues -- most Sundays, anyway.

What's next: The Cardinals visit the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11.

Wrap-up: Rams 13, Browns 12

November, 13, 2011

Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 13-12 road victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 10:

What it means: The Rams improved to 2-7 and made it impossible for the San Francisco 49ers to clinch the NFC West title with victories in Weeks 10 and 11. Their second victory of the season put them two games ahead of still-winless Indianapolis for those charting whether the Rams could finish with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. The Rams' special teams earned some redemption after a rough game last week. The Browns' inability to execute a clean snap for the go-ahead field goal proved costly.

What I liked: Brandon Lloyd continued to provide the Rams with the top-shelf receiving threat they've been lacking in recent years. The one-handed grab he made along the sideline comes to mind. The Rams lead the NFL in dropped passes this season and haven't been able to make the spectacular play. Lloyd is changing those dynamics. His touchdown reception helped the Rams take a 10-9 lead into halftime. Steven Jackson continued running with authority, plowing over defenders and even teammates when necessary. He topped 100 yards rushing for the third game in a row. Newly signed linebacker David Nixon forced Josh Cribbs to fumble during a fourth-quarter punt return, setting up the Rams inside the Cleveland 30-yard line.

What I didn't like: Bradford struggled with tipped passes and had one of them picked off by Scott Fujita. With Jackson and Lloyd performing at a high level, Bradford should be more productive even at less than full strength. This was his 12th game in a row with fewer than two touchdown passes. Injuries were also a downer for the Rams in this game. Left tackle Rodger Saffold did not return after suffering a blow to the head. Bradford, playing with a bad left ankle, left the game for one play. Safety Darian Stewart, one of the team's top young defenders, suffered a neck injury in the second half and left the game. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui left with a knee injury.

What's next: The Rams are home against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 11.