NFC West: 2011 Week 3 reaction

Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 13, Cardinals 10

September, 25, 2011
SEATTLE -- Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 13-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field in Week 3:

What it means: The Cardinals and Seahawks are tied with1-2 records, one game behind the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.

What I liked: Both offensive lines generally fared well clearing lanes in the ground game. Seattle was markedly improved in this area. Arizona fared better than expected, save for short-yardage situations, given Beanie Wells' unavailability stemming from a hamstring injury suffered Friday. Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson did a much better job using his mobility to scramble. He finally found a passing rhythm during a 14-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Jackson diving into defenders and across the goal line. Sidney Rice topped 100 yards in his Seattle debut, and the secondary made timely plays, including interceptions by Marcus Trufant and safety Kam Chancellor. For the Cardinals, quarterback Kevin Kolb found receiver Larry Fitzgerald for a memorable 28-yard scoring reception against double coverage. Kolb was retreating to his left and threw a jump ball off his back foot from the Seattle 27-yard line. Fitzgerald made his leaping grab about five yards deep in the end zone.

What I didn't like: Kolb couldn't get much going for too long during the second half. He also blew a scoring chance before halftime when throwing aggressively to Fitzgerald, only to have Seattle's Trufant break on the ball for an interception. He threw another interception with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. Turnovers in those situations were costly because the game was so close. For Seattle, the offense continued to struggle despite occasional signs of life. Procedural penalties kept setting back Seattle. Jackson's fumbled shotgun snap in the fourth quarter was costly and could have been disastrous if Arizona had recovered. Neither team got the ball to its 2010 receiving leaders enough. Fitzgerald had five catches for 64 yards. Mike Williams, who caught 22 passes against Arizona last season, had none Sunday.

For the record: Fitzgerald's first-half touchdown reception was the 67th of his career, breaking Roy Green's franchise record. Also, Cardinals tight end Todd Heap moved past Ben Coates into 14th place on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage list for tight ends. Jeremy Shockey, Riley Odoms and Mike Ditka stand immediately ahead of Heap on the list and within striking distance this season, although Shockey continues to improve his totals.

Okung's infractions: Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung entered Week 3 leading NFL players in most penalties, accepted or declined. He continued to have penalty problems in this game, possibly an indication he isn't playing with full confidence after suffering repeated ankle injuries.

Injuries of note: Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington returned from a calf injury and started. Teammates Richard Marshall, Heap and Levi Brown returned to the game after suffering injuries. Cardinals linebacker Paris Lenon aggravated a groin injury and left the game.

What's next: The Cardinals are home against the New York Giants. The Seahawks are home against the Atlanta Falcons.

Wrap-up: Ravens 37, Rams 7

September, 25, 2011
Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' Week 3 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens in the Edward Jones Dome:

What it means: The Rams are 0-3 and falling far short of reasonable expectations, even when taking into account significant injury issues. They are 0-2 at home and already two games behind in the NFC West race. Their late-season schedule is packed with division games, so there's no sense in writing off the Rams at this early stage. But there have been too few signs the Rams are close to getting things going. They are floundering. This was a big step backward for a team already heading in the wrong direction to open the season.

What I liked: Steven Jackson was active for the first time since suffering a quadriceps strain early in the season opener. Rookie first-round pick Robert Quinn had two quarterback hits, as did Chris Long. Long now has three sacks in three games. Sam Bradford found Brandon Gibson for a 34-yard scoring reception.

What I didn't like: The Rams looked like a lost cause on both sides of the ball. This was the third consecutive game a Rams' opponent has returned a Bradford fumble for a touchdown. The Rams' 32nd-ranked run defense continued giving up far too many yards, including runs of 53 and 28 yards. Their pass defense was worse, making Ravens rookie Torrey Smith look more like retired Rams legend Torry Holt. Smith's three first-quarter scoring receptions from Joe Flacco covered 74, 41 and 18 yards, blowing open the game. Smith had never caught a pass in the regular season before Sunday. He caught four passes for 20 yards during the preseason. Sure, the Rams have injury-related issues in their secondary. The occasional breakdown is going to happen. This performance was inexcusable.

Playing from behind: The Rams' offense has yet to take a snap this season while the team led its opponent on the scoreboard.

Disappearing Danario: Rams receiver Danario Alexander made big plays downfield against the New York Giants on Monday night. The Rams targeted him frequently in this game, with disappointing results.

What's next: The Rams face the Washington Redskins at the Edward Jones Dome in Week 3.

Wrap-up: 49ers 13, Bengals 8

September, 25, 2011
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' road victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3:

What it means: The 49ers assured themselves at least a share of first place in the NFC West. They needed until Oct. 31 to win for the second time last season. They're 2-1 under coach Jim Harbaugh, giving them some margin for error heading into a difficult road game against Philadelphia.

What I liked: The 49ers' offense came to life with the game on the line, driving for the tie-breaking touchdown in the fourth quarter. Vernon Davis asked for a bigger role in the offense and delivered by exceeding 100 yards receiving. He made key receptions on the winning drive. The 49ers' defense performed as expected against the Bengals and their young quarterback, Andy Dalton. Holding any NFL opponent to a field goal deep into the fourth quarter should be good enough to win comfortably. The 49ers could not rest until the end, but they'll take the victory and 2-1 record. Late interceptions by Carlos Rogers and Reggie Smith came as a welcome sight for the 49ers after their secondary faltered during critical moments of a defeat to Dallas a week earlier.

What I didn't like: The 49ers' offense continued to struggle for most of the game. Quarterback Alex Smith took five sacks, giving him 11 over the past two games. Frank Gore found little running room. He lost a critical fumble that set up Cincinnati for a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter. He also let a pass bounce off his helmet on the 49ers' winning drive. Earlier, officials called receiver Michael Crabtree for illegal touching, wiping out a touchdown reception. Watching on TV, it was tough to see evidence the call was correct. Former NFL officiating director Mike Pereira, now an analyst for Fox, said he saw no evidence Crabtree had stepped out of bounds before catching the ball in the end zone. He also indicated the 49ers would have had to challenge the play for there to be a review. Perhaps 49ers coaches saw something we could not see watching on TV. If not, they should have challenged this play.

What's next: The 49ers visit the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4.