NFC West: 2011 Week 3 Wrap-ups

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.



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