NFC West: 2011 Week 9 coverage

Wrap-up: Cardinals 19, Rams 13 (OT)

November, 6, 2011

Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals following the Cardinals' 19-13 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 9:

What it means: Rookie Patrick Peterson is becoming a legend already after his 99-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Cardinals an overtime victory. This was his third punt return for a touchdown in eight games and it came when the Cardinals were desperate for a victory. The last time they won, against Carolina in Week 1, his punt return score was the difference. In the bigger picture, this game hurts Arizona's chances for securing a higher choice in the draft, but the payoff was sweet for the Cardinals.

What I liked: Calais Campbell continued to demonstrate his value on the field-goal block team. His third career block made sure the game went to overtime. Campbell also dominated from his spot at right defensive end. The Cardinals got No. 2 receiver Andre Roberts more involved in the offense. Adrian Wilson made an aggressive play in the Rams' backfield to foil a third-and-1 rushing attempt, forcing the Rams to settle for a field goal and a 6-3 lead. Arizona's John Skelton made a good touch pass to Larry Fitzgerald for the tying 13-yard touchdown in the final five minutes. ... Sam Bradford toughed it out on his sprained ankle, a starting point in his return to the Rams' lineup. Steven Jackson continued his physical running and topped 100 yards on the ground for the second week in a row. He has at least 96 yards in three of his last four games and at least 70 in all four. Rams rookie Greg Salas caught seven passes. Rams safety Darian Stewart was again active, getting a hand on passes well down the field.

What I didn't like: Skelton became the first NFL player since Aaron Rodgers in 2008 to take two safeties in the same game. Both were avoidable. Both were costly in a low-scoring game dominated by defense. The Cardinals had 58 yards and four first downs in the first half. Beanie Wells did not appear healthy and had a hard time getting anything going against the Rams' defense. Bradford took too many sacks. Salas suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury and was carted off the field. Later, medical personnel carted off Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams after a scary collision that appeared to put his head and neck area in jeopardy. Peterson continued having problems with penalties, including with the game on the line.

Controversial call: The Rams went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Arizona 33 with 1:48 remaining and did not get it. They were within range for a 51-yard field-goal attempt. Their kicker, Josh Brown, had made all three attempts Sunday (48, 37, 41 yards). Brown had made 15 of 19 tries from 50-plus yards since signing with the Rams. Field conditions in Arizona appeared excellent. Yes, Jackson was running well, but that was partly because the Rams had done a good job mixing up their play calls. Arizona knew what was coming in this situation. The fact that Arizona blocked the Rams' field-goal try later in the game doesn't validate Steve Spagnuolo's decision.

What's next: The Cardinals face the Eagles in Kevin Kolb's return to Philadelphia. The Rams visit Cleveland.

Wrap-up: 49ers 19, Redskins 11

November, 6, 2011

Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 19-11 road victory over the Washington Redskins in Week 9:

What it means: The 49ers emerged from Week 9 with a 7-1 record and a five-game lead in the NFC West. They have gone 4-0 in games kicking off at 10 a.m. PT, one of many ways this team differs from its recent predecessors. The 49ers now have three of their next four games at home. They have a shot at clinching the division title in Week 11.

What I liked: The 49ers controlled yet another game with defense, special teams, the running game and selective strikes through the air. They again showed the offensive creativity that has made the game more fun for players. This included a few more unusual formations and personnel groupings. Their ability to free fullback Bruce Miller for a 30-yard touchdown reception also stood out. Frank Gore became the first player in 49ers history to reach 100 yards rushing in five consecutive games. Free safety Dashon Goldson made a terrific play in undercutting tight end Fred Davis for an interception.

What I didn't like: The 49ers' run defense was a little too forgiving early, allowing a 16-yard run on the Redskins' first possession. Coach Jim Harbaugh wasn't happy with game officials for their administration of a couple of penalties, but whatever the problem, San Francisco nonetheless incurred potentially costly penalties for delay of game and a false start. Tight end Vernon Davis could not control a potential touchdown reception. Davis also fumbled. Gore suffered his fourth dropped pass of the season, matching his total for 2010. Quarterback Alex Smith held the ball too long, inviting a crushing hit from the Redskins' Ryan Kerrigan. The 49ers collected just one sack from a Redskins team that allowed 10 last week.

What's next: The 49ers are home against the New York Giants in Week 10.

Update: The 49ers did not score a rushing touchdown, ending their streak of seven games with at least one and none for the opposition.

Wrap-up: Cowboys 23, Seahawks 13

November, 6, 2011
Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' road defeat to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9:

What it means: The Seahawks are 2-6 and will stand five games behind the first-place San Francisco 49ers with eight games to play, assuming San Francisco does not blow a big lead at Washington. This Seattle defeat to the Cowboys affirms the likelihood that Seattle is playing for draft positioning. This game also stood as a step backward for quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Seattle fans fearful that the team might consider Jackson as a long-term solution at the position probably had little to worry about before this game, and less after it.

What I liked: The Seahawks finally got production from their ground game. It's critical for Seattle to show progress in that area over the second half of the season after investing considerable draft capital in the offensive line over the past two seasons. This game counts as a big step forward in that area. Marshawn Lynch topped 100 yards for the first time during the regular season since Seattle acquired him. He finished with 135. The Seahawks topped 150 yards rushing, another first this season. The Seahawks also did a good job avoiding sacks after entering the game having allowed 28 this season, most in the league. The Seahawks have rushed for at least 145 yards in their past two games with Jackson and Lynch in the starting lineup together. The Seahawks' defense, though too pliable from a yardage standpoint, played tough around the goal line and forced turnovers to keep Seattle in the game past halftime.

What I didn't like: Seattle's run defense has generally been strong this season. A few cracks formed against Cincinnati last week even though the Bengals' per-carry average remained in check. The Cowboys ran the ball effectively throughout. DeMarco Murray topped 100 yards. Murray hurt Seattle as a receiver, too. He eluded linebacker K.J. Wright on one reception, then ran over safety Earl Thomas along the sideline. The Seahawks' pass rush needs another dimension beyond Chris Clemons, and it showed. Tony Romo took no sacks and had too much time on a 6-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was uncovered on another play, leading to a 33-yard touchdown.

What's next: The Seahawks are home against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8.