NFC West: 2012 Week 3 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Cardinals 27, Eagles 6

September, 23, 2012

Thoughts after the Arizona Cardinals' 27-6 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 3:

What it means: The Cardinals are 3-0 for the first time since relocating to Arizona. They are alone atop the NFC West after San Francisco lost at Minnesota. Beating Seattle, New England and Philadelphia to open the season forces a reassessment of almost universally negative preseason expectations for the Cardinals. Arizona is playing great defensively. The offense showed improvement Sunday. By all appearances, quarterback Kevin Kolb played well enough against the Eagles to remain the starter while John Skelton returns to health.

What I liked: The defense hit Eagles quarterback Michael Vick almost too many times to count. Play after play, the Cardinals put the hurt on Vick, a huge factor in the game. Daryl Washington had two sacks. The secondary played tight coverage down the field to take away Vick's deep options. Arizona's defense has now dominated against Tom Brady and Vick in successive weeks. The defense has been consistently strong while Arizona has won 10 of its 12 most recent games.

Kerry Rhodes played his best game since coming to the Cardinals, a welcome boost while fellow safety Adrian Wilson sat out with injury. Rhodes made a touchdown-saving tackle on one play, then forced a fumble Arizona returned for a pivotal touchdown right before halftime. That was the pivotal sequence in the game, one that allowed the Cardinals to take a 24-0 lead into the half. Rhodes also delivered big hits on Eagles tight end Brent Celek. Arizona was the more aggressive team throughout. The fumble Anthony Sherman forced on special teams provided another example.

Kolb completed 17 of 24 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns, no turnovers and a 127.4 NFL passer rating. He was able to get Larry Fitzgerald involved after a slow start to the season. Fitzgerald, who became the youngest player to reach 700 career receptions, caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He now has 35 catches for 570 yards and nine touchdowns in five career games against Philadelphia. Rookie first-round choice Michael Floyd also caught a scoring pass from Kolb.

Ryan Williams, nearly the goat against New England last week, ran hard and with great effectiveness to help Arizona put away the game. Williams carried 13 times for 83 yards.

What I didn't like: Injuries are becoming a concern for the Cardinals. Skelton, Wilson and Todd Heap missed this game. Williams was shaken up in the final minutes and went to the sideline. Beanie Wells and Darnell Dockett also left the game for Arizona. Dockett had a hamstring injury.

There wasn't much else to complain about. The illegal block Fitzgerald delivered prevented Andre Roberts from getting credit for a 79-yard reception. The block helped spring Roberts, but it did not appear necessary.

What's next: The Cardinals face the Miami Dolphins in Week 4 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Wrap-up: Vikings 24, 49ers 13

September, 23, 2012

Thoughts after the San Francisco 49ers' 24-13 defeat to the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome in Week 3:

What it means: The 49ers fell to 2-1 and opened the door for Arizona to take sole possession of first place in the NFC West if the Cardinals defeat Philadelphia later Sunday. The NFC West, 4-0 a week ago, emerged from the early games Sunday with an 0-2 record.

What I liked: The 49ers' third-down offense built upon the progress shown during the fourth quarter of their victory over Detroit in Week 2. Alex Smith and Vernon Davis connected for another touchdown, their 30th scoring connection since Davis entered the NFL in 2006. The offensive tempo was outstanding on the 49ers' third-quarter touchdown drive. Return specialist Kyle Williams had 94- and 50-yard kickoff returns to give the 49ers good field position. Defensive end Justin Smith should make the highlight clips with his powerful tackle against Adrian Peterson. Smith powered across the formation and dragged the offensive lineman trying to block him before hitting Peterson with great force.

What I didn't like: Just about everything else. The 49ers have usually been better than their opponents at the little things, but not on this day. They committed too many penalties, including personal fouls. Frank Gore lost a fumble when San Francisco needed a scoring drive in the second half. Smith threw high for Randy Moss on a couple of first-half passes, including once when the Vikings' pass rush might have been a factor. Moss was open in the end zone on that play. Strong safety Donte Whitner dropped what could have been a pick-six as the 49ers' chances were dwindling. A sequence right before halftime showed how the Vikings were the more opportunistic team at every turn. Minnesota blocked David Akers' field goal try, then hurried down the field for three points of its own. Smith even tossed an interception in this game, his first since Thanksgiving last season.

Officiating question: Teams without timeouts cannot issue replay challenges. However, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh successfully challenged a play with 3:29 remaining in the game even though it appeared as though San Francisco had used its final timeout. Officials then appeared to restore a timeout to the 49ers. Harbaugh then issued another challenge with 2:14 remaining. An explanation from the replacement officials would have been nice.

Injury watch: The 49ers lost nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga to an apparent knee injury. Sopoaga was engaged with a blocker when one of the Vikings' linemen rolled into Sopoaga's left leg from the side, causing the knee to bend awkwardly.

What's next: The 49ers will practice in Ohio this week before continuing their road trip with a Week 4 road game against the New York Jets.

Wrap-up: Bears 23, Rams 6

September, 23, 2012
Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 23-6 defeat to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field:

What it means: The Rams dropped to 1-2, missing an opportunity to move above .500 for the first time since the 2006 team was 4-3. Their limitations on offense were more apparent in this game than they were in the previous two. With two home games against division opponents next on the schedule, St. Louis has a good opportunity to right itself.

What I liked: The Rams kept the game close enough to give themselves a chance deep into the second half. Their defense limited the Bears to field goals regularly. Cortland Finnegan's interception was his third for the Rams in three games with the team. Fellow cornerback Janoris Jenkins nearly had an interception. Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein connected from 56 yards before halftime. The team's decision to go with a rookie carried some risk, but Zuerlein has proven the Rams were right. He's become a weapon for them and should help St. Louis win close games. The defense limited Jay Cutler to 183 yards with no touchdowns and a 58.9 NFL passer rating, good enough for the Rams to win if their offense could have held up its end. The Rams held the Bears to 3.0 yards per carry, and that included a 21-yard scramble from Cutler.

What I didn't like: Brandon Gibson entered this game with a touchdown in each of the Rams' first two games. He dropped a pass deep in Bears territory when the Rams desperately needed points. The team's margin for error was too small for Gibson to let this one get away. Quarterback Sam Bradford then took a sack, a big swing. Bradford had played two of his best career games in the first two weeks. There were times in this game when I thought he could have flourished with better pass protection. Bradford also took a couple of sacks when he could have gotten rid of the ball. He threw two picks when the Rams were trying to play catch-up. Bradford completed 18 of 35 passes for 152 yards with six sacks, no touchdowns and a 39.2 NFL passer rating. A penalty for roughing the kicker proved costly early, sustaining a Bears drive to a field goal.

Injury update: Steven Jackson started the game despite a groin injury, but he was ineffective and appeared slow compared to rookie Daryl Richardson. Jackson carried 11 times for 29 yards (2.6 yard average).

What's next: The Rams are home against Seattle in Week 4 for their first NFC West game under coach Jeff Fisher.