NFC West: 2013 Week 12 Rapid Reaction
November, 25, 2013
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com
LANDOVER, MD. -- A few thoughts from the San Francisco 49ers' 27-6 victory over the Washington Redskins on Monday night.
What it means: The 49ers’ short funk is over. San Francisco saw a five-game winning streak end with back-to-back losses to Carolina and New Orleans -- by a combined total of four points. The defeats dropped the 49ers to 6-4 and made their playoff chances murky. Monday night's victory puts them at 7-4 and on pace to be the sixth and final NFC playoff team. However, NFC West rival Arizona also has a 7-4 record. It could setup a major showdown in Arizona in Week 17.
Stock watch: 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the passing offense got rolling again after struggling in the past two weeks. Kaepernick had downfield success and threw touchdown passes to Anquan Boldin (two) and Vernon Davis. Receiver Mario Manningham gave San Francisco another option, with four catches for 45 yards.
Defense stifles Griffin: The 49ers defense has been playing at a high level all season and played well enough to win against the Panthers and the Saints. That didn’t change Monday night: The 49ers dominated the Redskins. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was harassed all game and was unable to do much against a defense that was led by Ahmad Brooks, NaVorro Bowman, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith. Aldon Smith had his first two sacks since coming back from treatment for substance abuse. He was dominant in this game.
Points off turnovers: The 49ers cashed in with a field goal after an interception and have now scored on 19 consecutive drives after getting a turnover. They have an NFL-high 101 points off of turnovers.
East Coast success continues: The 49ers are now 7-1 on the East Coast since 2011. That does not include a win at London earlier this season. No other West Coast-based team has had as much success on the East Coast during that stretch.
What’s next: The 49ers host St. Louis on Sunday -- a rematch of Week 4, when the 49ers beat the host Rams 35-11. The Rams and 49ers tied in San Francisco last year. The Rams have been playing improved football in recent weeks behind backup quarterback Kellen Clemens.
November, 24, 2013
By Mike Wells | ESPN.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 40-11 loss to the Arizona Cardinals:
What it means: The Colts were never in it. They were embarrassed for the second time in three games. They entered the game knowing they had to put pressure on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. That didn’t happen until the game was already determined. Palmer picked apart the Colts defense by going 26-of-37 for 314 yards and two touchdowns. The Colts sacked Palmer three times. Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall bounced around for 54 yards on 13 carries. The Colts didn’t get their lone touchdown until the fourth quarter, when they were already down by 23 points.
No rushing attack: The 137 yards rushing against the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 14 turned out to be just a one-game thing for the Colts. They ran the ball only 15 times for 80 yards. Don’t get excited by the 5.3 average. It’s rarely a good thing when your quarterback is one of the leading rushers. Andrew Luck ran for 31 yards, while Trent Richardson and Donald Brown combined for 16 yards on nine carries. Daniel Herron led the Colts with 33 yards.
Another slow start, shocking: The Colts went into the half trailing 27-3 to bring their halftime deficit to 93-12 in the past four games. The Cardinals reached Indianapolis territory on all five of their drives in the first half. They scored on four of them. The only time they failed was when Sergio Brown blocked Jay Feely's 28-yard field goal attempt on Arizona’s second offensive series of the game. The Cardinals got some help in the scoring department from their defense. Linebacker Karlos Dansby intercepted Luck’s pass and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
Injury loss: The Colts were already without starting cornerback Greg Toler (groin), and then they lost their other starting cornerback, Vontae Davis, with a groin injury in the fourth quarter. The defense hasn’t been the same -- giving up big plays against Houston, St. Louis and Arizona -- since Toler went out of the lineup prior to the Titans game on Nov. 3.
What’s next: The Colts return to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Titans on Dec. 1. The Colts beat the Titans 30-27 on Nov. 14.
November, 24, 2013
By Josh Weinfuss | ESPN.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 40-11 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
What it means: Not only are the Cardinals winning games this season, but they're winning games they're supposed to win. That hasn't happened in Arizona in a while. The worst-kept secret in the NFL is how the Colts struggle in the first half. After Arizona scored on its first possession Sunday, it just kept piling on, but it wasn't just the offense that carved apart the Colts. The Cards' defense kept Indy under 100 yards for three quarters, and the Colts' first touchdown was on a broken play with a great catch. But Arizona isn't playing like a team waiting to lose like it was last season. This is a legitimate contender this season, and if it wasn't for a new offense that took almost half the season to get going, we would've been talking about the Cardinals for weeks now.
Stock watch: Rashard Mendenhall might not have ran for the most yards of the season, but there was something different about him Sunday. He had an extra pep in his step, or a set of afterburners on his heels. The veteran running back bounced outside throughout the first half instead of his typical inside-the-tackles bulldozing. He burned some rubber on his few plays, including a 13-yard run in the first half on which he hit the corner and shot up the sideline. Mendenhall looked more like rookie running back Andre Ellington than his usual self, but if Mendenhall can produce burst plays, Arizona's options at running back just got deeper.
Hitting their goals: The Cardinals hit most of their offensive goals Sunday. Their 40 points exceeded their time of possession (36:49) and Arizona converted 50 percent of their third downs, another area of focus for the Cards.
Floyd keeps it up: Michael Floyd set a career high last weekend with 193 yards, but he didn't let up Sunday. His 104 yards were his second-highest total of the season and the first time he went over the 100-yard mark in back-to-back games in his career. But it wasn't just the quantity of yards, it was the quality. Normally facing single coverage, Floyd's catches were mostly highlight-worthy and made against the sideline. He's able to benefit from the attention Larry Fitzgerald gets, but he's still making great catches.
What's next: The Cardinals face the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
November, 24, 2013
By Nick Wagoner | ESPN.com
ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 42-21 win against the Chicago Bears.
What it means: Left out of the playoff conversations that have begun in earnest, the Rams sent a reminder to the rest of the NFC that they aren't going to be an easy out for anyone. A dominant run game that piled up 258 yards helped the Rams score 28 points or more in consecutive games for the first time since 2000. The win is the Rams' second in a row and again came at the expense of a team with a winning record. Now 5-6, the Rams still have almost no margin for error in their final five games, but they can at least stake claim to having a better shot at the playoffs than they did before this game.
Stock watch -- up: Running back Benny Cunningham. When starting running back Zac Stacy went out because of a head injury, the undrafted rookie from Middle Tennessee State stepped in and didn't missed a beat. Cunningham posted his first career 100-yard game and scored his first career touchdown to help put the game away late. All told, Cunningham had 13 carries for 109 yards with the score.
Stock watch -- down: Cornerback Brandon McGee. It's unfair because this was McGee's first extended chance to play on defense, but he was simply overmatched by Chicago's bigger receivers. McGee picked up pass-interference and holding penalties to set up a late touchdown for the Bears and had trouble in coverage otherwise. He'll improve from the experience, but his struggles helped Chicago stay in the game.
Fighting through injuries: The Rams were able to hang on to the lead despite losing three key starters to head injuries. Stacy, left guard Chris Williams and cornerback Trumaine Johnson left to be evaluated for concussions. After originally having their returns listed as questionable, they were downgraded to out in the third quarter. The loss of Stacy was particularly costly as he was shredding the Bears' defense to the tune of 12 carries for 87 yards. Cunningham replaced Stacy, Shelley Smith stepped in for Williams and McGee filled in for Johnson.
What's next: The Rams begin a two-game West Coast swing against San Francisco and Arizona, the two teams directly ahead of them in the NFC West standings, before returning to St. Louis for two more at home before Christmas.