NFC West: 2013 Week 6 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: San Francisco 49ers

October, 13, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO -- A few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 32-20 win over Arizona Cardinals on Sunday:

What it means: The 49ers have won three straight games. Their point total Sunday was their lowest in the win streak. San Francisco is now 4-2 with the easier part of its schedule upcoming. The 49ers were not perfect, but they made big plays on offense and forced four turnovers. San Francisco has forced double-digit turnovers during the win streak. All seems to be going well for the 49ers after they stumbled in Weeks 2 and 3.

Stock watch: San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis had a huge game. He had 180 yards receiving, which is the tied for the third highest total by a tight end in the NFL in the past 20 years. The 49ers don't have a lot of receiving weapons, but Davis got open and quarterback Colin Kaepernick got the ball to him. The 49ers' run offense also came up big on an epic 18-play, 83-yard drive made the score 29-20 with 6:35 to go. Most of the yardage was gained on the ground. The stock is rising for the 49ers' rookies. First-round pick Eric Reid had an interception and a fumble recovery. Third-round pick Corey Lemonier had a sack for a safety and a forced fumble.

Injuries on defense continue: Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey went out early with a hamstring injury. Dorsey was playing well this season. He was jogging on the sideline, so perhaps the injury will not be serious. The 49ers can't afford another extended injury on defense, especially the line. Dorsey was taking over for Ian Williams, who went out for the season with a leg injury in Week 2. Ray McDonald is playing through a biceps injury. Dorsey's replacement, Tony Jerod-Eddie was banged up late in the game. If Dorsey's injury lingers, the 49ers may be forced to push rookie Quinton Dial to the field. He is eligible to practice this week after starting the season on the PUP.

What's next: The 49ers travel to Tennessee to play the Titans, which lost to Seattle on Sunday. After playing in Nashville, the 49ers head to London for a week to prepare for the Jaguars to finish their AFC South slate. Yes, two winnable road games are on the horizon for the 49ers.

Rapid Reaction: Arizona Cardinals

October, 13, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO -- A few thoughts on the Cardinals’ 32-20 loss to the 49ers.

What it means: The Arizona Cardinals showed Sunday they aren’t a pushover in the NFC West. Even though the offense started out looking pitiful with turnovers , the defense carried the Cardinals while making the San Francisco 49ers look human. By playing the Niners tough until about seven minutes left, the Cardinals put the Seattle Seahawks on notice, essentially telling them that no matter the venue, their defense will come to play. Although the offense continued to have its issues, especially in the first quarter and a half, it showed what coach Bruce Arians’ offense could accomplish, when tweaked.

Stock Watch: Rookie running back Andre Ellington has been establishing himself all season, but he showed what he could do when being entrusted during crucial situations. Ellington provided a burst, the proverbial lightning to veteran Rashard Mendenhall’s thunder. He scored his first career rushing touchdown on a 15-yard run in the second quarter in which he cut out wide to the right and turned on the jets to hit the end zone.

Two Palmers: Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer may very well have turned a corner. He started horrendously Sunday, throwing two interceptions in the first nine minutes of the game, and then was sacked early in the second quarter for a safety, although that wasn’t totally Palmer’s fault. But then something happened. With backup Drew Stanton looking like he was preparing to get his first snaps since 2010, Palmer executed a nearly perfect three-play drive that pulled the Cardinals within 15-14 late in the first half. Palmer’s resurgence continued in the second half, when he threw a touchdown to Michael Floyd off his back foot, a play that has been intercepted in the past.

Drive killers: It’s not just interceptions that hampered the Cardinals on Sunday. Two fumbles derailed drives when Arizona needed them most. In the third, Larry Fitzgerald's fumble at San Francisco's 23-yard line ended a drive that could've given the Cardinals the lead. And then in the fourth quarter, Alfonso Smith fumbled his only carry of the game, ending a drive that would’ve helped cut into the Niners’ lead. To compete in the NFC West, of all divisions, the Cardinals need to keep their hands on the ball.

What's next: The Cardinals face their second straight NFC West foe in a week when they host Seattle at 5:25 p.m. MT Thursday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Rapid Reaction: Seattle Seahawks

October, 13, 2013
SEATTLE -- A few thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 20-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans Sunday at CenturyLink Field:

What it means: The Seahawks can find a way to win despite themselves. A field goal attempt returned for a touchdown and numerous offensive mistakes didn’t stop Seattle from improving to 5-1 against an inept Tennessee offense without starting quarterback Jake Locker.

Stock watch: After some shaky play the past two weeks, the Seahawks' defense kept the Titans' offense out of the end zone. And the Legion of Boom was back to its intimidating self with two interceptions -- one for safety Earl Thomas and one for cornerback Richard Sherman. The Seattle offensive line played much better overall with Max Unger back at center, but left guard James Carpenter continues to struggle. He likely cost the Seahawks points when he was whistled for holding. He also had a false start.

Field Goal Nightmare 2.0: Having to go to a backup plan on a field goal attempt at the end of the half backfired on the Seahawks. Kicker Steven Hauschka was being evaluated for a concussion, so punter Jon Ryan went in to attempt a 22-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. But that also meant a new holder (Ryan normally holds) and backup safety Chris Maragos fumbled the snap. He tried to get up and run, but lost the ball and cornerback Jason McCourty grabbed it and ran it back for a 77-yard touchdown and a 10-7 Titans lead at the half. It was the second consecutive game a Seattle field goal attempt was returned for a score. Hauschka returned in the second half.

What’s next: A short week and back on the road for a Thursday night game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The Seahawks lost the 2012 season opener at Arizona 20-16, but defeated the Cardinals 58-0 in Seattle on Dec. 9. Seattle lost 13-6 at San Francisco the last time it played on a Thursday night one year ago.

Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams

October, 13, 2013

HOUSTON -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 38-13 win against the Houston Texans.

What it means: A win last week against lowly Jacksonville had many, present company included, wondering whether the Rams were righting the ship or just taking advantage of a helpful schedule.

Beating Houston on the road in such convincing fashion would seem to indicate much more of the former than the latter.

The Rams put together their best and most complete performance of the season, dominating the Texans in all facets to come up with their first road victory of the season and even their record at 3-3. The 25-point margin of victory is the largest by a Rams team since a 48-17 Week 13 win against Minnesota in 2003.

Stock watch, up: The Rams’ offensive line. It could go to running back Zac Stacy, as well, but this was, by far, the line’s best performance of the season. They opened holes in the running game and kept quarterback Sam Bradford clean for the majority of the game, as they didn’t allow a sack. Lots of options for this spot but the front five (plus guard Shelley Smith) deserve their credit.

Stock watch, down: The Rams’ run defense. After some signs of life last week against Jacksonville, the Rams struggled as expected to slow down Arian Foster and Houston’s rushing attack. Foster finished with 141 yards on 20 carries, though the Rams did find a way to keep him out of the end zone.

Turnover turnaround: For the second week in a row, the Rams took care of the ball and came up with the takeaways needed to overcome a deficit in total yards. The Rams came up with two fumble recoveries and two interceptions, takeaways they turned into 17 points, and didn’t cough up a giveaway of their own.

Making things better, the Rams didn’t rely on the offense to convert those turnovers into points. They got a touchdown on defense (Alec Ogletree's interception return) and special teams (Daren Bates’ fumble return) for 14 instant points. Those big plays more than made up for the 412-216 difference in total yards.

What’s next: The Rams wrap up a stretch of consecutive road games with a trip to Carolina to take on the Panthers. A game that looked like the better matchup out of the two games now looks more daunting than the Houston game. That comes before a Monday night showdown against NFC West division rival Seattle the following week.