NFC West: Week 14 Good, Bad & Ugly
December 11, 2013 in NFC West
By Guest Writer Kevin Rodriguez:
The Seahawks streak is snapped by narrow 49er home win, Cardinals crush Rams 30-10 in Arizona.
San Francisco beat the NFC West division leader Seahawks Sunday by two points. That was the summary of the game, a game of field position and special teams. 49ers place kicker Phil Dawson went 5-of-5 from the field (22, 23, 48, and 52) yards respectively, knocking in four field goals and one point-after attempt scoring 13 of the team's 19 points. The 49ers defense held the Seahawks to just 17 points, which was their third-lowest total of the season and lowest in a loss. In 96 games, San Francisco has allowed just nine 100-yard performances from a back, none of them this season. Colin Kaepernick finished 15-of-29 for 175 yards passing, one touchdown, one interception and a 67.5 QB rating against the 2nd ranked Seattle defense. He also rushed nine times for 31 yards, some of which were designed runs.
Seattle’s defense played well in a loss, only giving up one touchdown. As well as the Seattle’s secondary played in the first half, they were even better in the second. Kaepernick was held to 53 yards passing in the half and an interception. The front four’s pass rush put pressure on Kaepernick, picking up two sacks along the way. Russell Wilson finished 15-of-25 for 199 yards and a touchdown, and Marshawn Lynch totaled 72 yards rushing and a touchdown on 20 carries. Lynch ran for over 1,000 yards for the third straight season and fifth in his seven-year career during the game. Golden Tate made an impressive 38 yard punt return to setup Seattle's only score of the first half.
The Arizona Cardinals improved to 6-1 after a 30-10 Week 14 victory over the visiting St. Louis Rams. Carson Palmer completed 27 of 32 passes, 84.4 percent for 269 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions for a 112.1 passer rating. Star wide-out Larry Fitzgerald had 12 receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. Arizona converted over half of their third downs for the first time this season. Outside linebacker John Abraham piled up three sacks on Sunday, one of which was a safety in the Rams end zone.
The St. Louis Rams rushed for 100 yards in the loss against the Cardinals, more than half came from rookie Tavon Austin on a 56 yard run in the second half of the game. Austin also added one reception for 9 yards and a 32 yard kickoff return. Wide receiver Stedman Bailey had just two receptions in the first 12 weeks, but now has three catches and over 40 yards in each of the last two games. While Kellen Clemens did not throw a touchdown he spread the ball around well, throwing to nine different receivers. Rams rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree supplied the Rams’ only sack of the afternoon, which was the first of his NFL career.
Michael Crabtree had four catches and 40 yards while Mario Manningham had four targets and did not come up with any of them. Carlos Rogers was exposed in pass coverage on multiple occasions; he also did not tackle well. That became clear when Luke Willson’s caught a 39 yard pass from Russell Wilson then ran through a weak arm-tackle by Rogers on his way to the end zone. The 49ers also had seven penalties for a total of 70 yards. Colin Kaepernick was held to 155 yards passing and has not thrown for more than 275 yards since week one of this season.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll is expecting linebacker K.J. Wright to miss six weeks with a broken bone in his foot. Seattle was scoreless in the first quarter, marking the sixth time this year the Seahawks have been held scoreless in first quarter. Seattle’s offense managed just two first downs in the fifteen minutes of regulation. Russell Wilson was sacked on all third down scenarios in the first quarter. The trio of Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett all struggled to get pressure on quarterback Colin Kaepernick making it difficult for the Seattle defensive backs in coverage.
Special teams and Injuries were the Cardinals only concerns. Arizona kicker Jay Feely missed three of his four field goals this season against the Rams. Rashard Mendenhall did score a touchdown but ran for 2.4 yards per carry on 17 carries and totaling 41 yards. Not as efficient as Andre Ellington with 46 yards on 11 carries. This win was Arizona’s first win against the NFC West in its past nine games and is still a game behind the surging 49ers.
The Rams Lost to the Cardinals by twenty points, the defeat sunk the Rams to 5-8 on the season and 1-4 inside the division, causing them to finish last in the NFC West. A large turnaround going from now back to the Rams of 2012 who finished with the best record in NFC West games at 4-1-1. A year ago, the Rams beat Arizona by a combined 28 points in two games. Defensive end Chris Long summed up the game by saying "It's disappointing because we feel like we play good, physical football and that's what this division is about. But we just haven't played well enough in the division.”
Now that the 49ers are healthy at the wide receiving positions they are learning that they still only have two dependable receivers; Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. Meaning for whatever reason Mario Manningham has not been able to click with the second year quarterback. He has had zero catches in the past two weeks and 83 yards total in the three games he’s played in since he was activated off the PUP list on November 4th. Cornerback Eric Wright intercepted a Russell Wilson pass late in the fourth quarter. Wright is the best option available now that Tarell Brown could be out for another week/two with his rib injury.
Cornerback Brandon Browner's appeal of his 1 year suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy is not expected to be resolved until right around December 20th. This news came after Browner turned down an opportunity to reduce the 1 year ban by three months. Marshawn Lynch’s numbers have hit a dip in production over the last three games. With 53 rushing carries, Lynch totaled 171 yards and a yard per carry average of 3.2. With a rushing touchdown in each of those three games he has been a contributor but his longest touchdown run during the span was from 11 yards out.
Cardinal free safety/nickel back Tyrann Mathieu injured his knee on a kick return in Sunday’s win over the Rams. This is bad news for a secondary that was solidified by his every down presence. On Monday after tests to his knee it was revealed that Mathieu tore both his ACL and LCL on Sunday. He was a contender for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award with 68 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack. Head coach Bruce Arians said “This will be a long one, But I won’t attempt to say how long because it’s all individual anymore.”
Kellen Clemens had an interception returned for a touchdown by Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby. The Rams defense forced just five incompletions in 32 attempts and only had one sack. Carson Palmer threw for 269 yards, while the Arizona backs added 108 yards on the ground. Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens went 16/27 passing for 181 yards but zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Palmer's 84 percent completion rate against the Rams secondary was the best by an NFC quarterback with 25 or more attempts this season. Zac Stacy was held to just 25 yards on 14 carries and scored on a one yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.