I would like to start by saying thanks to Directv for the free weekend access to NFL Sunday Ticket. Since I live in the inland northwest I typically only get to see the Rams play when they are on prime time, or if they are playing against the Seahawks. The access to NFL Sunday Ticket also allowed me to switch back and forth between the Seahawks vs. Cardinals game and the 49ers vs. Packers game. So here goes my assessment of the NFC West as a division starting with the Rams.
St. Louis Rams. Allowing the stinging disappointment of a last second loss to settle overnight gives a person a little perspective. Yes the Rams really let one slip away in Detroit but when was the last time the Rams held a lead in the final minute against a team that was favored by a touchdown? The Rams showed some of the traits expected of a Jeff Fisher coached team. The defense was aggressive and resilient, the special teams play was good and the offense did its best to control the tempo of the game. If the offense can progress during the regular season to where they score touchdowns after turnovers instead of field goals they could be a surprise team this year. The 49ers make the chance of a worst to first turnaround almost impossible, but worst to second in the division seems within reach.
Arizona Cardinals. Watching the first half of their game yesterday I learned a few things about the Cardinals. The first being that their offense is not nearly as bad as all of the analysts said it would be. The offensive line actually did a fairly decent job of protecting the quarterback, although they didn’t seem to generate much push in the run game. The second thing I learned is their defense can get to the quarterback mostly using extremely well timed blitzes from the secondary. Overall they played a decent game in spite of the replacement officials terrible officiating. Of all games played over the weekend I believe this was the worst group of officials.
Seattle Seahawks. All the hype about the Seahawks and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was just that. Several pundits had expected the Seahawks to challenge the 49ers for the NFC west title after watching Wilson dazzle in the preseason. The problem with rookie quarterbacks and preseason football is that no NFL team will use exotic blitzes or try to disguise coverages in the preseason like they will do in the regular season. Wilson played well enough and if his receivers could hold onto a football they just might have won the game. I didn’t catch the second half of this game but in the first half the Seahawks were being thoroughly outplayed by the Cardinals, and aside from a terrible pass interference penalty against Patrick Peterson (the ball was overthrown by 15 yards and out of bounds) they would have been held scoreless in the first half. The Seahawks however did show grit and resilience in driving inside the Cardinals 10 yard line at the end of the game, giving themselve a shot at the win.
San Fransisco 49ers. I don’t know how many of you managed to catch any of this game, but the 49ers looked very impressive. They completely dominated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in an impressive showing by all three phases of the game. It seems clear the 49ers are the class of the NFC West, they have the most talented roster and a top 3 defense. As long as the injury bug doesnt bite and Alex Smith doesn’t do anything to cost the 49ers games they should have a very good season. I didn’t watch all of this game as I was switching back and forth, and I didn’t catch any of the 4th quarter but the 49ers pretty much dominated for the 3 quarters I was following. All other NFC West teams were put on notice yesterday by the way they handled a very good Green Bay squad.
Two NFC West teams showed better than anticipated in their season openers, the Rams and 49ers both made statements yesterday. The Rams put the league on notice that this was not the same old Rams and the 49ers made their case for being a Super Bowl favorite. The Seahawks and Cardinals both showed some grit and determination in a hard fought game that could foreshadow the rest of the division games in the west. Perhaps the 49ers will take the drama out of the division race early this season, but the race for second place should be wildly entertaining. Go RAMS!!!