The 2011 NFL season is essentially half over and the NFC West race is likely completely over. the San Francisco 49ers won again and hold a four-game lead over the 2-5 Seattle Seahawks. That's right, the second place team is 2-5. But thanks a shocking victory by the St. Louis Rams over the New Orleans Saints, there is now a battle for the cellar of the division.
The Arizona Cardinals melted down in glorious fashion, turning a 24-3 lead into a 30-27 loss. They only could muster 56 total yards of offense in the second half and former Cardinal Anquan Boldin torched the secondary for seven catches for over 140 yards. Arizona, for the third time this season, had the ball with the opportunity to take the lead late in the game. For the third time, they were unable to drive down the field and create points.
Seattle got drudged at home 34-12 by Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals. Pacman Jones even got in on the fun with a long punt return. In a losing effort, Tarvaris Jackson threw for a career high 323 yards, but could not score through the air..
The Rams didn't even have Sam Bradford. A.J. Feeley started for St. Louis, but it was Steven Jackson who shouldered the load. He rushed for 159 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Rams defense kept Drew Brees from throwing 300 yards and held the Saints to 56 yards on the ground. The Cardinals and the Rams are all set for the game that will establish the worst team in the division.
San Francisco relied on its defense and Frank Gore to beat the Cleveland Browns 20-10. It has been a winning formula this season. Alex Smith isn't screwing things up and Gore has recovered from his hip injury from a year ago, looking every bit the All-Pro back he has been. With the defense playing strong and their schedule being light, some believe that they could pull off a 14-2 season.
Will it happen? Considering the division, they just might. Anyway, here is a rundown from the SB Nation team blogs reacting to the games Sunday.
Defense Keeps Seattle in, but Offense Refuses to Score, 34-12 - Field Gulls
This game was reminiscent of the Seahawks-Niners or Seahawks-Browns games, and might be the story of the season: the defense does enough to keep us in, but the offense refuses to do enough to keep up even with these fairly mediocre offenses. And like the Niners game, the end-score really doesn't represent the difference between the two teams on the field, with 14 Bengals points coming near the end on a punt return and a pick six.
Rams Upset Saints For First Win Of The Season - Turf Show Times
Even as recently as yesterday, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone who gave the St. Louis Rams a chance against the New Orleans Saints this week, myself included. All season, the Rams have been flat and uninspired, forcing fans to slog with them through six consecutive losses, losses in which they never had a chance. And then they beat the Saints, a team coming off a 62-7 win the week before. How did they do it? If you're looking for an easy answer it's Steven Jackson.
The San Francisco 49ers improved to 6-1 with an ugly but steady victory over the Cleveland Browns. They dominated for much of the first half and then basically just sort of did enough "not to lose" if you will. What I enjoyed once again was the team concept of the victory. The 49ers are operating as a cohesive unit and while it is not the prettiest effort at times on offense, it has gotten the job done. It remains to be seen if it will be enough to make serious noise in January, but the team has two months to get some things figured out.
Another blown save, another week in the world of Cardinal's football. This time, the blown save was against the Baltimore Ravens. After leading 25-6 at halftime, the Cardinals allowed the Ravens to comeback all the way, leading up to a last second, game winning FG by the Ravens Kicker Billy Cundiff.