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NFC West Comes Out Looking Strong in Week One

September 11th, 2013 at 8:22 AM
By Sports Media 101


Rams 101 contributor, David Schlager, breaks down the NFC West on a weekly basis.
After a long but good offseason, week one of the 2013 NFL regular season has finally come and gone. In the words of former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green “They are who we thought there were!”
We thought very strongly that the NFC West was the best division in all of football, and at least after the openers, we were right.  
Despite close games and a division game, the four clubs went 3-1 to open the year.
Starting with that only division game, the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams displayed how much better they can be with their additions.
A quick glance at the box score of the 27-24 Rams victory highlights the return of Larry Fitzgerald, with eight catches for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The addition of Carson Palmer looks to have the offense throwing for big yardage, something they were incapable of last season.  Last season with the slew of quarterback imposters, the Cardinals only scored more than 20 points three times.
Palmer had a trio of receivers that picked up at least 80 yards.  Breakout candidates Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd both benefited from the three-receiver sets.
Switching to the victor, Jeff Fisher proved he knew what he was getting adding former Titan Jared Cook. The first weapon at tight end since the days of Ernie Conwell and The Greatest Show on Turf made a heck of a debut.  The first big play of the game Sam Bradford connected with Cook up the seam past a linebacker for 47 yards.  It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows as Cook was tracked down by young playmaker Tyrann Mathieu who punched the ball out at the goal line. Despite the goal line fumble, Cook still scored two touchdowns on seven catches racking on 141 yards.
Robert Quinn’s pressure was a constant theme and a game-changer.  Whether it was just the natural progression of Quinn to become a star, or the inability of Levi Brown to play like a top five draft pick, Quinn sacked Palmer three times, forcing two blind side strips.
The game of the week was in San Francisco where the 49ers sent Green Bay home on the short end of a 34-28 contest.
Arizona may have gotten a starting signal-caller for a sixth round pick, but San Francisco got a Super Bowl Champion number one receiver for a low level draft pick. Anquan Boldin made an impression bringing in 13 receptions for 208 yards and a score.
The most highlighted play of this game happened on a third down when Colin Kaepernick scrambled towards the left sideline.  After he got out of bounds short of the third down conversion Packers linebacker Clay Matthews took him down.  Players on both sides got into a shoving match, multiple punches were thrown, and flags were flying.  
Bill Leavy’s crew, which has since been downgraded by the NFL, called off-setting penalties on Clay Matthews and 49ers left tackle Joe Staley.  That’s where the first mistake happened. Staley got flagged for getting in Matthews’ face following the cheap shot.  Matthews then punched Staley twice and received no extra punishment besides the late hit to Kaepernick.  These offsetting penalties should have led to a fourth down, but for some reason the referees called for a replay of third down.  The very next play, Kaepernick hooked up with Boldin for the score.
Kaepernick proved once again that he was more than just a runner, rushing for only 22 yards while throwing for 412 yards and three touchdowns. During the offseason tight end Vernon Davis talked about how he and his quarterback were connected, and it showed during the season opener.  Davis picked up 98 yards with six receptions and a pair of touchdowns.
Seattle had a tough time proving that they could win away from the 12th man of Qwest Field.  In the first three years of Pete Carroll’s tenure, the Seahawks are only 8-17 on the road.  That includes just 4-7 playing 1 pm ET games.
It took awhile for Russell Wilson and company to get going.  Going into halftime down 7-3, the offense had gained just 136 yards.
The offense picked up enough in the second half to pick up th 12-7 win.  Russell Wilson finished with 320 passing yards and the sole touchdown, connecting with second year man Jermaine Kearse.  
A noticeable aspect was missing in the first week of the season.  Neither of the four teams had success running the ball.  
San Francisco had 2.64 yards per rush against the Packers.  The Seahawks barely surpassed that, rushing for 2.69 yards per attempt. St. Louis ran for a combined 67 yards, and Arizona gathered 86 yards on 26 rushing attempts, split by Rashard Mendenhall and Alphonso Smith.
This wee, the Rams travel to the Georgia Dome to face Steven Jackson and the Atlanta Falcons.  The Arizona Cardinals host the 1-0 Detroit Lions, who have a solid running back for the first time this century.  Most notably, Sunday Night Football goes to Qwest Field and the 12th man when the two NFC favorites face-off.  The home team has won seven of the last eight 49er-Seahawk matchups.

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