How the NFC West Was Won – Week 1: Rams alone in first place
There’s something you haven’t seen in a while.
The Los Angeles Rams are in first place atop the NFC West. Sure, it’s only Week 1, but the Rams were the only team in the division that handled its business, and that business was was tearing apart the Indianapolis Colts.
The other three teams in the division? Yeah, not so much. The Cardinals, Seahawks and 49ers bumbled their way through season-opening losses.
Each week, we’ll run down what happened in the NFC West in How the West Was Won.
Detroit Lions 35… Arizona Cardinals 23
Well, that was ugly.
The Cardinals used early Lions mistakes to build a 10-0 lead, then were outscored 35-13 the rest of the way in a discouraging loss at Ford Field.
Most of the issues came on the offensive end. Arizona couldn’t run the ball, mustering only 45 yards on 18 carries, but they weren’t exactly adept in the passing game either. Carson Palmer looked uncomfortable all day and threw three picks, including one that was returned for a touchdown by Miles Killebrew with four minutes left in the game.
Meanwhile, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford spent the second half looking like he’s worth the massive $135 million contract he signed in the preseason. Stafford shook off an early pick-six of his own to throw four touchdown passes including two in the fourth quarter to rookie Kenny Golladay as Detroit snapped a 7-game losing streak to the Cardinals.
Stat of the Game: Palmer’s 53.2 QB rating his fifth-worst as a member of the Cardinals (including the postseason). It was also the fifth time he’s thrown three or more interceptions since joining Arizona in 2013.
He Said It: “Obviously not the start we were looking for. You’re not going beat anybody turning the ball over that many times.” — Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians.
Arizona had four turnovers on the day and fell to 3-6 under Arians when coughing the ball up four times or more.
What’s Next for the Cardinals?: Arizona travels to Indianapolis and looks to get healthy against the Colts Sunday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Los Angeles Rams 46… Indianapolis Colts 9
No Andrew Luck? No chance.
The Rams defense, playing without All-Pro Aaron Donald, forced three Indianapolis turnovers — including two interception returns for touchdowns — while sacking Scott Tolzien four times in an easy 37-point blowout in L.A.
Trumaine Johnson returned a pick 39 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter while fellow corner LaMarcus Joyner victimized Tolzien, who was making just his fourth career NFL start, on a 29-yard return in the third quarter.
Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff had his best day as a pro, completing 21-of-29 throws for 306 yards and a touchdown giving the league’s youngest head coach, Sean McVay, his first victory.
Stat of the Game: Goff, who went 0-7 as a rookie starter last year, threw for 300+ yards for the first time and his completion percentage (72.4%) was also a career-best.
He Said It: “How you doing? Go right ahead. Oh, injuries — OK, sorry about that. First time, I’m getting used to this.” — Sean McVay, in his first postgame press conference as an NFL head coach.
What’s Next for the Rams: Los Angeles will host McVay’s former team, the Washington Redskins, Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum. McVay spent three years there as the team’s offensive coordinator.
Green Bay Packers 17… Seattle Seahawks 9
It wasn’t exactly an offensive barn-burner. In fact, Blair Walsh’s 33-yard field goal as time expired in the first half gave the Seahawks a 3-0 lead and prevented the first scoreless first half in the NFL since 2012.
That may have been the highlight for Seattle as the Seahawks were outscored 17-6 in the second half and couldn’t reach the end zone against a stout Packers defense. Green Bay harassed Russell Wilson, sacking him three times and holding him to 158 yards passing.
The biggest play in the game came in the third quarter when Mike Daniels strip-sacked Wilson and Kyler Fackrell recovered for Green Bay at the Seattle 6-yard line. Ty Montgomery punched it in on the next snap, and the Packers grabbed their first lead, which they held the rest of the way.
Stat of the Game: Seattle was dreadful on third down, converting only 3-of-12 opportunities.
He Said It: “I classify it as a day to continue to keep growing. On paper, we look amazing. But that means nothing. So for us it’s to continue to keep chopping away, continue to keep getting better as a team and as an individual and if we do that, the sky’s the limit for this squad.” — Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril to the Seattle Times
What’s Next for the Seahawks: The Seahawks open the home portion of their schedule at CenturyLink Field against the 49ers Sunday.
Carolina Panthers 23… San Francisco 49ers 3
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan arrived in San Francisco wearing the label of ‘offensive genius’ based on his stellar work with Matt Ryan and the NFC-champion Atlanta Falcons last season.
Even geniuses need tools to work with.
Shanahan’s offense, with journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer at the controls, managed a field goal and 217 yards of total offense against the Carolina Panthers in a 23-3 loss at Levi’s Stadium.
Carolina used two Cam Newton touchdown passes and three field goals from Graham Gano to build a 23-0 lead late in the third quarter. Only Robbie Gould’s 44-yard field goal with eight seconds left in the third would move the scoreboard for San Francisco, who committed two turnovers, allowed Hoyer to be sacked four times and went a woeful 2-for-11 on third-down chances.
Stat of the Game: Carolina totally controlled the clock in the second half, notching 12 first downs and holding the ball for 20:13 in the third and fourth quarters.
He Said It: “I don’t think we gave them much to cheer for in the second half, so definitely can’t blame them for that. Definitely want them to stick with us … They haven’t had a lot to cheer about recently, but I can promise them that we’re doing everything we can and working as hard as we can to change that. We’re going to do it as soon as we possibly can.” — Shanahan, following the 49ers’ eighth straight loss at home, breaking a dubious record that has stood for 54 years.
What’s Next for the 49ers: A trip to Seattle to take on the Seahawks Sunday afternoon.
Offensive Player of the Week: Jared Goff, LA Rams – The former No. 1 pick had, by far, his best day as a pro.
Defensive Player of the Week: Trumaine Johnson, LA Rams – In addition to his pick-six, which set the tone for the Rams, the veteran corner had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to go along with two tackles.
Special Teams Player of the Week: Greg Zuerlein, LA Rams – “Greg the Leg” had three field goals, including a 50-yarder and all nine of his kickoffs were touchbacks.
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