It’s been pretty clear through three weeks of the 2015 season that the Arizona Cardinals are have been the best team in the NFC West.
They left little doubt about that Sunday in a dominating performance against the San Francisco 49ers.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks flexed their defensive muscles in picking up their first win of the season and the St. Louis Rams couldn’t do much on the scoreboard in suffering their second straight loss.
Here’s what transpired in Week 3 in the NFC West.
Arizona Cardinals 47, San Francisco 49ers 7
This game was essentially over in the first six minutes after Justin Bethel and Tyrann Mathieu both returned Colin Kaepernick interceptions for touchdowns. But the Cardinals didn’t relax. Carson Palmer threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns to Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Johnson ran for 110 yards and two more scores. The 49ers managed only 156 yards of offense — the least they’ve had in a game since gaining only 151 in a tough 10-9 loss to Carolina in 2013.
Kaepernick, who hadn’t thrown an interception in his last five starts, spanning 143 passes, was picked off four times by the ball-hawking Arizona defense. It was the first time in his pro career that Kaepernick was picked off four times in one game.
San Francisco Money Quote: “I didn’t play well. I put our team behind the eight ball from the jump, and we never rebounded from that. (It’s) very hard for me to deal with. (It’s) very hard to see myself go out and play like that and hurt this team the way I did.I nullified all the efforts of every other player on that field today. That’s something I have to fix. I have to be better moving forward.” — Kaepernick
Arizona Money Quote: “I thought we came out with a purpose. We played for sixty minutes with that purpose and that was to get in first place in our division.” — Head coach Bruce Arians
The Stat: The Cardinals posted their second straight 40-point game, the first time they’ve done that since 1969. It was also the franchise’s first winning margin of 40 or more points since they shut out the Houston Oilers 44-0 in Week 7 of the 1970 campaign.
Seattle Seahawks 26, Chicago Bears 0
The Seahawks defense got their swagger back, pitching a shutout for the first time since Week 15 of the 2013 Super Bowl season. But it wasn’t all pretty for Seattle, who was booed by the home fans for a listless first-half offensive performance. They turned it around in the second half. Tyler Lockett ignited things with a 105-yard kickoff return to extend the lead to 13-0 on the half’s opening kickoff. Later in the third quarter, Seattle marched on an 85-yard scoring drive capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Jimmy Graham.
It was the first time the Bears have been shut out since 2002. Chicago, who was playing without quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, managed only 146 total yards and punted on all 10 of its possessions.
Seattle Money Quote: “It’s big. You want to suffocate a team. It’s big for our defensive staff, for our players, for everybody—it sends a statement.” — Safety Kam Chancellor, who started and had one tackle in his first game following a lengthy holdout.
The Stat: The Bears ran a total of two plays (out of 46) in Seattle territory, and never advanced past the Seahawks’ 45-yard line.
Pittsburgh Steelers 12, St. Louis Rams 6
You knew things were going to be weird after a pregame field turf fire delayed the kickoff almost 30 minutes. At least fans at the Edward Jones Dome were treated to some fireworks before the game. The Rams managed only two Greg Zuerlein field goals in an ugly loss to the Steelers, who lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a left knee injury.
The Rams had chances and trailed 9-6 in the fourth quarter, but a Nick Foles interception with about three minutes to go led to a Pittsburgh field goal. St. Louis couldn’t push the ball into Pittsburgh territory on its final drive, and turned the ball over on downs with 1:15 remaining.
St. Louis Money Quote: “Six points isn’t going to win you a whole lot of games. We’re averaging eight points a game the last two weeks, and that’s not going to get it done for you. That’s my biggest area of concern.” — Head coach Jeff Fisher.
The Stat: Rams running backs Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham and Todd Gurley combined for 37 yards on 16 carries.
NFC West Standings – Week 3
|3-0||126||49||vs. St. Louis|
|1-2||45||93||vs Green Bay|
Offensive Player of the Week: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona – The old man wins the award for the second straight week. Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns and was a big factor early in the game for the Cardinals. The veteran found open space in the 49ers defense and accumulated 99 yards in the first half. For good measure, he added two touchdowns in the second half.
Honorable mention: Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona; Chris Johnson, RB, Arizona; Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle, Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle
Defensive Player of the Week: Tyrann Mathieu, S, Arizona – “The Honey Badger” got two picks, returning one for a touchdown and registered five tackles and one tackle for loss in a dominating performance.
Honorable Mention: Justin Bethel, CB, Arizona; Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle, Kevin Minter, LB, Arizona; Alec Ogletree, LB, St. Louis, Aaron Donald, DT, St. Louis
Special Teams Player of the Week: Tyler Lockett, KR, Seattle – Lockett has proved to be deadly early this season. The rookie from Kansas State had his second return touchdown Sunday, taking the second-half kickoff back 105 yards for a score to help the Seahawks to an easy win over Chicago.
Honorable Mention: Greg Zuerlein, K, St. Louis; Richard Sherman, PR, Seattle; Steven Hauschka, Seattle
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