How the West Was Won: Four games, four losses for NFC West teams
The Seattle Seahawks had a golden opportunity to pad an already seemingly insurmountable lead in the NFC West, but couldn’t take advantage.
And the three other teams in the division had a chance to pick up ground in the standings but failed.
That was life in the NFC West in Week 12.
Here’s a closer look at what went down in the division this week.
Atlanta Falcons 38, Arizona Cardinals 19
The Cardinals, coming off of a disappointing road loss to Minnesota a week ago, had their backs against the wall in terms of playoff possibilities against Atlanta Sunday. And they came out and played like a desperate team early on.
Carson Palmer led Arizona on a beautiful 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 1-yard pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham. It went downhill from there.
The Cardinals had trouble stopping an Atlanta wide receiver, who incidentally isn’t named Julio Jones. Taylor Gabriel scored two touchdowns on simple screen passes and also had a 27-yard run on an end-around in the Falcons’ win that pushed their record to 7-4 and kept them atop the NFC South.
Quotable: “This year, we have to fight a little harder. We got some adversity. Most important thing though is that we got to stick together.” — Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu
Stat of the Game: Larry Fitzgerald had four catches for 53 yards and moved past Tim Brown into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time receptions list.
Larry Fitzgerald moves past Tim Brown into 5th place on the all-time list for most career receptions. pic.twitter.com/QuGcHtsmbm
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 27, 2016
Miami Dolphins 31, San Francisco 49ers 24
Colin Kaepernick played his best game of the season, but it wasn’t enough for the 49ers, who dropped their 10th straight game.
Miami’s Ryan Tannehill threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns and the Dolphins held off a late fourth-quarter surge from San Francisco to win their sixth straight.
The 49ers took the lead in the first quarter when Kaepernick found Carlos Hyde on an 11-yard touchdown pass. But Miami answered decisively, reeling off 17 straight points to take a 10-point lead.
San Francisco bounced back on a Kaepernick-to-Garrett Celek TD pass midway through the third quarter, but again Tannehill delivered. He threw scoring strikes on each of Miami’s next two drives to put the game effectively out of reach.
Quotable: “I thought they competed, but in this league, when you lose the turnover battle you’re probably not going to win the football game.” — 49ers head coach Chip Kelly. San Francisco was -2 in the turnover category.
Stat of the Game: Kaepernick had 296 yards passing with three touchdowns and added another 113 yards on the ground. The stat line put him in rare company.
Colin Kaepernick is 5th player since the 1970 merger with 100 rush yds and 3 TD passes in a game. Others: Newton, Mariota, Vick & Cunningham pic.twitter.com/gPPt6G855r
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 27, 2016
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14, Seattle Seahawks 5
Just when everyone was announcing that the “second-half Seahawks” were back, they fall on their faces on the road against Tampa Bay.
Jameis Winston threw two first-quarter touchdown passes to Mike Evans and they held up as the Bucs’ defense kept Seattle out of the end zone for the entire game. Seattle got on the board in the second quarter when Tampa Bay committed a penalty in the end zone and followed it up on the next drive with a 43-yard field goal from Stephen Hauschka.
In the second half, Seattle punted on four consecutive possessions before committing turnovers on their last two.
It was the third game this season the Seahawks failed to score a touchdown.
Quotable: “I’m just disappointed we came all this way and played like that. We didn’t play anywhere near like we thought we would.” — Seattle head coach Pete Carroll
Stat of the Game: This was only the second game in NFL history to end with a score of 14-5, and the first since 1984 when the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons by the same margin in Week 5.
New Orleans Saints 49, Los Angeles Rams 21
The Rams’ offense put up its best showing in six weeks, but it was undone by the worst showing by a Rams defense since 2012.
Drew Brees threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns and Mark Ingram added 146 yards and a score on the ground as the Saints outscored the Rams 42-7 after Los Angeles jumped out to a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Jared Goff, making just his second NFL start, completed 20-of-32 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns for the Rams.
Quotable: “This game came down to our lack of ability on defense, to get the ball back and stop them. We’re talking about 550 yards of total offense — that’s difficult to overcome.” — Rams head coach Jeff Fisher
Stat of the Game: The Saints’ 555 yards were their second-most in any game this year and the fifth-highest total in the league in 2016.
Week 12 Award Winners
Offensive Player of the Week: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco – 29-of-46 for 296 yards and three touchdown passes; 10 carries for 113 yards
Defensive Player of the Week: Bobby Wagner, Seattle – 10 tackles vs. Tampa Bay
Special Teams Player of the Week: Benny Cunningham, Los Angeles – Averaged 32.6 yards on five kick returns
What’s on Tap:
• San Francisco 49ers (1-10) at Chicago Bears (2-9) – Sunday, December 4, 11:00 a.m. @ Soldier Field
• Los Angeles Rams (4-7) at New England Patriots (9-2) – Sunday, December 4, 11:00 a.m. @ Gillette Stadium
• Washington Redskins (6-4-1) at Arizona Cardinals (4-6-1) – Sunday, December 4, 2:25 p.m. @ University of Phoenix Stadium
• Carolina Panthers (4-7) at Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1) – Sunday, December 4, 6:30 p.m. @ CenturyLink Field
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