How the NFC West Was Won Week 11: The division goes winless

Nov 21, 2017, 8:06 AM | Updated: 11:35 am
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, left, misses a pass in front of Minnesota Vikings corne...
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, left, misses a pass in front of Minnesota Vikings cornerback Terence Newman (23) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

One could make the argument that the San Francisco 49ers are the hottest team in the NFC West after Week 11.

After all, Kyle Shanahan’s team did win its last game, beating the New York Giants in Week 10 for their first victory of 2017. And they didn’t play this week, making them the only team in the NFC West not to lose.

It wasn’t a banner week for the division. The top two teams in the NFC West lost to Super Bowl contenders from other NFC divisions and the Arizona Cardinals continued being the Arizona Cardinals in an ugly loss to a struggling Houston Texans team.

Here’s a closer look at what went down in Week 11.

Houston Texans 31, Arizona Cardinals 21

Coming off a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Cardinals had another chance to get to .500 in Week 11. Standing in their way, quarterback Tom Savage and the Houston Texans.

That sentence alone had to make the Cardinals feel good about their chances. They didn’t feel so good after the game.

Savage picked up his first win as Houston’s starter, as he threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns in the Texans’ 10-point win.

Houston opened the scoring early in the second quarter when Savage hit running back Lamar Miller on a 7-yard touchdown pass. The Cardinals answered with two touchdowns of their own. Blaine Gabbert connected with Larry Fitzgerald on a 20-yard touchdown pass and less than six minutes later, he found tight end Ricky Seals-Jones on an 11-yard strike.

Ka’imi Fairbairn then booted a 34-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, and the Cardinals led 14-10 at the break.

Savage would engineer another scoring drive in the third, capping it with a beautiful 28-yard touchdown pass to Deandre Hopkins, who beat Patrick Peterson on the play, which gave the Texans a 17-14 lead.

Arizona again answered when Gabbert and Seals-Jones hooked up again, this time on a 28-yard touchdown pass, and the Cardinals once again led 21-17. It would be their last lead of the day.

D’Onta Foreman finished a 75-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 13:13 to go in the contest. Midway through the fourth quarter is when the Texans clinched it. Arizona faced a 4th-and-1 from their own 35 with 6:30 to play and Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians curiously called a run play, despite the ground game being bottled up all day long. Adrian Peterson was stopped for a 1-yard loss, turning the ball over to the Texans.

Foreman ripped off a 34-yard touchdown run on the next play to seal it for Houston, who broke a three-game losing streak.

Stat of the Game: The Cardinals, who rank 29th in the NFL in third-down defense, struggled again in that area against the Texans. Houston converted 8-of-15 on the day.

He Said It: “Very simple. I cost our team the game. Trust is a funny thing sometimes when you can’t gain a foot, you deserve to lose — especially if you make the decision I made and the play that I called. There’s your headline, you can write it.” — Bruce Arians on his ill-fated fourth-quarter play call.

What’s Next: The Cardinals return to University of Phoenix Stadium for their next three games. The first comes against the AFC South-leading Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3) Sunday at 2:25 p.m.

Minnesota Vikings 24, Los Angeles Rams 7

It was a battle of division leaders Sunday as the Rams visited the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

For 45 minutes, it was a battle of two top defenses, but in the final quarter, it was the home team that got the last laugh.

The Rams, who own the league’s top offense, looked like they’d have their way early when Jared Goff marched them on a game-starting 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by Todd Gurley’s 6-yard touchdown run. Four minutes and 18 seconds into the game, the Rams had a 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter, the Vikings took advantage of great starting field position at the Rams’ 30-yard line and cashed in seven plays later when Latavius Murray found the end zone from 8 yards out to tie the score.

There would be no movement on the scoreboard until the fourth quarter. Murray scored on the second play of the fourth on a 2-yard plunge, wrapping up a 71-yard drive. After another Rams’ punt, the Vikings pounced again. Case Keenum hit Adam Thielen on a 65-yard touchdown pass on the next Minnesota possession, essentially clinching the game.

Kai Forbath booted a 39-yard field goal for good measure with under two-and-a-half minutes left.

Stat of the Game: Minnesota’s defense held the Rams to just 254 total yards — their second-lowest output of the season. Only 45 of the Rams’ yards came on the ground — a season-low.

He Said It: “We got humbled today by a very good team, so you’ve got to look at yourself critically. I’ve got to do a much better job for our team and especially for our offense. I didn’t put them in enough good situations today.” Rams head coach Sean McVay

What’s Next: The Rams return to Los Angeles to host the red-hot New Orleans Saints, who have won eight straight games.

Atlanta Falcons 34, Seattle Seahawks 31

Trailing the Atlanta Falcons 24-17 with mere seconds left in the first half, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll made an interesting decision.

Instead of having Blair Walsh attempt a 34-yard field goal to pull the Seahawks within four points at the break, Carroll called a fake. Holder Jon Ryan flipped the ball to Luke Willson, peeling off the line, and he was engulfed by Grady Jarrett for a 4-yard loss.

No points.

And when you go on to lose that very game by three points, that decision will loom large in the criticism realm.

It didn’t look like Carroll’s decision would loom that large after Matt Bryant kicked a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons up by eight points, 31-23. But Russell Wilson drove the Seahawks 75 yards in just :49, capping the drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham.

Seattle forced a three-and-out and got the ball back with a chance to win or tie, but Blair Walsh’s 52-yard field goal attempt came up short with two seconds left.

Wilson threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 86 more with another score for the Seahawks, who have now lost two of three with both losses coming at CenturyLink Field.

Stat of the Game: The Falcons are now 3-1 in Seattle in the Pete Carroll era, joining the Arizona Cardinals as the only teams to topple the Seahawks three times on their home field. The loss was also the first of Wilson’s career on Monday Night Football. He had been 6-0.

He Said It: “It would have been a really good call if we made it. It’s something we saw and we wanted to do. Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play. He got in the backfield. He wasn’t supposed to be there.” — Carroll on his ill-fated fake field goal call at the end of the second quarter.

What’s Next: The Seahawks hit the road to take on the 49ers in Santa Clara.

Award Winners

Offensive Player of the Week: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks – Wilson continues to be a one-man wrecking crew for Seattle, and that’s good because their running game (outside of his scrambles) continues to be abysmal. Running backs J.D. McKissic, Mike Davis and Eddie Lacy combined to carry 16 times for 50 yards.

Defensive Player of the Week: Budda Baker, S, Arizona Cardinals – Baker’s first extensive playing time on defense was a revelation for the Cardinals, albeit, in a loss. The rookie had 12 tackles, a strip-sack, a fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and a pass defensed. Baker played every defensive snap and earned a 99.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.

Special Teams Player of the Week: Tyler Lockett, KR, Seattle Seahawks – Lockett averaged 39.4 yards per kick return, including a 57-yarder.


Team Wins Losses Ties Points For Points Against
7 3 0 303 186
6 4 0 242 199
4 6 0 176 254
1 9 0 174 260

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