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How the West Was Won Week 14: Cardinals clinch playoff spot

Three of the four NFC West teams landed in the win column in Week 14. The Arizona Cardinals started the week with a thrilling three-point win over the Minnesota Vikings in Glendale. Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks continued their offensive breakout with a rout of the Baltimore Ravens and the St. Louis Rams broke a losing streak in a win over the Detroit Lions.

Only the San Francisco 49ers found themselves on the wrong end of things this week.

Here’s a closer look at what went down in the NFC West in Week 14.


Arizona Cardinals 23, Minnesota Vikings

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) holds up the football after a fumble recovery for the win against the Minnesota Vikings during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 23-20. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) holds up the football after a fumble recovery for the win against the Minnesota Vikings during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 23-20. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Vikings were so beaten up entering this game, the Minneapolis media had already chalked up another loss, some even wondering if Minnesota should make the trip.

They did more than that. The Vikings played well and actually had a chance to send the game to overtime. Facing a 3rd-and-10 at the Arizona 31 with only :13 left, offensive coordinator Norv Turner called for a pass play — and unfortunately for the Vikings — one that included a seven-step drop. Arizona’s Dwight Freeney, who had been thwarted on two attempts of his patented spin move earlier in the drive, pulled out the maneuver again. This time, he tangled up left tackle Matt Kalil, and stripped Teddy Bridgewater of the football. Calais Campbell recovered and the Cardinals escaped with their seventh win in a row. The victory also clinched a playoff berth and tied a franchise record for wins in a season.

Quarterback Carson Palmer completed 25-of-35 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns, upping his total to 31 for the season — a new Cardinals franchise record.

Arizona’s defense also did a nice job on Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s leading rusher. On the game’s first drive, Peterson had four carries for 38 yards, capping it with a nifty 9-yard touchdown run. The rest of the way, Peterson managed only 31 yards on 19 carries.

Arizona Money Quote: “It was one of the spin moves. It is funny because I spun three times on that series. The first one, he blocked me, I said ‘he will never expect another one.’ The second one I spun and I got killed, so I thought, ‘he will never expect a third one’ and I actually got in there and make a good move.” — Dwight Freeney

Stat of the Game: Freeney’s sack was his fourth of the season, which activates a $200,000 bonus in his contract, which was signed in early October. According to the deal, he’ll get another $100,000 for each sack he has for the rest of the season.

What’s Next: The Cardinals play another prime time game — their fifth of the season — when they travel to Philadelphia to take on the resurgent Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday night.


 

Seattle Seahawks 35, Baltimore Ravens 6

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (15) watches as Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) celebrate connecting for a touchdown during the second half an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (15) watches as Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) celebrate connecting for a touchdown during the second half an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

There’s no other way to say it, Russell Wilson is on fire. The Seattle quarterback completed 23-of-32 for 292 yards and five touchdowns as the Seahawks demolished the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. During the Seahawks’ current four-game winning streak, Wilson has completed a ridiculous 75 percent (89-of-118) of his passes for 1,171 yards with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. The late-season push has propelled Wilson in to league MVP discussions. The loss was a costly one for Seattle, however. They lost rookie running back Thomas Rawls to a broken ankle in the first quarter. Safety Kam Chancellor also injured his tailbone early in the game and did not return.

Seattle Money Quote: “I’m not surprised. I’m just looking forward to next week.” — Russell Wilson, when asked about the huge numbers he’s put up over the last month.

Stat of the Game: With his passer rating of 139.6, Wilson became the first quarterback in league history to have four straight games with a rating of 138 or better.

What’s Next: The Seahawks host Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns Sunday at CenturyLink Field.


St. Louis Rams 21, Detroit Lions 14

St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) sacks Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford for a seven-yard loss during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015 in St. Louis. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP) EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT; THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) sacks Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford for a seven-yard loss during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015 in St. Louis. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

Todd Gurley, have yourself a day.

The rookie running back got back to his dominant ways Sunday, rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns on only 16 carries and helped the Rams break a five-game losing streak at the Edward Jones Dome.

Gurley topped the century mark for the first time since Nov. 1 with his performance against the Lions.

The defense got the Rams on the board late in the second quarter when Trumaine Johnson picked off a Matthew Stafford pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown. The Lions tied things up in the third when Stafford hit Golden Tate on a 9-yard touchdown pass.

That’s when Gurley took over. He ripped off a 49-yard run, which took the Rams down to the Detroit 6. Two plays later, he found pay dirt on a 5-yard scoring jaunt. Gurley then put St. Louis up by two touchdowns with a 15-yard run early in the fourth.

Detroit would inch closer on another Stafford-to-Tate touchdown and recovered on onside kick with just over two minutes left, but the Lions could only manage 7 yards on their next possession and turned it over on downs with 1:40 left.

St. Louis Money Quote: “Oh man, today it felt good. We had lost five in a row, so that’s never a good feeling. But we got the win today and we want to finish on a strong note. We might not be going to the playoffs, but we can always bring that momentum going into the offseason.” — Todd Gurley

Stat of the Game: The Rams had been converting a league-low 24.5 percent of their third downs on the season — which is the fourth-lowest mark in league history — but were a more respectable 4-of-11 on Sunday.

What’s Next: The Rams will bust out their Color Rush uniforms for a Thursday night tilt with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in what could be the final home game ever in St. Louis. Owner Stan Kroenke wants to move the team to Los Angeles for next season, and although no final ruling has been made, it might be curtains (again) for the NFL in St. Louis.


 

Cleveland Browns 24, San Francisco 49ers 10

Cleveland Browns linebacker Nate Orchard (44) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert (2) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Cleveland Browns linebacker Nate Orchard (44) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert (2) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Nothing. That’s what the 49ers did on offense for most of their Sunday loss in Cleveland. The Niners managed only 127 yards until Blaine Gabbert led them on a 94-yard scoring drive that ended in a 6-yard touchdown pass with 1:48 left. San Francisco allowed nine sacks on the day, tying a 49ers team record, including two each by Armonty Bryant and Nate Orchard. As bad as things were offensively, San Francisco was in the game at halftime, trailing 10-3 at the break. It stayed that way through most of the third quarter, but the Browns extended their lead when Johnny Manziel hit Gary Barnidge on a 2-yard TD pass with :17 left in the quarter. Cleveland struck again when Isaiah Crowell capped a 91-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.

San Francisco Money Quote: “We didn’t have 11 guys on the same page enough to win that football game and that starts with me at the quarterback position. I have to find a way to make a play, move the football and score touchdowns. I failed to do so today.” — Blaine Gabbert

Stat of the Game: Receiver Anquan Boldin became the first player in NFL history to have at least 50 catches and 600 yards in each of his first 13 seasons.

What’s Next: The 49ers host the Andy Dalton-less Cincinnati Bengals Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.


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Week 14 Award Winners

Offensive Player of the Week: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks – A third straight win in this category for Wilson, who is playing the best football of his career right now.

Honorable Mention: Arizona QB Carson Palmer, Arizona RB David Johnson, Arizona WR Michael Floyd, St. Louis RB Todd Gurley, Seattle WR Doug Baldwin, Seattle WR Tyler Lockett

Defensive Player of the Week: Dwight Freeney, LB, Arizona Cardinals – Freeney only made one play in the game, but his strip-sack of Teddy Bridgewater late in Arizona’s win over Minnesota was arguably the biggest play of the week in the entire league.

Honorable Mention: St. Louis DT Aaron Donald, St. Louis CB Trumaine Johnson, Arizona DE Calais Campbell, Arizona S Tyrann Mathieu

Special Teams Player of the Week: Chandler Catanzaro, K, Arizona Cardinals – The second-year man booted three field goals, including the one that put the Cardinals up for good with 1:23 to go.

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