NFC West Week 3 Roundup

NFC West Week 3 Roundup
Reading Time: 4 minutes.

Despite the Rams and 49ers offensive struggles, the two sides remain unbeaten after the third week of the season and atop the NFC West.

While the Niners seemed to be doing all they could to hand the Steelers the game in the first half and the Rams offence continue to look disjointed, both sides’ defences came up big.

Elsewhere, Russell Wilson tried his best to overcome what seemed at times to be confounding play calling and an infuriating refusal to move away from the run game against the Saints, but was unable to do so.

And Arizona’s secondary was burned by inexperienced quarterback Kyle Allen, while the offensive line simply failed to protect Kyler Murray.

Los Angeles Rams 20 Cleveland Browns 13

Rams DT Aaron Donald tackles Nick Chubb
Aaron Donald tackles running back Nick Chubb (Wally Skalij/LA Times)

The Rams defence picked up the pieces as Sean McVay’s side continued their unbeaten start to the season – with Jared Goff almost giving the game away in the dying moments.

As with the two previous games, Goff and the offence started the game slowly, with the quarterback eventually finishing 24 of 38 for 269 yards.

And while that saw him connect for two touchdowns with Cooper Kupp, who racked up 102 yards on the night, it also came with two interceptions – the latter of which almost lost them the game.

Defensively, the Rams came up big all night, getting after Baker Mayfield, with Clay Matthews sacking him twice and Aaron Donald opening his sack account for the season.

But Wade Phillips and his players’ stellar performance was put to the test when Goff threw an interception with just over two minutes remaining.

The Browns got the ball to the Rams’ four-yard line with four attempts to convert and take the game to overtime.

Pressure from Donald, Dante Fowler and Matthews forced wayward throws on the first three downs, leaving them on fourth down with 33 seconds left.

Safety John Johnson came up big just when he was needed, intercepting a pass and securing the win.

While the offence continues to struggle, the Rams defence are more than capable this season of seeing them over the line.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 San Francisco 49ers 24

Kyle Shanahan spent much of the first half looking furious on the Niners touchline, with his offence doing all in their power to give the game to their opponents.

Over the course of four quarters, Jimmy G threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball twice, losing it once, with running back Raheem Mostert and receiver Richie James also turning the ball over.

The stat sheet seemingly reflects badly on the 49ers signal caller, but he was impressive as he took a succession of big hits from the Steelers defence.

Yet, despite TJ Watt, Stephon Tuitt and company breaking past the offensive line with seeming ease in the early going, Garoppolo took his shots – eight in total – and kept coming, finishing with 277 passing yards.

Defensively, Shanahan’s side put in a shift, regularly being called upon to stop Mason Rudolph getting settled, with DeForest Buckner and De Ford both getting sacks.

Elsewhere, cornerback pair Akhello Witherspoon and Richard Sherman’s impressive start to the season continued, with the Steelers only able to get a big play after the former went off hurt and was replaced by Jason Verrett.

The win, albeit an ugly one, saw the 49ers to their best start since 1998 and sends them into their bye week 3-0.

New Orleans Saints 33 Seattle Seahawks 27

Pete Carroll’s nose was bust pre-game by a wayward ball (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)

The defeat to the Saints was ‘one of those days’ for head coach Pete Carroll, who was hit in the face and cut by a wayward ball, thrown by his own player Cody Barton, pre-game.

And that incident summed up the Seahawks night, only getting properly moving in the fourth quarter when the game was all but done and the Saints were simply trying to stop big plays.

Going into the game, many believed Seattle would take advantage of the absence of Drew Brees, but ended up repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot.

Chris Carson coughed up his third fumble in as many games, there was poor clock management and then stupid penalties.

Australian punter Michael Dickson, who looks so assured last season, caught his special teams colleagues off guard with another short kick less than three minutes into the game.

That allowed Diontae Harris to dance through Hawks players and return the ball 53 yards for a touchdown.

Just before half time, with just seconds on the board and two time outs, Carroll simply chose not to stop the game as Wilson connected on a big play to receiver DK Metcalf, only for the clock to run out.

And most stupidly of all, with the Saint 20-7 up and about to take on, and miss, a 53-yard field goal, tackle Al Woods lined up covering the centre, giving away a first down which led to another touchdown.

The Seahawks will need to improve against a woeful Cardinals side next week.

Carolina Panthers 38 Arizona Cardinals 20

The Cardinals’ defence was run ragged on their home field by second-year quarterback Allen as they fell to their second defeat of the season.

Each time Arizona scored, the Panthers responded on the very next drive with a score of their own and that created too much work for Murray to handle in just his third start.

Concerningly, the secondary seem unable to deal with tight ends, conceding 348 yards and five touchdowns through three games.

Already this season, Murray has had issues with his offensive line, and they completely failed him once again in this game as he was sacked eight times.

Receivers Christian Kirk and Trent Sherfield also failed to make some straightforward catches.

The total failure by the Cardinals brings the question of whether Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid offence could really work in the NFL back front and centre.

He has a lot to solve and a lot of questions to answer against the Seahawks next week.

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