Some people may argue the AFC West is a bad division because all of the teams are hovering around .500. Yeah, but at least there's some competition. In the NFC West it's just three awful teams and a good team getting criticized for playing in a bad division despite playing just one game in said division so far.
On the one hand, it is nice that the 49ers have such a large cushion so early in the season. But at the same time, it makes it too easy for "experts" and other fans to marginalize the performance of the team. Maybe it's better to be a big fish in a small pond though, kind of like what Boise State has done the last five or so years in the
Mountain West Conference Western Athletic Conference before joining the Mountain West this season.
Here's a look at how the awful part of the division did this past weekend after the jump.
First, the good news. The Seahawks were finally able to get Marshawn Lynch and their running game going. Lynch gained 135 yards on 23 carries and scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter. They gained 162 yards on the ground overall. Unfortunately, Tarvaris Jackson completed three passes to the Cowboys defense. Jackson was just 17 for 30 for 221 yards and finished with a quarterback rating of 40.4.
The Seahawks defense didn't fare much better. For what seemed like the first time all season, their defensive line got beat in the trenches. The best part of this team has been their run defense, but DeMarco Murray ran all over them for 139 yards on 22 carries. The Cowboys gained 163 yards on the ground and averaged 5.6 yards per rush. Overall the defense gave up over 400 yards.
When you lose the turnover battle three to one on the road against a favored opponent, there isn't much chance for a win. Sidney Rice continues to be Jackson's favorite target. He was thrown to nine times but only caught three passes. He did average over 20 yards per reception though. The Seahawks face the Ravens in Seattle next week then travel to St. Louis to face the Rams. They are five games behind the 49ers.
The Rams were in control for much of this game. They had a chance for a game-winning field goal with four seconds left, but it was blocked by Calais Campbell to force overtime. It was again special teams that did the Rams in, as Patrick Peterson returned a punt for an electric 99-yard touchdown. He already has three returns for touchdowns this season. But he's more than just another Devin Hester, he's supposed to be a shut-down corner as well.
Neither quarterback stood out, though John Skelton performed better than I expected him to. He did have a tough time connecting with Larry Fitzgerald though. He targeted him 12 times but only completed four passes to him for 43 yards. They did hook up for a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter though.
The Rams outplayed the Cardinals for much of the game. They gained over 100 more yards in total offense and dominated the time of possession 37 minutes to 25. The special teams of the Cardinals came up huge late in the fourth quarter and in overtime. The Cardinals had a tough time running the ball all game. Beanie Wells had just 20 yards rushing. Over half of their 70 yards rushing was by Skelton.
The Rams were able to get Steven Jackson going for a second straight game, which is encouraging. Sam Bradford targeted new receiver Brandon Lloyd 13 times, but only completed five passes to him. Look for them to get more comfortable with each other as the season goes.
The Rams schedule for the next three games is considerably easier. They face the Browns in Cleveland and the Seahawks and Cardinals at home. But at 1-7, they are already on the verge of being mathematically eliminated halfway through the season. The Cardinals next three games are on the road against the Eagles, 49ers and Rams. Barring any upsets, they can win one of those games, which would put them at 3-8.