As the Carolina Panthers lost their first game to the Atlanta Falcons, the Arizona Cardinals were winning their ninth game in a row –- a shellacking of the Green Bay Packers.
The Cardinals sit at 13-2 compared to the Panthers won-lost record of 14-1. How big a difference is that one game?
We’ll probably get to see when the Cardinals take on the Panthers in the NFC title game a few weeks from now.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ win was impressive.
Carson Palmer threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns, Cory Redding and Jerraud Powers each returned fumbles for scores and the defense sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times as the Cardinals defeated the Packers.
This marked the Cards’ 10th win in a row, their best winning streak since they were called the Chicago Cardinals in 1948.
The Cardinals added one more sack on Rodgers’ replacement Scott Toizien for a total of nine sacks for the day.
Palmer completed 18 passes on 27 attempts and was intercepted once. He was sacked twice. The Cardinals rushing game was by committee as Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington, David Johnson, and Drew Stanton ran for a combined 121 yards. Johnson rushed for a touchdown.
Michael Floyd led the Cardinals’ receivers with six catches for 111 yards; David Johnson caught three passes for 88 yards; Larry Fitzgerald caught four passes for 29 yards and a touchdown; and John Brown caught three passes for 25 yards and a touchdown.
Rodgers finished with 15 completions out of 28 attempts for 151 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Packers’ leading rusher was Eddie Lacy, who gained 60 yards on 12 carries. James Jones topped the Packers’ receivers with five catches for 46 yards. Davante Adams caught three passes for 42 yards and Lacy caught one pass for 28 yards and a touchdown. CARDINALS 38 PACKERS 8
Just when everyone was starting to believe in the Seattle Seahawks again, the St. Louis Rams beat them. The loss probably doesn’t mean much because the Seahawks have already clinched a wildcard berth in the playoffs. Still, the win came in Seattle where the opposing team isn’t supposed to win.
It has appeared throughout the season that so goes Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin, so goes the Rams. That is, if Gurley and Austin have big games than the Rams are pretty much assured of a victory.
Well, Gurley did alright as he rushed for 85 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown, but Austin was disappointing as he caught only three passes for 16 yards and ran for 12 more yards on three carries. However, Kenny Britt picked up the slack and caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. In addition, Akeem Ayers scooped up a fumble and returned it 45 yards for a score.
It was the first time that the Rams have won in Seattle since the NFC wildcard playoff game on January 8, 2005 when the Rams beat the Seahawks 27-20. The win also broke the Seahawks five game-winning streak and gave the Rams a sweep over their rivals for 2015. St. Louis beat Seattle 34-31 in overtime in week one.
Rams’ quarterback Case Keenum finished with 14 completions on 23 attempts for 103 yards and a touchdown to Britt in the second quarter. With the victory, Keenum has won three straight games as the starter.
Of course, just as it is for most teams that get a win, the Rams had luck on their side. In the fourth quarter Benny Cunningham fumbled the ball on a third-and-one play at the Seahawks’ 40 yard line. It appeared that Seahawks’ free safety Earl Thomas recovered, but officials determined that Rams’ center Tim Barnes had grabbed it and was down by contact before the ball ended in the possession of a Seahawks’ player under the pile. Two plays later Gurley broke off a 20-yard run to the Seahawks’ 10 when he fumbled. Barnes again recovered and three plays after Gurley scored and the Rams were leading by 13-points.
For his heroism, Barnes was given the game ball.
It was a tough game for Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson, who was sacked four times and hit 13 times and still managed to complete 25 passes on 41 throws for 289 yards and two touchdowns, including an 18-yard touchdown to Jermaine Kearse with 17 seconds remaining. The Rams recovered the onside kick as time ran out.
Wilson also threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin in the third quarter. RAMS 23 SEAHAWKS 17
Matthew Stafford threw two touchdown passes, one to Calvin Johnson, and Matt Prater kicked four field goals as the Detroit Lions beat the San Francisco 49ers. The loss marked the 49ers’ third straight and fifth out of the last six games.
The Lions’ victory was helped by a little trickery as Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell called for a fake punt. Strong safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, who was playing blocking back in punt formation, received the direct snap and converted a fourth and one play from the Lions’ 35 yard line. The drive culminated in a Stafford 29-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Jones. It was Jones’ first touchdown reception.
The defensive line of the 49ers committed a total of seven offsides or neutral zone infractions, which was a single-game high by an NFL team this year. They committed six of those infractions in the first half, the first time any team has done that since 1993 when the Houston Oilers did it against the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers also committed penalties that negated two 30-yard plus returns in the first half. They were flagged a total of 11 times for the game.
49ers’ quarterback Blaine Gabbert finished with 22 completions on 33 throws for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He lost the ball while being sacked and the Lions recovered. That resulted in Joique Bell’s one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Anquan Boldin caught five passes for 27 yards and became the 13th NFL player with 1,000 receptions in a career.
Leading rusher for the 49ers was DuJuan Harris, who gained 73 yards on 11 carries. The 49ers running game could only muster a total of 121 yards. Leading receiver for the 49ers was Vance McDonald, who caught five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. Torrey Smith, who caught two passes for 23 yards, also caught a touchdown pass. Bruce Ellington finished with three catches for 55 yards.
Lions’ runners Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Joique Bell, Stafford and Abdul-Quddus combined for only 87 yards. Johnson led the Lions’ receivers with six catches for 77 yards. Theo Riddick caught seven for 63 yards and Golden Tate caught four passes for 59 yards. LIONS 32 49ERS 17
NFC WEST STANDINGS Overall Division Conference
c-ARIZONA CARDINALS 13-2 4-1 10-1
x-SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 9-6 2-3 6-5
ST. LOUIS RAMS 7-8 4-1 6-5
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 4-11 0-5 3-8
c- Clinched Division and Bye
x- Clinched Wildcard Berth
NFC WEST SCHEDULE
SEAHAWKS @ CARDINALS SUNDAY, JANUARY 3, 2016
49ERS @ RAMS SUNDAY, JANUARY 3, 2016