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Rest of the NFC West, Week 4: Cardinals are NFC’s last unbeaten team

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Well, my job doing this write-up is a little easier this week. I only have had to watch and read up on two games, one of which I was already glued to due to my Seahawk loyalties. You’ll get pretty good analysis from my colleagues on what we learned about the Seahawks from Sunday’s game, so let’s start with what the Niners showed us in the loss.

Trey Lance plays, looks somewhat underwhelming in 49ers’ loss to Seattle

After a hot start, with 167 yards in the first quarter, the 49ers offense cooled off significantly. Going just 2/14 on third down, they limped through much of the second half despite the guidance of rookie quarterback Trey Lance. Taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo, who was just 4/11 for 33 yards in the second quarter before suffering a calf injury, Lance excelled most on the ground, carrying the ball 7 times for 41 yards. In the air, Lance was pretty inaccurate and indecisive in the pocket. Aside from the coverage breakdown that led to a 76-yard touchdown, Lance was 8/17 for 81 yards. He did lead the Niners down the field for a late TD, but other than that, he was pretty pedestrian.

Aside from getting clarity about the weakness of the 49ers offense, we also learned a bit about the holes in their defense. The secondary wasn’t good at times today, with Dre Kirkpatrick having a particularly rough performance, but Emmanuel Moseley was very good for the 49ers, especially in coverage against DK Metcalf. The pass rush was pretty good, but Shane Waldron did a good job countering their pressure with his play-calling. The run defense was arguably the biggest problem for the 49ers, as the Seahawks’ ability to get Collins and Carson cooking in the second half allowed them to open up their playbook. Overall, the 28 points San Francisco gave up wasn’t indicative of the solid performance their defense had, but holes in the secondary and in the rush defense, as well as self-inflicted wounds with penalty issues, gave the Seahawks enough to take advantage of.

Cardinals wallop Rams, move to 4-0

I thought the Cardinals were being underestimated entering this season, but I don’t think anyone imagined they were three possessions better than the Rams. In perhaps the most shocking result of Week 4, the Cardinals marched into Los Angeles and controlled the game, winning 37-20. The Cardinals offense once again proved its explosive capabilities, this time against an allegedly elite defense, picking up 465 yards of total offense in their fourth-straight 30-point game. The Cardinals are first in scoring in the NFL, and are top-5 in almost every other key offensive metric. Kyler Murray is blossoming into a superstar right in front of our eyes, and was nearly unstoppable in this game thanks to his mobility and his weapons down the field. Chase Edmonds also averaged 10 yards per carry, as the Rams were absolute eviscerated on the ground. The Cardinals’ defense was good, too, although they were exposed at times on the ground by Darrell Henderson.

So, coming into their matchup with the Seahawks this Thursday, what did we learn about the Rams? The short answer is, they are not superhuman. The team that was looking like a sure NFC favorite last week against the Buccaneers did a complete 180-degree turn this week, and it’s not really clear where they stand. Maybe the Cardinals just are that good, but the weaknesses the Rams showed on defense in this game have to bode well for the ‘Hawks.

Standings

Arizona Cardinals - 4-0 (1-0 DIV)
Los Angeles Rams - 3-1 (0-1 DIV)
Seattle Seahawks - 2-2 (1-0 DIV)
San Francisco 49ers - 2-2 (0-1 DIV)

Next week

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (Thu)
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (Sun)