There were three important afternoon games in the NFC West. The San Francisco 49ers played themselves out of the playoff picture with a stunning 24-13 loss to the one-win Oakland Raiders (who almost beat Seattle). Derek Carr threw three touchdown passes, while Colin Kaepernick threw two interceptions. The 49ers dropped to 7-6. When one looks at their schedule, there were “winnable” games, such as against Chicago and St. Louis, but one wonders just what happened to this team.
The NFL is a league where every team (well, except New England) has its ups and downs, but the 49ers are a team that hasn’t changed its composition since its Super Bowl appearance; the only explanation for their “downfall” is their quarterback. Kaepernick is not a “great” quarterback, perhaps not even a good one. On occasion his arm strength can overcome his poor mechanics and decision-making, but the reality is that this has been “figured” out and defenses can game plan accordingly. You can’t blame the coach for that.
Elsewhere, the Arizona Cardinals may have saved their season with a 17-14 victory over Kansas City. Drew Stanton had another pedestrian performance, but this time the defense came up big with two fourth down stops to save the victory. The Cardinals remain in first place in the division with a game at home against Seattle, which will decide the matter.
The Cardinals remain only one game in front of the Seahawks because as may have been predicted, the Seahawks resurgent defense stymied the Philadelphia Eagles, although certainly not to the extent that occurred. Philadelphia was held to just 139 yards of total offense and nine first downs, and Mark Sanchez clearly played it too “safe” in this game, completing only 10 of 20 passes for 96 yards and an interception. On the other side, the Seahawks’ offense gained 440 yards, had 28 first downs, and dominated time of possession nearly 42 to 18 minutes; the Eagles didn’t have a single drive over six plays, and only one longer that 25 yards—thus justifying the expectation of a complete on-field slaughter.
But that did not happen, and the Eagles were somehow in the game until late, losing 24-14. Sanchez threw two touchdown passes, the second that cut the lead to 17-14 early in the third quarter. It could have been for the lead, had LeSean McCoy not lost a fumble, giving Seattle a 19-yard field in which to score. Take away that touchdown, and another aided by a 44-yard pass interference call, and the field goal at the end of the half when the Philadelphia defense let slip away a 7-7 halftime tie by allowing 20-yard completions on two third and longs, and this would have been one of those head-scratching games when people would be talking about what is wrong with Seattle, rather than Sanchez, or the fact that the Eagles run game was almost nonexistent (save for the fumble).
Oh, I know that commentators (especially the local ones) will spit saliva, and justifiably so, about the defense, but they will no doubt to so as well concerning the offensive performance—this time not so justifiably so. Russell Wilson threw for 263 yards, but he threw a season high 37 passes to do it. The fact remains, however, that Seattle’s offense time and again gains yards to usually no purpose, allowing games to be closer than they should be, and it will pay for this some time. Whose fault is this? Who shares the lion’s portion of the blame? Dare we say it? Why can’t we say that it is the defense that wins games for Seattle?