Grading the NFC West: Week 3
CARDINALS REPORT CARD: ST. LOUIS 16, ARIZONA 14 PASSING OFFENSE: D -- QB Kurt Warner had three passes intercepted, including two deep in Rams territory. Receiver Anquan Boldin played a great game with 10 receptions for 129 yards, but it wasn't enough. RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Edgerrin James had his best games of the year, rushing for 94 yards and averaging nearly four yards. That's a marked improvement over the first two games. James did have some opportunities for big plays but couldn't break a long run. PASSING DEFENSE: C -- Rams quarterback Marc Bulger wasn't pressured enough, and receiver Torry Holt gave the Cardinals cornerbacks a few lessons. He picked on both Antrel Rolle and Matt Ware. RUSHING DEFENSE: A -- The Cardinals controlled Steven Jackson. He gained just 62 yards on 24 carries. The two tackles, Darnell Dockett and Kendrick Clancy, held up very well. SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The coverage teams did a nice job, as did punter Scott Player. The return teams, however, haven't produced anything in three games. The Cardinals were prepared to take a fair catch kick at the end of the game, but a penalty took away that chance. COACHING: D -- Someone has to take responsibility for blowing a game this club should have won. There was a nice offensive game plan, centered on using more two tight-end sets. That helped the running game, and the defense was solid. But this team makes too many mistakes, and it's not just the youngsters who are making them. RAMS REPORT CARD: ST. LOUIS 16, ARIZONA 14 PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- QB Marc Bulger passed for 309 yards and one touchdown, and was sacked only once. There were two red-zone situations where a touchdown wasn't scored, but on one the Rams remain convinced WR Torry Holt was pushed out the back of the end zone and the play should have been ruled a touchdown. The passing game featured plays of 45 yards to Holt and 42 to Isaac Bruce, while RB Steven Jackson added 59 yards on three receptions. RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- The Cardinals played consistently with eight men in the box, making it difficult for Jackson to run. But he still ran tough, and had 62 hard-earned yards on 24 attempts. It marked the third consecutive game Jackson had at least 20 carries. PASSING DEFENSE: B -- The defense had a hard time tackling WR Anquan Boldin, but who doesn't? Boldin had 10 receptions for 129 yards, and while Larry Fitzgerald scored a touchdown, he had just 65 yards on six receptions. The key to keeping Arizona off the board was three interceptions, including two in the red zone. QB Kurt Warner passed for 256 yards, but had a passer rating of only 69.0. RUSHING DEFENSE: B-minus -- Until late in the drive that would give the Cardinals their second touchdown, RB Edgerrin James had 18 carries for 58 yards. But James then got the ball on seven consecutive plays (including a 5-yard reception) and gained 38 yards rushing to end up with 94 for the day. But the Rams limited to a long of 10 and generally did a good job. SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Special teams didn't have a large impact on the game, except for PK Jeff Wilkins. He had three field goals, including one of 47 yards at the end of the first half that could be considered the difference in the game. COACHING: B -- Give head coach Scott Linehan credit for adjusting the passing offense and using some of the same way of calling plays that had been done in the past. The defense didn't blitz as much, which made sense so that the secondary wouldn't be victimized by Arizona's receivers. The plan was to get as many tacklers around the ball, especially when it went to Anquan Boldin. SEAHAWKS REPORT CARD: SEATTLE 42, NEW YORK GIANTS 30 PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed five touchdown passes while completing nearly 73 percent of his attempts. The Giants picked off his first pass. Hasselbeck tossed two more picks in the fourth quarter, after Seattle had built a 42-3 lead. The miscues were easily overlooked given how well Hasselbeck played when it mattered. RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- RB Shaun Alexander struggled again, in part because he was injured but also because running lanes weren't particularly wide. The team did run the ball effectively in short-yardage situations, however, and that allowed Seattle to sustain drives. Alexander and FB Mack Strong combined to go 3-of-3 on third-and-1 conversions. Seattle also gashed the Giants for a 17-yard run after Hasselbeck audibled out of a pass on third-and-8. PASSING DEFENSE: B -- Seattle picked off Eli Manning twice in the first quarter and a third time in the second quarter. Through three quarters, the pass rush was good enough to make Manning uncomfortable more often than not. The crowd noise also made it tough for the Giants' passing game to operate efficiently. When the Giants finally completed a meaningful first-half pass, CB Marcus Trufant forced a fumble that LB Leroy Hill recovered. The Giants got their passing game going in the fourth quarter, but the game was well out of reach. RUSHING DEFENSE: A -- The Giants ran the ball only 15 times because Seattle jumped to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. The Seahawks had three tackles for losses. Giants RB Tiki Barber found running room on occasion, but the Seahawks were more than happy to let New York chew up clock by keeping the ball on the ground. SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Seattle avoided the mechanical problems that had plagued the team's field-goal unit. The punt-cover team downed one ball at the 3-yard-line. The Seahawks had two kick returns of 30-plus yards. The overall special-teams play was better this week even though the Giants managed a 51-yard kick return. COACHING: A -- The offensive plan was sensational. Coach Mike Holmgren and his staff changed the way they normally play amid personnel deficiencies at tight end and a surplus at receiver. Seattle spread the field with four wide receivers and exploited mismatches against the Giants' weak secondary.
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