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NFC West: Cardinals on top, 49ers close behind

The NFC West is now strong nearly top to bottom. No longer can it be called the NFC Worst. The division has suddenly emerged as very strong with other teams not wanting anything to do with NFC West members.

At the top of the NFC West are the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards are 4-0 on the season and it is the first time since back in 1974 that Arizona has opened at 4-0. An overtime field goal by Jay Feely gave the Cardinals the win 24-21 last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. What was amazing is that prior to Sunday’s win, the Cardinals were 4-76 over their last 80 games when they trailed by 13 or more points starting the third quarter.

Kevin Kolb may have turned a corner in his career with Arizona when he came back from an interception in the fourth quarter to lead his team down field and score the tying touchdown with only 22 second left on the clock. He was sacked eight times in the game, but now has twice driven the team down field in the fourth quarter to tie or a win a ball game.

The defense of the Cardinals is playing remarkable. Blitzes by linebackers Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington are throwing of the opposing offenses. Washington was able to force a late turnover that led to the tying touchdown in regulation. Then Lenon was able to force Miami to throw an interception during overtime.

Overall, on offense the Cardinals showed they can make adjustments to opposing defenses and by the end of the third quarter had erased the 13 point deficit and were ahead 14-13. However, the running game did not come through in the game. Miami entering the game against Arizona had given up more yards per carry than any other team, but Arizona could not take advantage of that. Arizona without power back Beanie Wells or Todd Heap their tight end became a one-dimensional passing attack very quickly. The offensive line gave up too many sacks. Bobby Massie allowed three in just the first half. He gave up another late in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals secondary was somewhat suspect against a young Dolphin offense. Davone Bess was able to take advantage at times of William Gay the Cardinals’ cornerback. Gay had not been targeted by prior opponents and that could be something future teams will do. Richard Marshall’s absence in the Cardinals secondary was felt for the first time this season. Marshall signed in the offseason with Miami.

In the game, there were some impressive stats for both teams. Ryan Tannehill the rookie quarterback for Miami threw for over 400 yards. Brian Hartline, the Dolphins receiver had 245 yards receiving on just 11 catches. Bess added 123 yards receiving for the Dolphins. Those were amazing stats against an Arizona defense that has already contained Michael Vick and Tom Brady this season, and had held all off its previous opponents to less than 20 points apiece.

In other NFC West action, the San Francisco 49ers dominated the New York Jets, while the St. Louis Rams were able to beat the Seattle Seahawks their biggest rival in the NFC West.

On Thursday, the Rams face the Cardinals in what before this year would have been a yawner. The NFC West was put back on the map last season by the 49ers and now the Cardinals are helping to make it one of the leagues most competitive and strongest.


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