The NFC West has been widely considered the best division in all of football, no questions asked. And in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL regular season, it certainly lived up to the hype.
As the Seahawks did their thing in Indianapolis, walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium with a convincing 28-16 win over the Colts, the rest of the division did theirs as well. If you missed the action, here's what went down with the Cardinals, Rams and 49ers.
Arizona Cardinals: Defeated Titans 38-13
It doesn't exactly outweigh what the Saints were able to accomplish against the Packers on Sunday, but the Cardinals' lopsided victory over the Titans—in Tennessee, no less—was certainly a bit of a surprise. Quarterback Kyler Murray exploded for five total touchdowns, connecting with DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk twice apiece and running in another score on his own. But the story, really, was the Cardinals' defense—particularly edge rusher Chandler Jones. After missing the majority of the 2020 season with a torn bicep, Jones recorded an unheard-of 5.0 sacks(!!!) and two forced fumbles in his first game back. Arizona's defense, as a whole, held Tennessee running back Derrick Henry to just 58 yards on 17 carries and quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a passer rating of just 74.9. The Titans will now travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks at Lumen Field next week.
Los Angeles Rams: Defeated Bears 34-14
Things could not have started any better for quarterback Matthew Stafford in his first game in a Rams uniform. After L.A.'s defense forced an interception of Bears quarterback Andy Dalton in the end zone, Stafford and company needed just three plays to go 80 yards for their first score of the night, capped off by a 67-yard bomb to second-year receiver Van Jefferson. Chicago's strategy in this game was peculiar, to say the least. Head coach Matt Nagy's unwillingness to permanently sub in first-round pick Justin Fields for the mediocre Dalton was downright mind-numbing, especially when the rookie got into the game for a handful of plays—most of which didn't even tailor to his strengths. One thing that might raise the eyebrows of a few Seahawks fans: the Bears, despite their putrid gameplan, were able to move the ball some against the Rams' defense. Running back David Montgomery put up 108 yards on the ground and a touchdown, and Chicago was somehow out-gained on the night by just 64 yards in total. That said, the Stafford-led Rams looked every bit as dangerous as advertised, with the former Lions passer completing 20 of his 26 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns.
San Francisco 49ers: Defeated Lions 41-33
Speaking of the Lions, quarterback Jared Goff—who came over from the Rams in the Stafford trade—made his debut in Detroit along with new head coach Dan Campbell. At first, it did not go well; the 49ers jumped out to a massive 31-10 lead at halftime in a plethora of ways, including a pick-six of Goff by linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Rookie quarterback Trey Lance also came in for a goal-to-go look, connecting with receiver Trent Sherfield for a five-yard touchdown on the No. 3 pick's lone pass attempt of the afternoon. Detroit did, however, make San Francisco sweat a little bit in this one, rattling off 23 points in the second half to bring the deficit within eight. Goff and crew even had the ball with a chance to tie, marching down within the 49ers' 25-yard line. But first-year coordinator DeMeco Ryans' defense held strong, forcing a turnover on downs to secure the Week 1 victory. The bad news for the Niners, however: starting cornerback Jason Verrett suffered a torn ACL.