SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

For NFL's Western teams, a change in direction

The San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers stumble to losses and the Oakland Raiders defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After the first two weeks of the NFL season, we could have surmised:

The San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers were very good.

The Oakland Raiders were very bad.

The Arizona Cardinals were very lucky.

But Sunday, oh, how the West was spun.

California's two undefeated teams stumbled to humiliating losses, the 49ers losing at Minnesota to the Vikings, 24-13, and the Chargers falling at home to the Atlanta Falcons, 27-3.

The Raiders, who had lost six of seven dating to last season, picked up their first victory by upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-31.

And, in a battle of unbeaten teams, Arizona crushed the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-6. The Cardinals, who are 3-0 for the first time since 1974, provided a convincing rebuttal to doubters who dismissed their Week 2 win at New England against the Patriots as a fluke.

Dating to last season, the Cardinals have won 10 of 12. Sunday's victory was especially sweet because it was redemption for quarterback Kevin Kolb, who was cast aside by Philadelphia in favor of Michael Vick.

As for the Eagles, the law of averages finally caught up with them. After squeaking to victories in their first two games despite nine turnovers, they lost three more fumbles Sunday and paid the price (including one returned 93 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half.)

Arizona and Atlanta are the NFC's only remaining undefeated teams, and both are in position to reach 4-0. Each is at home Sunday, with Arizona playing the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta playing the Carolina Panthers.

All three of the Falcons' victories have come against AFC West teams, and Sunday they denied the bid of San Diego's Norv Turner to go to 3-0 for the first time in his coaching career.

"We have a lot of work to do to get everyone on the same page," Turner said, "and to be able to go out and play as good as we're capable of playing when things aren't going as smoothly as we'd like."

The 49ers, meanwhile, will look to regroup in Youngstown, Ohio, this week as they prepare for Sunday's game at the New York Jets.

"You can't think that the game's just going to be given to you, especially when you guys are hyping us up and saying we're that good," 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman told reporters. "Everyone is trying to knock us off. You just have to be prepared for it every single game."

Despite looking like the league's best all-around team after two weeks, the 49ers fell behind by two touchdowns early to the Vikings — a team that won just three games last season — and could never dig themselves out of that hole.

"We all have fingerprints on it," 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh said of the loss. "Now it's a matter of bouncing back and making darn sure it doesn't happen again."

All Heart

In a remarkable show of courage, the Baltimore Ravens' Torrey Smith caught two touchdown passes Sunday night, less than a day after learning his 19-year-old brother, Tevin, had been killed in a motorcycle accident.

Smith is particularly close to his younger siblings, seeing as he played a big role in raising them. He learned of the tragedy in the middle of the night, spent the day with his family in Virginia, and rejoined the team in the afternoon.

CHICAGO

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