Sifting through 2011 regular-season rankings for NFC West teams on offense and defense:
49ers' winning formula: San Francisco ranked eighth in rushing yards, eighth in NFL passer rating, first in fewest giveaways, fourth in yards allowed, first in rushing yards allowed, first in takeaways, second in points allowed and among the top five on defense for passer rating and QBR. That added up to/reflected a 13-3 record. The team ranked only 30th in red zone offense, but that percentage was trending up. The 49ers scored six touchdowns in nine red zone possessions over their final three games. They had scored five in 23 previous red zone possessions over a seven-game period.
Seahawks' defensive improvement. Seattle's No. 9 ranking in yards allowed was its highest since the 1997 team ranked eighth. The Seahawks also ranked seventh in points allowed while finishing in the top 10 in a few other categories. The Seahawks allowed 5,315 yards, a figure that has fallen every year since peaking at 6,048 during the 2008 season. Seattle was somewhat better in third-down percentage and actually slipped in red zone percentage, but the team curtailed big plays and red zone opportunities. Seattle ranked second only to Pittsburgh in fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards allowed. The Seahawks were 31st in that category last season. The total fell from 63 to 40.
Cardinals' situational defense. Arizona ranked first in third-down defense and second in red zone defense. The yardage rankings lagged in part because the Cardinals allowed 58 pass plays of at least 20 yards, fifth-most in the NFL. Arizona also lost the turnover battle too frequently. The Cardinals ranked 28th in fewest giveaways and 26th in most takeaways. Continued development of the pass-rush would help force more turnovers.
Rams not worst against run. St. Louis went through much of the season allowing more rushing yards per game than any team in the league. They avoided a No. 32 ranking, however, when Tampa Bay allowed 251 yards to Atlanta in Week 17. That left the Bucs ranked last. The Rams' offense scored too few points, allowing opponents to lean on their ground games. St. Louis' opponents carried the ball 509 times, most in a Rams season since 1981. This was the third time in four seasons and the eighth time since 1940 that St. Louis' opponents had 500-plus carries, according to Pro Football Reference.
Now, on to the charts ...
2011 NFC West Offensive Rankings: Week 17
The second chart, like the first, is ordered by points per game.