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Friday, September 16, 2011
Final Word: NFC West

By Mike Sando

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 2:

Kevin Kolb
Arizona's Kevin Kolb fared well in Week 1 when the defense brought at least five pass-rushers.
Handling the pressure. Only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers ranked higher than the Arizona Cardinals' Kevin Kolb in NFL passer rating (139.2) when defenses brought at least five pass-rushers in Week 1, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Kolb led the league in QBR (98.7) in these situations among players with at least one pass attempt, completing six of 11 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. His Washington Redskins counterpart, Rex Grossman, put up solid numbers overall, but his NFL passer rating (70.3) and QBR (13.6) lagged badly against five or more rushers. The Cardinals weren't shy about bringing pressure against Carolina, but they struggled to stop Cam Newton in these situations.

About those early kickoffs. For years, the Seattle Seahawks struggled to win games kicking off at 10 a.m. PT unless they were played in St. Louis, where the long-struggling Rams made for an inviting opponent. Times changed last season. The Seahawks went 1-1 in early games, beating the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field after losing in St. Louis. Seattle joins Arizona among Western teams playing early games Sunday. The Cardinals were 3-0 in 10 a.m. PT kickoffs the last time they felt good about their quarterback situation, in 2009. They were 0-4 in early kickoffs for 2010.

Sam Bradford's downfield throws. Bradford and Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels went into the season saying they planned to incorporate more downfield throws into their offense. It did not happen during an opening-week defeat against Philadelphia. Four of Bradford's 30 attempts (13.3 percent) traveled at least 15 yards in the air. The percentage for Bradford was 13.7 last season, lowest among qualifying quarterbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Bradford and the Rams should have additional downfield opportunities against the New York Giants' injury-depleted secondary.

49ers' offensive aggression. Coach Jim Harbaugh kept a straight face while telling reporters the team was being aggressive against Seattle when it ran the ball in traditional passing situations. The 49ers ran the ball six times on third-down plays when they needed more than a yard for a first down. This included four plays of third-and-4 or longer. The 49ers converted none of these six rushing plays. The approach was good enough to defeat a Seattle team that wasn't getting much accomplished offensively until late. How well the 49ers fare when opening up the offense against Dallas stands as a leading NFC West storyline for Week 2.

Tough duty for tackles. NFC West offensive tackles face some brutal matchups this week. DeMarcus Ware (Dallas), Brian Orakpo (Washington), Ryan Kerrigan (Washington) and James Harrison (Pittsburgh) are coming after NFC West quarterbacks. The Giants have been playing without injured defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, but if either one plays against St. Louis on Monday night, add their names to the list.