- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 5:
Burden could fall on Kevin Kolb. Beanie Wells' ability to carry the Arizona Cardinals' offense against the New York Giants might not translate to the team's game against Minnesota in Week 5. The Vikings are allowing just 76.3 yards rushing per game and 3.3 yards per carry. Both figures rank among the top six in the league. Minnesota's strong run defense could put more pressure on Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb to carry the offense. Kolb hasn't made consistently good decisions on when to bail from the pocket and what to do once he does. He is completing only 38.9 percent of his throws from outside the pocket, one reason he ranks 27th among 32 quarterbacks in Total QBR from there (6.7).
Introducing the real 49ers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shut out San Francisco at Candlestick Park last season, the 49ers' first home shutout since 1977. So much has changed for the 49ers since that game, however. Alex Smith has replaced Troy Smith at quarterback. Jim Harbaugh has replaced Mike Singletary as coach. Joe Staley is back in the lineup at left tackle. The 49ers will have seven starters on defense different from those from last year, with most representing upgrades. One concern: The 49ers are without nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, a potential concern against a runner as powerful as the Bucs' LeGarrette Blount. And to think, Blount would have been a 49er had he not reneged on an agreement with the team as an undrafted free agent.
Marshawn Lynch's opportunity. The Seattle Seahawks' offensive line took pride in allowing no sacks in its most recent game. A repeat performance on the road against the New York Giants isn't realistic. However, this game does give the Seahawks an opportunity to improve their unproductive ground game. The Giants have allowed 100-yard rushers in their past two games. The Seahawks have failed to top 64 yards rushing in three of their four games. Marshawn Lynch has gained 61 percent of his rushing yards after contact this season, the fourth-highest percentage in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Seattle's line needs to keep defenders off him a little longer.
An unlikely interception drought. Few safeties cover as much ground as quickly as the Seahawks' Earl Thomas, but that has not translated into interceptions. Thomas, after picking off five passes in his first 10 NFL games, has intercepted none in his past 12, counting playoffs. A penalty wiped out an interception for Thomas against Arizona this season. Seattle has collected only two of the 125 interceptions thrown in the NFL this season, and the Giants' Eli Manning has cut down on turnovers dramatically. A turnover from Thomas certainly would help the Seahawks' chances in a game few expect them to win. He's playing too well to go much longer without picking off passes.
49ers staring down history. A victory over the Buccaneers would leave the 49ers with a 4-1 record for the first time since 2002. Long-snapper Brian Jennings is the 49ers' only remaining player from that season. That 49ers team improved to 4-1 with a 28-21 victory over Seattle. How long ago was that game? One of Jennings' current coaches, Bobby Engram, returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown that day.