Friday, November 11, 2011
Final Word: NFC West
By Mike Sando
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:
Stepping up in class. The 2011 49ers have faced two quarterbacks with Pro Bowls on their resumes. Those two quarterbacks, Tony Romo and Michael Vick, combined to complete 50 of 79 passes for 761 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Romo had an NFL passer rating of 116.4, a season high. His Total QBR against the 49ers (93.9 out of 100) was the highest in the NFL that week. Vick's NFL rating was 99.5 and his QBR was 89.6, fourth-highest in Week 4. The 49ers face another Pro Bowl quarterback when Eli Manning visits Candlestick Park, making this a measuring-stick game for their defense.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has his 49ers team sitting at 7-1, a vast improvement from last year's 2-6 record to open the season.
Harbaugh and history. Back in 2004, Jim Mora became the first rookie head coach since the 1970 merger to lead a five-game improvement in the standings through the first eight games of a season. His Atlanta Falcons opened 6-2 after going 1-7 the season before Mora's arrival. The 49ers' Jim Harbaugh has matched Mora's record for improvement through eight games. His team is 7-1 after opening 2-6 last season. Mora's Falcons won their next three games to reach 9-2.
Road worriers. The Arizona Cardinals have lost their last 11 road games, tied with Carolina for the longest active streak in the league. The Panthers are home against Tennessee this week, meaning a Cardinals defeat at Philadelphia would leave Arizona in sole possession of the distinction. This is already the Cardinals' longest road losing streak since the team dropped 17 in a row over the 2002-04 seasons. The game at Philadelphia is the first of three consecutive road games for the Cardinals before a three-game home stand.
Owning third down. The Seattle Seahawks' last three opponents have converted 24 of 52 chances on third down. That percentage would rank 30th in the NFL if applied to this season as a whole. The third-down trouble stands out as a primary concern against Baltimore. The Ravens made first downs 14 times on pass plays alone against Pittsburgh last week, the highest single-game total in the NFL over the last 15 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Time for Bradford to produce. St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford failed to produce a touchdown drive during the team's overtime defeat at Arizona. That was the first time a Cardinals opponent has gone without an offensive touchdown since Arizona defeated Seattle in Week 5 of the 2009 season. Bradford has not thrown more than one touchdown pass in a game all season. He's riding an 11-game streak of such games overall. Factors beyond Bradford's control have contributed to the streak, but at some point, a No. 1 overall draft choice should transcend such things.