By Brandon Burnett
Cold, Hard Football Facts Wizard of the NFC West (@B_Burnett49er)
Ouch, says every bone in Kevin Kolb's body.
Over the past four days, the Cardinals' rag doll of a signal-caller has been sacked 17 times, including nine on Thursday night alone.
Arizona's offensive tackles have become perfect examples of what human turnstiles look like, and it finally cost the Cards their perfect record.
The 4-1 Cardinals entered the game with the league's worst offensive line, according to the CHFF Offensive Hog Index, a fact that was readily apparent in our pregame analysis. That unit certainly did it help its cause with a terrible performance.
The Rams weren't exactly setting the standard for offensive production, either. And it worsened when receiver Danny Amendola exited the game with what is being reported (according to Pro Football Talk) as a broken collarbone.
As expected, the defenses put on a show. The Rams' D just shined a little bit brighter.
Let's look at what we learned from the Rams' 17-3 win.
1. If an NFC West Team is Playing a Home Game, Crown 'Em
The NFC West is now 9-0 at home in 2012, and that's with San Fran playing only one game at Candlestick Park. The defenses for the Rams, Cardinals and Seahawks are allowing a combined average of 13.2 points per game in their eight total home games.
These teams are cruising at home because the D has been so stout, offenses haven't had to be anything special. In nine tries, only two opposing teams have come into NFC West stadiums and scored two or more TD's.
The formula is simple: stuff the run, force the pass and smack anyone who gets their hands on the pigskin square in the mouth. Pow! Right in the kisser.
2. If the Rams, Cards of Hawks are Playing a Road Game, Doubt 'Em
From 2009-2011, only five of the 36 playoff qualifiers finished the regular season with a losing record on the road. One of those five teams just happened to be the 2010 Super Bowl-winning Packers, but you get the point—the odds aren’t great.
The Rams, Cards and Seahawks were a combined 6-18 on the road in 2011, and are 1-5 so far this year.
|Team||Overall W-L||Home W-L||Road W-L|
Seattle is 2-0 at home, but winless on the road. Three of their next four games are away, and the one home game is against New England.
The Rams are also perfect at home but winless on the road. Six of their final 11 games are away, and the five home games are against the Patriots, Packers, Jets, 49ers and Vikings.
If Arizona couldn’t score more than three points against St. Louis, how are they going to fare in road games against Minnesota, Green Bay and Atlanta? Those are the next three on the schedule, and their final two road games are in Seattle and San Francisco.
The Niners seem to be the only team in the division capable of winning on the road. They were 6-2 in 2011, and are 2-1 this year. Now, they get five of their next six at home, with a bye week in that stretch as well.
This could very well be the stretch San Fran uses to take control of the west.
3. Bold Statement of the Week: The Cardinals and Rams are the worst teams in the NFC West.
Before you reach for that straitjacket, let me plead for my sanity for a second.
First of all, this statement really isn't all that bold. I don't think many people are doubting that the 49ers are one of the division's top two teams, and Seattle, Arizona and St. Louis are all playing at a pretty similar level.
One crucial factor, though, is the 49ers and Seahawks have successful rushing attacks. If you want to win games behind your defense, which each of the NFC West's teams seem intent on doing, you gotta be able to run the ball.
The Cardinals cannot get anything productive going on the ground, and the Rams have produced mixed results. Arizona got pass-happy against the Rams and constant three-and-outs put more pressure on the defense than it could handle.
Arizona came into the game averaging 2.7 yards per rush, and they stayed true to form with an average of 2.6 YPC on 17 carries Thursday. Former starting RB Beanie Wells is on injured reserve and can't return until at least Week 12, and Ryan Williams left the game against the Rams with a shoulder injury.
I know it sounds like I'm hating awfully hard on a team that sits atop the NFC West with a 4-1 record. But the evidence is there, and we saw it Thursday night. Kevin Kolb has gutted it out and made some solid throws to extend drives, but defenses are fearlessly attacking a weak offensive line that can't keep him upright.
The story isn't much different for St. Louis. Bradford was sacked 10 times in the team's two road games this year, and the Rams' failed to establish the run in either contest. Is it crowd noise destroying the effectiveness of these O-lines on the road?
Sure is something.
4. The Loss of Danny Amendola is Going to Be a Big Problem
Steven Jackson isn't the guy that makes the Rams' offense go, Danny Amendola is.
After reportedly breaking his collarbone laying out for a catch, they're going to have to find a way to get things going without him. Amendola had 31 catches and 351 receiving yards going into Thursday night, and it was his 44-yard catch on the game's opening drive that set up seven of the Rams' 17 points.
Of the seven drives St. Louis had after his injury, five went without a first down and one of the other two ended with an interception. Without Amendola, Sam Bradford completed just two of his final eight passes.
The Rams have a daunting schedule ahead, and now have to navigate their way through at least a few games without the man that makes the O go.
5. Looking Way Ahead to Week 6
After 10 days off, St. Louis will suit up and take on the Dolphins in Miami in a week 6 battle. This is a winnable game for the Rams, even on the road. They'll have to account for DE Cameron Wake, who's been a monster in recent games and sacked Kolb four times in Week 4. The Dolphins are No. 2 in Defensive Hog Index through Week 4.
Arizona heads back to the desert to take on Buffalo in Week 6. The 49ers draw the Bills this Sunday, and the Cards will surely be watching. Buffalo is averaging over 28 points per game and ranks 7th in Scoreability, Arizona is No. 1 in Bendability and has only allowed five passing touchdowns in five games. Fitzpatrick, the Bills QB, has 12 scores in four games.