By Brandon Burnett
Cold, Hard Football Facts Wizard of the NFC West (@B_Burnett49er)
After Week 4 in 2011, the NFC West struggled to a 5-11 record. In 2012, they're a league-best 11-5 at the quarter mark of the season.
Now, there's a turnaround for ya.
Determined to close out their 10-day road trip on a positive note, the 49ers demolished Mark Sanchez and the Jets 34-0, and it would've been worse had backup QB Colin Kaepernick not decided to show mercy to his suffering opponent by sliding at the Jets 1-yard line with under two minutes left.
Elsewhere, the Cardinals came out flat against the Dolphins at home, but used another mind-boggling Kevin Kolb comeback to stay atop the division at 4-0. In St. Louis, the Rams kicked their way past the lifeless Seahawks to match their win total from 2011 and move to 2-2 on the year.
1. Football Fans at University of Phoenix Stadium Have Been Getting Their Money's Worth
Arizona is an impressive 8-0 at home since Nov. 6 of last year, with five of those wins coming in overtime.
Their latest, Sunday's 24-21 OT win over the Dolphins, was probably their ugliest, but a win is a win. Arizona overcame an abysmal first half performance to score three second-half touchdowns—all Kevin Kolb TD passes.
Kolb's final TD pass was a 15-yarder to WR Andre Roberts on fourth down with 22 seconds left in the game. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the dude has ice in his veins right now. Normally, being sacked eight times (which is how many times Miami brought him down) would be a confidence crusher and force Kolb to crumble under the pressure.
Not this year. Not yet, anyway.
On the other side of the ball, Zona's D continues to dominate as the NFL's best "bend-but-dont-break" defense.
The Cardinals came into Week 4 as the No. 1 team in Bendability after allowing an astonishing 23.73 Yards Per Point Allowed. The nearly matched that total against Miami, with 22.85 YPPA.
Ryan Tannehill turned some heads by passing for 418 yards against a team that ranked No. 4 in Defensive Real Passing Yards Per Attempt, but the Dolphins only found the end zone twice in addition to two field goals.
Forcing four turnovers, including two in the fourth quarter and one in OT, is the biggest reason Arizona sits atop the NFC West after Week 4.
2. 49ers Blank The Jets Behind Punishing Run Game and Swarming Defense
Not even a healthy Darrelle Revis was going to save the Jets in this one. San Fran out-gained New York 245-45 on the ground and held the Jets' offense to 145 yards in all. The Niners were so diverse in the run game that three different ball-carriers totaled 50+ yards rushing and a TD apiece. One of them was speedy backup QB Colin Kaepernick, who found the end zone for the first time in his young career.
The 34-0 spanking of the Jets was the 49ers first shutout in a road game since 2001.
Not only did this Niner D not break, it didn't even bend. None of the Jets 12 drives on offense exceeded 30 yards and seven of them were three-and-outs. They never even reached the red zone, let alone the end zone. San Fran's defense piled up four turnovers in all, one of them a fumble recovery for a score when Santonio Holmes voluntarily coughed up the ball after he collapsed to the ground in pain.
Mark Sanchez was a lousy 13 for 29 with 103 passing yards and an interception. It's safe to say we'll be hearing an amusing amount of "sit Sanchez, start Tebow" talk in the national media this week. "Sanchize" came into the game with a league-worst completion percentage of 50.5, and left it completing just 49.2 percent of his passes.
3. Homesick Hawks' Road Woes Live On, Rams Tie 2011 Win Total
We discussed in this week's divisional preview that Seattle was 11-30 in away games dating back to 2007, yet I picked them to win anyway.
Make it 11-31, after the 19-13 loss to St. Louis on Sunday.
The Seahawks overpowered the Cowboys and Packers in consecutive weeks, but they lost the physical battle to the Rams. Seattle's D mustered a measly two sacks and three QB hits against a St. Louis O-line that allowed six sacks in Week 3 and came into Week 4 24th in our Offensive Hog Index.
The Rams defense on the other hand, forced three Russell Wilson interceptions and limited Seattle to two third-down conversions on nine attempts.
The real story in St. Louis, though, is the rookie kicker from Division II Missouri Western State. Greg Zeurlein is the name, and he booted four field goals on four attempts, including a 58-yarder and a franchise-record 60-yarder. He's 12-for-12 on the year, and eight of his kicks have come from 40+ yards out.
4. Beast Mode Can't Do it Alone
With 92 carries in four games (23 per game), it's clear Seattle is trying to establish the run game with Marshawn Lynch. We expected as much.
What's puzzling is that despite all the success on the ground, the air attack has been non-existent.
Russell Wilson set a career high with 160 passing yards against the Rams. That should say it all. Lynch has 423 rushing yards after four games, but Wilson has just 594 yards through the air.
The defense has held opponents to 20 points or less in each game, but the offense can't seem to help them out. Seattle came into Week 4 dead last in Real Passing Yards Per Attempt and pretty much did nothing to improve on that Sunday.
5. No Division Defends Their Home Field Like the NFC West
Protect this house.
We've all heard the Under Armour slogan, but no division is living those three words like this one. The NFC West is a perfect 8-0 in home games this season, while every other division has suffered at least two home losses.
The Cardiac Cardinals needed overtime to keep it going, but the streak lives on.
6. Looking Ahead to Week 5
You won't be waiting long for your next dose of NFC West action, as Arizona heads to St. Louis for a Thursday night battle against the Rams on short rest. The Cardinals look to remain perfect, while the Rams will try to defend the division's unblemished home record.
Elsewhere, the 49ers return to Candlestick Park to host the Buffalo Bills, the first of a three-game home stretch. San Francisco went 7-1 at home in 2011, while Buffalo went 1-7 on the road.
Seattle desperately wishes they could return to the comfortable confines of CenturyLink Field, but they'll have to tough it out on the road against the Panthers next Sunday.