49ers Do The Lambeau Leap; Kevin Kolb leads Arizona to Victory
By Brandon Burnett
Cold, Hard Football Facts NFC West beat man (@B_Burnett49er)
The 49ers shocked the Packers (in convincing fashion, too), Kevin Kolb finished what John Skelton unsuccessfully started and the Rams gave the Lions about all they could handle.
The smoke from Week 1 has cleared, and the NFC West Standings are 1/16 complete.
Let us dissect Sunday's action on the gridiron before we forge ahead.
1. "Game Manager" Alex Smith out-duels Aaron Rodgers in 30-22 Win Over The Pack
With a passer rating of 125.8 on Sunday, Alex Smith walked off of Lambeau Field looking more like Aaron Rodgers than, well, Aaron Rodgers.
The former No. 1 pick looked calm and collected throughout the contest, firing pass after pass into the chests of 49ers receivers, ultimately completing 20 of his 26 throws on the day.
Smith tossed two touchdowns, including a 20-yard strike to future Hall of Fame WR Randy Moss who didn't play often, but was a clear factor when he did get in on the action.
Halfway through the third quarter, Smith hit tight end Vernon Davis for the QB's second TD to make the game 23-7. Rodgers, on the other hand, paced the sideline delving deep in his mind for ways to crack the 49ers vaunted defense.
It was another signature victory for No. 11, who continues to build on a strong 2011 campaign and ditches each and every condescending label attached to him over the past seven seasons.
The 49ers new-look offense managed to improve upon a second-ranked score of 13.07 (Yards Per Point) in CHFF's Scoreability last year by averaging 12.5 YPP against the Pack on Sunday.
Of course, a 49ers recap isn't complete without mentioning David Akers. The record-setting kicker booted a record-tying 63-yard FG at the end of the first half that bounced square off the crossbar through the uprights.
That's some serious leg.
The only true blemish from the Niners offense on Sunday was Vernon Davis' failed slam dunk attempt over the crossbar of the field goal post after his TD. 'Twas a rather humorous sight for the otherwise freakishly athletic TE.
2. Rams Lose Nail Biter 27-23, Defense May Be Onto Something
For 59 minutes and 50 seconds, Matthew Stafford and the potent Lions' offense struggled mightily in their attempt solve the aggressive Rams defense.
Then came the dagger.
Stafford connected with running back Kevin Smith on a 5-yard TD pass with 10 seconds to go in the game, stealing a 27-23 win from the visiting Rams that Detroit had to feel lucky to come away with.
Cortland Finnegan took one of Stafford's three interceptions to the house, and rookie CB Janoris Jenkins announced his arrival to the NFL with a pick of his own.
St. Louis ranked 26th in the NFL in 2011 in Bendability, one of CHFF's Quality Stats. A team's Bendability can be discovered when dividing the amount of yards allowed by points allowed. The Rams score in this game (15.88 Yards Per Point Allowed) would've put them at 13th in last year's rankings.
This is a young and talented Rams D now equipped with two playmakers at the cornerback position. However, in the end, it was youth that ultimately cost them the game.
They'll have to learn to show up for a complete 60-minute contest—especially on the road—but there are some true positives to take from the opening of the Jeff Fisher era. Keeping Calvin Johnson out of the end zone is an accomplishment if nothing else.
3. Cards over Hawks 20-16 Behind Arm Of....Kevin Kolb
The Seahawks defense saw a games worth of action from both John Skelton and Kevin Kolb in 2011, but they weren't preparing to see the latter on Sunday.
Knocking Skelton out of the game in the fourth quarter turned out to be what doomed Seattle in their trip to the desert. Kolb, Arizona's $65 million backup QB, stepped in and instantly orchestrated a game-winning drive, capped off by a 6-yard TD pass to Andre Roberts with 4:59 left in the game.
Head coach Ken Wisenhunt reported Skelton's injury to be an ankle sprain, which could keep him out of action for at least a week or two. So, for now, this is Kolb's team again. He was able to seize the unexpected opportunity at home and lead the Cards to victory, but next week's trip to Foxborough to square off against the Patriots D won't be such a walk in the park.
Arizona's defense, on the other hand, succeeded in making Seattle QB Russell Wilson look like the rookie that everyone seemed to forget he is, so there's that to build on. And the hard-fought win against a division rival is a plus, of course.
But the QB dilemma in Arizona isn't going away. After Week 1, we're not entirely sure if that's a bad thing.
4. As for the Seahawks...
The much-hyped debut of rookie QB Russell Wilson didn't quite go as Seahawks' fans had planned, but the performance wasn't a total disaster, either.
Pete Carroll kept it simple for Wilson in the opener, limiting his responsibilities to handing the ball off or hitting check-downs. Perhaps Carroll was trusting his D to close out the road win, but it was Seattle's secondary who allowed Kolb to carve them up in the final minutes.
Penalties were also an issue for the two NFC West squads, particularly the Seahawks, who committed 13 infractions on the day.
Sloppy play is typically a common theme of the NFL's opening weekend, but penalties and turnovers kept Seattle from capitalizing on a prime opportunity—one they won't be getting back.
5. A Brief Look at Week 2 matchups for the NFC West
Redskins @ Rams
Believe it or not, RGIII one-upped Drew Brees as the Redskins hung 40 (10 in each quarter) on the Saints. Is Mike Shanahan's offense for real, or is New Orleans D as bad as it looked?
St. Louis will find out 4:05 EST next Sunday, when they return to the Edward Jones Dome for their home opener.
Cardinals @ Patriots
Arizona's run game was non-existent against Seattle, and it'll now be pinned against a Patriots D that held the Titans' Chris Johnson to four yards on 11 carries. Staying undefeated serves as a tricky task for Whisenhunt's crew next Sunday.
Cowboys @ Seahawks
If Carroll plans to let Wilson loose anytime soon, I wouldn't advise allowing him to attack this Dallas defense at will. The Cowboys just shut down Eli Manning at The Meadowlands and Tony Romo looks locked in.
Lions @ 49ers
With Stafford looking so lost against the Rams' defense, one has to wonder how he'll survive a trip to San Francisco. The Niners held Detroit to just 19 points at Ford Field in a Week 6 matchup a year ago.
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