When fake runs are better than real ones

Kevin Kolb ranks among the NFL's most productive play-action passers this season even though the Arizona Cardinals rank 31st in yards per rushing attempt.

Perceived threat trumps actual threat when it comes to setting up big pass plays with fake handoffs.

"I think we've done a good job of scheming, tying it in with some of our tendencies run-wise, formation-wise, and I think that’s what’s helped us," coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday.

That was the case Sunday during a 24-21 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Kolb completed all five play-action attempts for 115 yards and two touchdowns even though the Cardinals averaged 1.9 yards per rush attempt.

Play-action offense could factor heavily into the Cardinals chances for victory at St. Louis on Thursday night.

The Rams' opponents have completed 22 of 29 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns when using play-action fakes this season. Only the Titans' defense has allowed a higher opponents' NFL passer rating on play-action throws. The Rams have promoted an aggressive style of defense, and this could be one consequence.

"The good thing for us right now is I think we’re leading the league in interceptions" Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters Monday. "You have to do that in order to have a chance to win when the offense has been struggling scoring. We have to emphasize getting in the end zone, scoring touchdowns, and taking the load off our kicker, if you will."

The chart shows play-action passing leaders by Total QBR, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith ranks eighth.

St. Louis' Sam Bradford ranks 32nd. His play-action passing was best against Washington in Week 2, when he used the tactic before throwing the go-ahead scoring pass to tight end Matthew Mulligan.

2012 Play-action Passing Leaders (min. 15 action plays)