When the 2013 season began, 35-year-old outside linebacker John Abraham looked like he had a better chance of being history as opposed to making it.
Through the first six games, the 14-year veteran seemed to struggle acclimating to a new home, as he had just 10 combined tackles and no sacks.
But then it happened.
Lost amid a 34-22 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 7, the NFL’s active sack leader finally started to find his form. Abraham, who signed a two-year deal back in July with Arizona, corralled Russell Wilson twice and forced two fumbles in the 12-point defeat. And frankly, he hasn’t looked back since.
During the next six contests, a span which has seen the Cardinals go 5-1, Abraham has looked like the four-time Pro Bowler that he is. The Cardinals linebacker has 17 tackles and eight sacks — none bigger than the three he recorded Sunday.
In Arizona’s 30-10 blowout victory over the St. Louis Rams, Abraham manhandled Kellen Clemens on three separate occasions.
The first caused a fumble. The second forced a safety and gave him 10 sacks in a season for the eighth time in his career. And the third put him in elite company, as he passed Lawrence Taylor on his way to ninth place (132) on the all-time sack list.
“We’re watching history,” Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “To pass Lawrence Taylor on the all-time list is unbelievable. I’m so happy he’s on our team. He’s been wonderful for the younger guys getting to watch him work, study and prepare.
“Then coming out here and playing the way he’s been playing this season, it’s been phenomenal. I’m just happy he’s with us. I hope he’s with us for a long time to come.”
Abraham’s head coach, Bruce Arians, echoed those sentiments.
“He just whips everybody in front of him,” Arians said. “I don’t know how many sacks he had today, but when you pass Lawrence Taylor and you get in the top 10 of all-time that is something special. “It’s just more meaningful, because he’s doing it as a Cardinal.”
It’s a day that early on never seemed like a possibility, at least not in 2013.
During the Cardinals’ first meeting with the Rams back in September, Abraham played only 20 snaps. The perception was that at 35 he was old more so than venerable, a situational pass rusher at best.
Three months later, he’s put himself in a position few defensive players have ever found themselves in.
“I think it’s now more about experience and having a helluva coach,” said Abraham. “James Bettcher has done a great job of versing me on what the other team has. I know when to rush and when not to rush. I know what’s coming. The older you get the more experience you have and the more stuff you know how do to do. I’m just blessed to have a body that can still hold up at this age.”
It seems that like a fine wine, Abraham, who became the first Cardinal since 2004 to record 10 sacks in a season, might actually be getting better as time marches on.
That’s good news for the Cardinals, and maybe not so much for the remaining three teams on their schedule.