GLENDALE, Ariz. — The first time the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams faced off this season, Cards QB Carson Palmer was sacked four times in his team’s 27-24 loss. He also fumbled twice, and was hit six other times while being pressured often.
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn accounted for three of the sacks and both forced fumbles as the team basically had its way with Arizona’s offensive line.
Since then, the Cardinals replaced left tackle Levi Brown with Bradley Sowell, but otherwise have kept the line unchanged. So needless to say, how Arizona’s front would fare in the second meeting between the teams was discussed quite often leading up the game.
They fared well.
The Cardinals averaged 5.3 yards per rush and Palmer was sacked just once while engineering one of the most efficient games of his career.
“We probably did a better job coaching, to be honest with you,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said after the game. “We covered our guys up and chipped and helped a little bit more than we have in the past.”
Arians, though, noted that there were still plenty of times where his linemen were asked to go it alone, and they held up rather well, affording Palmer just enough time to get the ball away.
“We had a great game plan protection-wise,” Palmer said, noting he was sacked just one time. “That defense rarely only ever gets one sack, and they always get quarterback pressures and quarterback hits and knock downs, but protection was phenomenal.”
Quinn, who was a monster in the first meeting, was held to just three combined tackles, with only one of them being for a loss. Chris Long, who is also adept at getting to the quarterback, had just two combined tackles, none of which went for a loss.
“They were getting the ball off fast – chipping a lot,” Quinn said. “His receivers were making plays.”
It was one of the better all-around performances from the line, and an important bounce-back performance from Sowell. The week before, in Philadelphia, he struggled to contain the Eagles’ Trent Cole. Given the struggles his predecessor had against Quinn a couple months ago, there were justifiable concerns that the second-year pro would have some issues throughout the day.
He did not.
“I took it pretty personal all week when I kept seeing all the stuff about the matchup being circled, this, that and the other,” Sowell said. “My goal was to go out there and every time I got my hands on him try to beat him up. It was a good matchup between me and him; we had a physical battle out there.”
Like the offensive line as a whole, Sowell was able to bounce back when the team needed him most.
“You can’t think about the week before,” he said. “You’ve got to have a short memory and come out here. It’s a new week, a new ballgame, and come out and play as hard as you can.”