As we move deeper and deeper into the NFL calendar, Week 1 of the 2013 season seems like so long ago.
Unless you’re the Arizona Cardinals who still have vivid memories, more accurately nightmares, of their 27-24 season-opening loss to the St. Louis Rams back on September 8th.
More specifically, pass-rush specialist Robert Quinn who recorded three of the Rams four sacks on Carson Palmer which helped St. Louis (5-7) rally with 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points. Quinn beat now-former Cardinal tackle Levi Brown so badly the club traded the former first-round three weeks later to Pittsburgh. Second-year tackle Bradley Sowell will have the task of slowing down Quinn who’s 13 sacks ranks second only to another Robert, Mathis, who has 15.5 for Indianapolis.
“Probably the biggest one he’s had,” head coach Bruce Arians said about Sowell facing Quinn. “Even bigger than Robert Mathis because this is a young Robert Mathis. It’s a challenge for us coaches to give him some help…without butt-nugging it-blocking him up and having nowhere to go with the ball and get sacked by somebody else…there are times you are going to have to block him, there’s times we’re going to have to help him.”
Palmer knows he’ll have to be on his toes.
“They have three good pass rushers and they have five or six guys that they rotate in and out and keep fresh and they keep coming,” he said Wednesday. “That’s kind of what [Jeff] Fisher’s always done…it’s a very good group and the linebackers are very good, too.”
Pass protection has been a season-long problem for Arians’ team who has allowed 35 through 12 games, ninth most in the NFL. Conversely, the Rams have collected 37, tied for fifth-most in the league.
This will be the first opportunity for the Cardinals to face Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens, who replaced Sam Bradford who lost for the season in October with a torn ACL.
Many consider this a desperation game for the Cardinals (7-5) in the jumbled NFC. The Cards haven’t won an division game since they beat Seattle in Week 1 of the 2012 season (eight games). The Red Birds are coming off a tough loss in Philadelphia last week and end the season with division foes Seattle and San Francisco. Arizona is 5-1 at home this season.
“We have to win a division game,” Arians explained. “We can’t worry about the playoffs. They’ll take care of themselves. For us, we have to win in the division. We have three out of four left in the division and we have to make a statement that we can play in the division.”
Kickoff from University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale is 2:25 Sunday.