Dominant Defense Leads Rams Over Cardinals

Posted Oct 4, 2012

For the majority of their 17 years in St. Louis, when people think of winning football and the Rams, the first thing that comes to mind is a high wire act of an offense.

On Thursday night a packed house of full-throated Rams fans at the Edward Jones Dome might just have witnessed a seismic shift in what the next victorious version of the Rams could become.

Taking their cues from a dominant defense that battered Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb and stuffed the Cardinals random attempts to get the running game going, the Rams surged to a 17-3 victory Thursday night.

“This defense is the heart and soul of this team right now,” receiver Chris Givens said.  “We feed off their energy.  You guys see how they go out there every snap and play with passion and intensity.  As an offense, that’s all you can ask from a defense because that gives everyone else on the team energy.”

With the win, the Rams move into territory they haven’t visited much in recent history. They move to 3-2 on the season, the first time they’ve been above the .500 mark since November of 2006.

In the process, St. Louis bolstered its record at the Edward Jones Dome to 3-0 on the year and 2-0 in the rough and tumble NFC West Division, where every week figures to have the look of a heavyweight slugfest like Thursday’s.

The Rams also interrupted Arizona’s seven game winning streak on their home turf and handed the Cardinals their first loss of the season.

“It feels good,” running back Steven Jackson said. “I mean, within four days we’ve beaten two divisional teams that are very good. We’re going to have a very tough division and for us to defend our home turf and be 3-0 at home is huge. This team is fighting and it feels good.”

Perhaps nobody deserved to feel better Thursday night than a defense that came out on fire and just continued to spike that blaze all night long with a relentless pass rush that harassed and bamboozled Kolb all night.

By the time the night was through, the Rams had gotten to Kolb for nine sacks, the most by a Rams defense since Sept. 20, 1998 at Buffalo. Leading the way was a thoroughly dominant performance from a defensive line that continued to punish Arizona’s leaky offensive line and, in turn, Kolb.

End Robert Quinn led the charge with his first career multi-sack game, dropping Kolb on three occasions and forcing a fumble on Arizona’s final possession to seal the victory. Fellow end Chris Long also picked up a sack, among the nine for the team.

“We know we can be a dominant defense,” Quinn said. “We don’t try to talk too much. Just go out there and execute and let our play do the talking for us.”

The pass rush was far from the Rams only defensive success on the night. Arizona finished with just 282 yards of total offense and came out of three trips into the red zone with just three points to show for it.

In unofficial pressbox statistics, the Rams had seven passes defended and 11 quarterback hits to go with the sacks. Aside from a field goal allowed on the opening drive, the Rams completely shut the Cardinals down.

“It was a great effort,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “The team had a sense for what we had to do because going into this game with the respect factor for their defense, their defense is really, really talented, and so we knew it was going to be a hard day at work, offensively, so the defense had to step up and they did.”

While the Rams offense didn’t provide much cushion, it did come up with a fast start to stake the defense to an early lead and close with a big-play flourish to help put the game out of reach against the league’s third best scoring defense.

After the Cardinals won the toss and deferred, the Rams started their first drive from their 31-yard line. There was nothing conservative about the team’s offensive approach as Bradford hit receiver Brandon Gibson for 14 yards on the first play.

On the second play from scrimmage, Bradford stood tall against pressure and lofted a pass deep for wideout Danny Amendola, who made a spectacular one-handed catch for 44 yards to Arizona’s 11.

Two plays later, Bradford extended a play by rolling to his left and firing a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Lance Kendricks, the first of his career.

“It’s something that we had talked about all week was not settling for a field goal, getting touchdowns when we get down there,” Bradford said. “It was a great way to start the game. It would have been nice if we could have built on that and kept ourselves in rhythm.”

That rhythm vanished soon after and the two sides exchanged punts for the rest of the half save for a 53-yard field goal from rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein for a 10-3 halftime lead for the Rams.

Although they had the lead, the Rams wanted to get the defense a chance to catch its wind in the second half so they opted to go run heavy in the third quarter and did just that as Jackson and rookie Daryl Richardson found some rhythm.

“The thoughts at halftime were we needed to try to reverse the time of possession because our defense was on the field way too much the first half and so three-and-out, another defense,” Fisher said. “So, we did throw the first series, but after that we needed to change that thing and I think we might’ve caught them a little off guard. So, it was good to get the run game going, run time off the clock in both those drives.”

After hammering away with the run for the better part of the third quarter, the Rams found themselves with a third-and-11 from their 49 with 11:58 to go.

Givens, who had a drop and some missed chances earlier in the game, didn’t allow it to wear him down.

“That was bad,” Givens said. “That was something I don’t do.  I try to pride myself on being professional on the field, and to go out there and have those two drops; it kind of got me down a little bit.  But having a short memory playing this game, I had to let it go and get back out there and get ready for offense.”

Bradford had no intention of going away from the speedy Givens, who put a perfect double move on Arizona cornerback Greg Toler, and hauled in a 51-yard touchdown pass from Bradford down the left sideline.

It was the first touchdown of Givens’ young career and the longest touchdown pass of Bradford’s career.

“I told him I was going to come back to him,” Bradford said. “I’m never going to lose confidence in those guys. He’s young, he’s learning. I think he did a great job. Obviously, made a great play for us when we needed it.”

A 14-point lead in a game like Thursday’s might as well have been 100 as the Rams turned away every last ditch drive attempt the Cardinals had, including one on a fourth-and-goal pass to receiver Larry Fitzgerald that cornerback Janoris Jenkins played perfectly, dropping Fitzgerald at the 2.

“It just feels so good to be on a defense that can help this team win,” Long said. “In the past, I’ve even been embarrassed at how we’ve played defense and feeling helpless and all those things.  Every day we step on the field now I feel like we have an opportunity to win the game on defense.  With the offense playing the way they did – pounding the rock and Sam making throws when he had to – that’s a winning formula.”