GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It would take all day but right tackle Eric Winston would be glad to sit down talk about how the Arizona Cardinals' offensive line changed from its first game against the St. Louis Rams, a 27-24 loss, to this Sunday, a 30-10 victory.
But the short version goes like this: “We’re just a different team,” Winston said. “Different confidence. I wish we could go back and start over.”
Maybe then, Arizona wouldn’t have given up four sacks in that first game and let St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn dictate what the offense did. But the Cardinals lived and they learned, and Sunday was a different story.
For starters, Quinn was going against a new left tackle in Bradley Sowell. Then the Rams’ defense was facing an offense that had three months to gel, and it made enough of a difference to hold the Rams to just one sack and two quarterback hits.
“It was a situation where I think we were ready for it,” Winston said. “We went into the week knowing we have two guys on the outside that we’re going to have to shut down.”
And that they did.
Every time Sowell read about his matchup against Quinn, the more personal it got for the second-year tackle. He heard all about Quinn’s three sacks and two forced fumbles in Week 1 and wanted to make sure it didn’t happen. There were times, however, where Quinn blew past Sowell and missed sacking quarterback Carson Palmer by a fraction of a second.
But, for the most part, Sowell was able to keep Quinn off Palmer. Quinn didn’t have a sack and hit Palmer just once.
“My goal was to go out there and every time I got my hands on him, try to beat him up,” Sowell said. “It was a good matchup between me and him. We had some physical battle up there.
“Today I end up not giving up anything so it was a big day.”
The coaching improved, too, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
“We covered our guys up and chipped, and helped a little bit more than we have in the past,” he said.
The plan throughout the week was to help Sowell often, but he didn’t get as much help as he expected. But Arizona chipped on Quinn and those guys, tight ends and running backs, ended up open. Palmer saw that and hit them quickly.
The Rams only sack was by Alec Ogletree, and it didn’t happen until midway through the third quarter.
“That defense rarely only gets one sack and they always get quarterback pressures and quarterback hits and knock downs, but protection was phenomenal,” Palmer said.
While the focus was on Sowell stopping Quinn, Winston was able to handle Long on the other wise but he noticed how frustrated Quinn was getting.
“I think when you can do that to anyone’s defense,” Winston said, “you can make sure their good players don’t get off on you and now you have a chance to go downfield and you have a chance to do some things.”