Quinn stakes claim as defensive POY

ST. LOUIS -- After spending the bulk of the first three quarters watching Rams defensive end Robert Quinn almost single-handedly wreck his offensive game plan, Saints coach Sean Payton reached his breaking point.

"I saw enough," Payton said. "I saw enough, period. It was enough; penalties, pressures, sacks, it was enough. At some point you just can't keep watching it. Feelings get hurt, it is tough."

When Payton says he'd seen enough, he's referring to the futile attempts of left tackle Charles Brown to block Quinn. By the time Payton pulled the plug on Brown and moved right tackle Zach Strief from the right side to the left, Quinn's damage had already been done.

In unofficial pressbox statistics, Quinn had five tackles, two sacks, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He also drew penalties for holding and illegal hands to the face and those were just the ones that were called.

In unofficial Payton stats, Quinn also racked up about 297 pounds worth of hurt feelings.

Not that Brown should feel too bad, Quinn's made a habit of hurting feelings all over the league in this, his breakout season. Quinn's dominance has been so thorough that his teammates are ready to make the case that the trail of tears left in his wake should lead directly to some of the league's most prized awards.

"If there were any justice in the world, he'd be defensive player of the tear," Rams end Chris Long said. "There are guys on teams that are constantly playing with leads and a ton more opportunities than he has and are not doing the numbers that he does. He's just flat out dominant. Understanding what we've done record wise and maybe a little bit of the market issue, when it comes to awards like that, you are not always going to get the right people."

"It's hard not to have him in the conversation at least because to us, he's the defensive player of the year," defensive tackle Kendall Langford said.

Quinn's totals for the season certainly place him among the heady company required to garner consideration for that accolade. Through 14 games, he has 15 sacks, just two shy of the Rams' franchise record for a season and the most in the NFC.

Perhaps more meaningful, Quinn has eight forced fumbles, the most in the NFL and a pair of fumble recoveries, one he returned for a touchdown.

Even when Quinn isn't getting home for a sack or a forced fumble, he's finding ways to destroy opposing offenses. On New Orleans' first offensive play from scrimmage, Quinn fought through every tactic in the book to get to quarterback Drew Brees just as he delivered the ball.

Safety T.J. McDonald came up with the interception, the Rams scored a touchdown on the next play and never looked back.

"I don't think I've ever seen a better pure pass-rusher," end William Hayes said. "If you're talking about a 4-3 pass-rusher, I don't think so. I played with Jevon Kearse towards the tail end of his career. I wasn't able to see him in his early days. But, for now, like the D-ends in the NFL, I don't think there's a better one."

Against opponents such as New Orleans, a team boasting one of the most dominant passing attacks in the league, having a player like Quinn is invaluable. For all of the matchup discussions you can have about this corner versus that receiver or this linebacker versus that tight end, the game is still won and lost at the line of scrimmage.

Put simply, a player of Quinn's ability should be in contention for defensive player of the year because he has the ability to significantly alter what an offense does. Countless hours of preparation can be tossed aside in the precious seconds it takes Quinn to bend the edge, dip his shoulder under a tackle and drop the quarterback.

"I think he had a big part in altering the game plan," Long said. "I don't want to say wrecking it but altering it heavily before it even started. I think our whole D-line did. Obviously he's the guy, but they kept in seven, eight people a lot today. If you watch the tape, they weren't going to let us beat them upfront. That helps the team out and in effect, just changing that game plan, yeah, it matters."

Quinn has also made himself more of a force against the run this season, the area his game needed to improve the most. That's helped him stay on the field all three downs and increased his opportunities.

Against Arizona and San Francisco the past two weeks, Quinn went without a sack but he made up for lost time against the Saints.

"When you go sackless it's frustrating but you just continue to chip away at the offensive lineman, try to get the quarterback," Quinn said. "They're not always going to let you get there, I went two games without one. I was just kind of focused on today. I have just got to keep on going and finish the year strong."

Perhaps a strong finish won't be enough to garner Quinn the defensive player's ultimate prize but his due is coming. For now, he may have to settle for leaving more hurt feelings in his wake.