Chris Long eats pieces of quarterback for breakfast.

There are only appalling words that can be used to describe the Arizona Cardinals’ 2012 offensive line. Atrocious, abominable, rough, criminal, stinky, faulty, inadequate, and inferior are just a few of them. A total of 44 sacks have been allowed by the Arizona blockers and an additional 64 hits on not one, not two, but three quarterbacks. Ouch! And WOW!

One of the lowest moments of the 2012 regular season came in Week 5 against the hated St. Louis Rams.  The Rams sacked quarterback Kevin Kolb — who managed to actually attempt 50 passes — nine (!) times and won the game handily 17-3. Twelve weeks later, they meet again tomorrow.

The St. Louis Rams are now below .500, dwelling at the bottom of the NFC West standings at 3-6, while the Arizona Cardinals are also below the average mark with a record of 4-6, and they’re just one step above the Rams in the standings. In summation, neither of these teams are competing for the division title any longer, but this game still has meaning to it because it’s an old rivalry that the Cardinals are going to look to avoid getting swept in.

To do that, they need to avoid allowing their new starting signal-caller — strong-armed rookie Ryan Lindley — to get obliterated.

One way they can start is by reviewing the game tape from Week 5. The nine sacks allowed weren’t all blitzes from the Rams, as some were pure four man rushes. Defensive ends Robert Quinn (weak-side) and Chris Long (strong-side) were able to charge through the C-gap with reckless abandon and brutally punish the quarterback because of the very poor and slow hands and feet of the Cardinals’ offensive tackles. This will be an issue once again for Arizona, so it’s imperative that they give they O-line as much help as they can. In some instances in Week 5 they didn’t, instead choosing to go to empty backfield sets and leave them on a not so appealing island with the two torturous pass rushers. 

On the other end of it, when the Rams blitzed, there were a lot of confused faces among the blockers. For Kolb it was worse; his face was bloodied. At the start of the second quarter, St. Louis sent an overload blitz in the direction of the right offensive guard.

The Rams came out in their standard four-man front against the Cardinals’ seven-man protection scheme. After the snap, the Rams sent an additional two rushers, bringing the total to six, with their inside linebackers. First it was weak-side linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar who sped through the B-gap and then middle linebacker James Laurinaitis followed directly behind. Along the defensive line, the under tackle looped into the near A-gap between the right guard and center, forcing the two to pick him up, while the defensive end (Long) shot up the field through the C-gap to widen out the offensive tackle. This left a gaping hole in between the guard and tackle, as there were two rushers a only one blocker: the running back.

Despite having four blockers to deal with four total rushers on their left side, the Cardinals gave up a sack. The offensive guard never passed off the under tackle to the center while widening back to his right to pick up one of the rushing linebackers. If he had done so, the running back would have only had one rusher to block.

The eighth sack came in the fourth quarter, and it was even uglier. St. Louis sent five total rushers this time and the Cardinals, who were in their Empty set, had five blockers. One of the rushers, nickel cornerback Cortland Finnegan who came off the edge, came through unblocked to sack Kolb, and here’s why: the Cardinals committed a half-slide the wrong way.

A T-E (tackle-end) stunt on the right side of the offensive line tied up the right guard and tackle, both of whom blocked inside-out as they were instructed to, while the left side of the line blocked two Rams’ rushers with the center, guard, and tackle. That meant no one blocked Finnegan, who sacked Kolb before he could find slot receiver Larry Fitzgerald open to his right.

If the Cardinals don’t alter their protections by giving their offensive line help and shortening up routes for Lindley to throw to, they will get swept by the rival Rams.