Pass rush biggest concern for Arizona against Rams

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams' pass rush has come alive just in time to harass the streaking Arizona Cardinals.

After sacking Colin Kaepernick eight times in their 13-10 win at San Francisco, the Rams will zero in on Arizona's Carson Palmer. He has thrown for 11 touchdowns and been intercepted just twice while going 5-0 as a starter this season.

"It's a well-coached, well-executed defense with some really, really good players," Palmer said, "some kind of freakish players that are hard to stay on one on one."

Arizona (7-1) enters the game with the NFL's best record, and the Cardinals' best start through eight games in 40 years. The Rams (3-5) have struggled elsewhere, but are 2-1 against the NFC West, with victories over Seattle and the 49ers.

"Obviously, the sack numbers are coming back," St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said. "We had a rough month. It wasn't that the defensive line wasn't getting any pressure, but the ball was coming out, teams were heavy run-oriented. We knew eventually we would be able to come up with a few of them."

The Rams had just six sacks through seven games before erupting for a slew of them last Sunday.

Leading the way, as expected, was Robert Quinn. He will be a huge challenge for the Arizona offensive line, particularly for tackle Jared Veldheer, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason to shore up what had been a shaky group.

"He's a freaky pass rusher, one of those elite pass rushers in the NFL," Veldheer said. "So fast off the ball, very fluid hips. Once he gets to that edge he's gone. You can't let him get to that edge. He's a great player and I look forward to being able to play against him for the first time."

Quinn has two sacks in each of the last two games.

St. Louis' eight sacks last Sunday were the Rams' most since they sacked Arizona's Kevin Kolb nine times on Oct. 4, 2012.

Here are other things to look for when the Cardinals play the Rams:

RUN DEFENSE: Arizona ranks third in run defense (79.6 yards per game) and, in last Sunday's 28-17 win at Dallas, held DeMarco Murray under 100 yards for the first time this season. The Cardinals have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 18 consecutive games.

There's no doubt the strategy will be the same: stop the run and get after quarterback Austin Davis.

"It's going to be a big test for us. You're looking at arguably the best team in the NFL right now," Davis said. "Their record speaks to that. It's what we need, though. It's what we want. We want a big challenge. We feel like we've been progressing the last couple of weeks. Things have started coming together."

Davis could get his chances. Arizona blitzes so often and commits so much to stopping the run it leaves its cornerbacks defending one on one. The Cardinals are last in the NFL in yards passing allowed per game.

CARDINALS AGAINST NFC WEST: Arizona will be playing only its second game against an NFC West opponent. The Cardinals have played five games outside the division since beating San Francisco in Arizona 23-14 on Sept. 21.

Arians points to last year's 2-4 record in the division as the reason the Cardinals failed to make the playoffs despite a 10-6 record.

BALL SECURITY: The Cardinals have committed six turnovers (four fumbles, two interceptions), tied with New England for fewest in the NFL. They have 16 takeaways, including 12 interceptions, tied with Buffalo for most in the league.

Their plus-10 turnover margin is second only to the Patriots' plus-12.

"They don't make mistakes," Fisher said. "They don't hurt themselves. That's the impressive thing."

St. Louis has committed 13 turnovers (eight interceptions, five fumbles). Their turnover differential is minus-3.

But they got a big one last Sunday when, in the final seconds, Kaepernick fumbled into the end zone from the 1-yard line.

DAVIS' TRIALS: Davis, who began the season as the third-string quarterback, had arguably his worst game against San Francisco, completing 13 of 24 for 105 yards with two interceptions. Expect Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to send a confusing array of blitzes and defensive sets against him.

FITZGERALD'S NUMBERS: Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, who has a team-leading 513 yards receiving, is on pace for his seventh career 1,000-yard receiving season. He has 16 career touchdowns against St. Louis, more than any active player has against any team.

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