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Eric Goska column: Cardinals struggle to keep QBs standing

Nov. 2, 2012
 
Kevin Kolb, Mario Williams
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb (4) is sacked by Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (94) on Oct. 14 in Glendale, Ariz. / AP

By the sackful

Since 2010, teams that have endured the most sacks and how many of those occurred in away games vs. home games.

TotalA-HTeam
14380-63Cardinals
13065-65Bears
11252-60Rams
11269-4349ers
10763-44Packers
10458-46Dolphins
10451-53Vikings
10454-50Redskins

More

To say the Green Bay Packers’ next opponent doesn’t protect its passers well is to state the obvious. Based on sacks surrendered, the Arizona Cardinals’ offensive line has not only been the most overpowered this season, it also has been the most overrun of the past 21/2 years.

Quarterbacks John Skelton and Kevin Kolb spend more time on their backs than a pair at a tanning salon. They were the most sacked duo in 2011, and they are well on their way to defending that title.

In 2010, Arizona gave up 50 sacks to tie Carolina for second place behind Chicago (56). The 54 it had last year fell one short of the pacesetting Rams.

This season the team appears intent upon tying or surpassing the franchise record of 78 set in 1997. Cardinals passers have been dumped 39 times, including an impressive 33 in the last five games alone.

Add up the damage and that’s 143 allowed over the last 40 regular-season games. Only the Bears (130) are even remotely within sniffing distance of that total.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Cardinals did well in protection. During coach Ken Whisenhunt’s first three seasons in Arizona (2007-09), Kurt Warner and his backups were tripped up 78 times, the sixth-lowest total over that span.

Now, sacks come in bunches. Since the start of the 2010 season, the Cardinals have endured 18 games (most in the league) in which they were sacked at least four times. The team is 5-13 in those games.

Among the worst of the bunch were two outings that occurred in Weeks 4 and 5 of this year. Led by linebacker Cameron Wake (41/2 sacks), the Dolphins dumped Kolb eight times, but Arizona managed a 24-21 win.

A week later, defensive end Robert Quinn (three sacks) led the charge as Kolb went down nine times. That 17-3 loss to the Rams started the team on its current four-game slide.

The poor showing against St. Louis occurred on the road, where Arizona has been particularly susceptible to protection breakdowns. The 80 sacks it has yielded in away games are the most by any team over the last 21/2 years.

Arizona’s last sack-free road game occurred more than three years ago. Warner threw two touchdown passes and compiled a passer rating of 131.2 as the Cardinals beat the Jaguars 31-17 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in September 2009.

That raises a question: Is Arizona’s passer rating affected by how well it does or doesn’t protect its quarterbacks? Well, in each of the last three seasons, ratings have been higher when quarterbacks have spent more time upright.

In 2010, the Cardinals posted a passer rating of 60.8 in games in which they allowed fewer than four sacks. In all other games, the rating was 59.9, a difference of just under one point.

The gap has widened. In 2011, those numbers were 77.7 and 69.5, respectively (a difference of 8.2). This year they are 90.1 and 72.2 (17.9).

Apparently getting to the quarterback is a way for opponents to decrease the passer ratings of Cardinals’ quarterbacks. But how big a role does that play in winning football games?

More problematic for Arizona is what transpires after they’ve been set back on their posteriors. In most cases the team has been unable to forge onward and drives peter out.

Thirty of Arizona’s 39 sacks this year have been drive killers. That means once they occurred, no further first downs were produced and no points resulted.

Ending drives impacts winning or losing. It’s one reason why the Cardinals, after opening 4-0 (14 sacks allowed), have gone 0-4 (25 sacks allowed) since.

Regular-season series

Overall: Packers lead 43-22-4.

At Lambeau Field: Green Bay leads 6-0 including playoffs.

Starting QBs

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (46-24 overall; 1-0 vs. Arizona).

Cardinals: John Skelton (8-6; 0-0 vs. Green Bay).

Once a Cardinal, now a Packer

There are no former Cardinals on the Packers’ roster.

Once a Packer, now a Cardinal

Guard Daryn Colledge (2006-2010), defensive end Vonnie Holliday (1998-2002) and linebacker Paris Lenon (2002-2005) are former Packers.

Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of “Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness,” a statistical history of the Packers. Email him at aegoska@sbcglobal.net.

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