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Cardinals Pass Rush Dominates Rams

Posted Jan 1, 2017

Notes: Golden, Jones hit double digits in sacks; Reserve defensive backs step up


Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden (left) and defensive tackle Calais Campbell bring down Rams quarterback Jared Goff.

LOS ANGELES – There are times when the talented edge-rushing duo of Markus Golden and Chandler Jones come to Calais Campbell during the week and lay out a gameplan.

Sometimes, Campbell think it’s too brazen.

“That’s not going to work,” the veteran defensive tackle tells them. “And then we get in the game and it works. It’s perfect, man.”

The Cardinals worked every plan flawlessly in Sunday’s 44-6 demolition of the Rams, sacking Jared Goff seven times and ruining any semblance of rhythm for the Los Angeles offense. Golden led the way with two-and-a-half sacks, while Jones and Campbell had one-and-a-half apiece.

For the first three years of Bruce Arians’ tenure, the Cardinals lacked a consistent pass rush. This season, they finished atop the NFL with 48 sacks.

Golden ended his second season with 12½ sacks, among the NFL leaders and next to big names like Von Miller and Khalil Mack.

“It means a lot to me because I worked hard,” Golden said. “I’ve been working hard my whole life. I was that kid that really wanted to go to the NFL, and training as a kid to make it to the NFL. To get here and be able to be a part of the elite names, that’s good, and it’s more motivation, but it’s something I knew I could do.”

Jones reached double-digit sacks for the third time in his career with 11, and the Cardinals had a pair of double-digit sack artists for the first time since 1984.

“They’re terrors to the quarterback,” said Campbell, who finished the year with eight sacks himself. “Quarterbacks are waking up in the middle of the night right before a game thinking about those guys. And they should, because those guys are beasts.”

The Cardinals would love to keep the trio together but upper-tier pass-rushers are expensive on the open market, and both Jones and Campbell are free agents. Jones and Golden developed a quick bond this season and Jones would like to keep their pairing together moving forward.

“I love it here,” Jones said. “To have the opportunity to play with a rusher like Markus – I could see him having double-digit sacks for consecutive years in Arizona – and, like I said, we work together. Hopefully everything works out. I would love to be here.”

Campbell said he didn’t think about if this will be his final game with the team during the action, but gave it some thought afterward.

“Now it’s starting to sink in,” Campbell said. “Like, wow, tomorrow is exit interviews and then who knows? Yeah. I can’t say I don’t (think about it). The possibility is there but you can only control what you can control and let the rest take care of itself.”

BACKUP DEFENSIVE BACKS EXCEL

A rash of injuries in the secondary forced rookie Harlan Miller and veteran Justin Bethel into much bigger roles than usual in the regular season finale, and both responded impressively.

Miller, a rookie cornerback, notched his first career interception in the first half while playing as the emergency starting safety for the second straight week. The Rams tried some trickeration with a wide receiver pass by Pharoh Cooper, and while he had running back Todd Gurley wide open, the ball hung up too long.

Miller cut in front and returned the pick 52 yards into Rams territory.

“I thought it was a screen-and-go to their side, but I saw he was throwing back across his body so I just ran as fast as I could to where he was going,” Miller said. “I saw Gurley going up the sideline, jumped in front of him and made a great play.”

Bethel put an exclamation point on the victory by picking off Sean Mannion and returning the interception 66 yards for a touchdown.

Bethel was the presumed starting cornerback heading into the season but a foot injury set him back and he never found a role until late. He finally returned to health in the season’s final weeks.

“I’m glad I was at least able to get some good game film out there before the season ended,” Bethel said.

KERWYNN WILLIAMS STEPS IN NICELY

Everyone on the Cardinals held their breath when star running back David Johnson went down in the first quarter. Coach Bruce Arians doesn’t believe the injury is too serious, but Johnson missed the rest of the game, which opened up playing time for Kerwynn Williams.

He finished with 12 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown, capping a season in which Williams didn’t make the team out of training camp but eventually ascended to No. 2 running back.

“I always want to do the best I can with my opportunities, to prove I deserve to be in this league,” Williams said. “Anytime you get the opportunity to help this team win, it’s always huge.”

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