ST. LOUIS — Robert Quinn knows these opportunities don’t come along often.
The St. Louis Rams hosted the Seattle Seahawks at the Edward Jones Dome on Monday in their first Monday Night Football matchup in nearly three years, and Quinn and his defensive teammates seized the chance to strut their stuff.
Seven sacks of quarterback Russell Wilson. A paltry 135 yards of total offense allowed. Only 14 points. A performance that gave the Rams a chance to win on the final play of the game.
That the Rams’ offense sputtered on a game-ending fourth-and-goal did little to diminish the dominating performance by the Rams’ defense — one in which the defensive end tandem of Quinn and Chris Long notched three sacks apiece in a 14-9 loss.
“You don’t get too many Monday nights at home or at all,” Quinn said. “I think everybody stepped up to the plate. Of course, we would have liked the W, but we fell short. We’ll look at it, build on it, get better. We’ve got young, talented guys. I don’t think anyone got discouraged because of this game because we fell short. Everyone’s looking forward to going in on Wednesday and looking at the film, seeing what we did good and what are some things that we can correct. We can finish the season strong.”
The 23-year-old Quinn, in his third season out of North Carolina, showed a national TV audience that he is one of the top young defensive players in the game with his second three-sack performance this season and the third of his young career.
The Rams’ speedy 6-foot-4, 264-pounder helped set the tone for the St. Louis defense, recording a sack on third down of the Seahawks’ first possession, and then had back-to-back sacks near midfield in the final minute of the first half when Seattle led 7-3 and was trying to add to its lead.
Quinn now leads the NFC with 10 sacks and is fourth in the NFL behind Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis (11 1/2), Buffalo’s Mario Williams (11) and Kansas City’s Justin Houston (11). His sack total almost matches that of his entire 2012 season, when he had 10 1/2.
Quinn was the No. 14 overall pick in a 2011 draft that has already produced some premier pass rushers — Denver’s Von Miller (No. 2 overall), San Francisco’s Aldon Smith (No. 7) and Houston’s J.J. Watt (No. 11). Miller, Smith and Watt were all selected for the Pro Bowl a year ago, and at this rate Quinn could be on his way this year.
“We’ve got a really good group,” Long said. “It just starts with No. 94 right there. He was on fire in that first half. He’s probably the most dominant football player I’ve played with and been on the field with. So it’s a lot of fun lining up with him every day. Our whole D-line deserves a lot of credit.”
Long also recorded the third three-sack game of his career. He now has 5 1/2 sacks this season and 47 1/2 in his six-year career, which includes 13 in 2011 and 11 1/2 in 2012.
“Those two rushers are as good as it gets for the most part,” Wilson said. “You have to give that defense a lot of credit.”
The Rams made life miserable for Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch and the rest of the Seattle offense.
Seattle averaged only 3.4 yards per play. Lynch was limited to 23 yards on eight carries, a 2.9-yard average, as the Seahawks rushed for just 44 yards on 15 attempts. Wilson completed 10 of 18 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns — with the bulk of the yardage coming on an 80-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate in the third quarter — but lost 48 yards on the seven sacks.
“We played one of our best defensive games this year,” Quinn said. “You look back and you’re like, ‘Ah, I wish I could have made this play or that play.’ But that’s a great football team, as we all know, and we went toe to toe with them. We came up a play short, but like I said, I think playing on this Monday night really opened a lot of people’s eyes to what the Rams have got. We just keep building from here, make a few more plays on both sides of the ball, and we’re definitely going to really get this season turned around.”
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @natelatsch or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.