Aaron Donald did not have a sack in his first three games, a dry spell that bothered the Rams lineman but hardly detracted from his performance. Donald graded out as the NFL's best interior defender and led the league with 17 quarterback pressures through three weeks, according to Pro Football Focus.
"Even though the numbers aren't reflecting it," Coach Jeff Fisher said last week, referring to more traditional statistics such as sacks and forced fumbles, "he's very productive."
Donald finally attached some firm numbers to his performance Sunday, registering 1 1/2 sacks and forcing a fumble to spearhead another solid defensive effort in the Rams' 17-13 win over Arizona.
Donald thwarted an Arizona drive early in the third quarter when he hit quarterback Carson Palmer from behind and forced a fumble that teammate Eugene Sims recovered at the Rams 31-yard line.
"It was good to get that first sack, with a strip, too," Donald said. "We got the ball back to the offense."
Donald and Sims teamed up again late in the fourth quarter on a vicious sack that knocked Palmer out of the game because of a suspected concussion and enabled the Rams to regain possession before their game-winning score.
On a third-and-six play from the Cardinals 39, Donald muscled his way in from the left edge and hit Palmer below the waist while Sims, rushing from the right side, tackled Palmer from behind for a loss of nine yards. Tavon Austin's ensuing 47-yard punt return set up the Rams' final score.
"I thought it was a low hit," Arizona Coach Bruce Arians said of Donald. "Obviously, [the referees] thought he was blocked into him. We've got to talk to the league about that rule, and we'll find out."
The sack was one of several highlights for a Rams defense that had three interceptions and recovered two fumbles.
"We always think we can get to the quarterback, put pressure on him," Donald said. "It's a physical defense, a swarming defense, one that makes a lot of plays and creates opportunities. Any time you can get the ball back to the offense and they put points on the board, you can win games."