Saints wary of Rams’ pass rushers

New Orleans Saints left tackle Charles Brown is returning to the scene of one of the most humbling games of his pro career Sunday in St. Louis, the day Rams defensive end Chris Long beat a steady path to quarterback Drew Brees.

On Oct. 30, 2011, the 0-6 Rams sacked Brees six times (three by Long), had nine QB hits (three by Long) and scored on a pick six en route to an improbable 31-21 victory at the Edward Jones Dome.

Two of Long’s sacks came against Brown, who suffered a season-ending hip injury early in the fourth quarter trying to protect Brees.

“Thanks for reminding me,’’ Brown said through a forced smile.

In that game two years ago, Brown opened at right tackle for injured starter Zach Strief. Now at left tackle, Brown will square off Sunday against Rams right defensive end Robert Quinn, the NFL’s No. 2 sack leader with 13.

Strief will draw Long, who ranks second on the team with 6.5 sacks. Overall, the Rams have 38 sacks, five less than the Saints who lead the NFC with 43.

How well Brown and Strief hold up against Quinn and Long could mean the difference in the Saints winning and losing. With a victory, the Saints (10-3) will clinch a playoff berth and move one step closer to a first-round bye.

“Their whole defensive front, including Long and Quinn, have done a great job all year long of getting pressure on the quarterback,’’ Brees said. “They are a great tandem, one of the best in the league.’’

Brown acknowledged Quinn’s pass-rushing prowess but needed to study more game tape before commenting further.

“I know he’s really good but I see a good end, a good athlete, every week,’’ Brown said. “This is Week 15.’’

Strief couldn’t say enough good things about Long, the 28-year-old son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, now an NFL game-day analyst on Fox.

“He’s an every-play guy,’’ Strief said of Long. “He’s not a guy who’s going to take plays off. He has a high motor. He’s a physical player, very good in the run game and can push you back in the passing game. He makes a lot of plays rallying to the ball. You respect guys who play like that.

“He’s a good football player from a great pedigree who plays with a ton of consistency. Certainly, this is a game where you tie your shoes knowing you’re in for four quarters or as long as it takes. He’s going to play hard. He’s a challenge.’’

Brown discovered that firsthand in 2011 when the Rams jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead and stretched their advantage to 24-0 in the third quarter. Forced to abandon their game plan, Brees went to the air 44 times, completing 30 for 269 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for a pedestrian 73.0 passer rating.

Quinn contributed one sack and three QB hits to the cause.

From 5-3, the Saints went on an eight-game run to end the regular-season at 13-3 and win the NFC South.

“Once we got rolling that day, we did force Drew to be a little more one dimensional,’’ said Long, the second overall pick in the 2008 draft. “But Drew does a good job of moving in the pocket. He might not be the fastest guy in the world, but he has adequate speed. And he has a really good understanding of moving subtly in the pocket, not looking to run but to avoid the rush.

“Their offensive line is a good group; really solid. I know their guards (Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs) get a lot of praise, but their tackles do a pretty good job, too. And when you have a quarterback like Drew, he makes everybody around him better.’’