Sep 8, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) calls a play during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bradford A Closer Look: Week 1

Sep 8, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bradford is now the undisputed leader of the St Louis Rams and will be the primary factor in the teams offensive success.  Here at Ramblin’ Fan we thought there was a shortage of fair, or even “pro-Bradford” analysis so we decided it was time for us to take a crack at it.  We will be doing a weekly article reviewing Bradford’s performance, first with a brief review of the statistics and how they compare to the rest of the league, followed by a more in-depth analysis using the NFL Rewind coaches film.  Before we get started with the breakdown of Sam Bradford I need to do a shoutout to Twitter follower @DJMichaelWho.  My goal of reaching 1,000 followers by the end of the NFL season is one follower closer and I thank you.  Now onto the evaluation of the Rams franchise quarterback.

Statistically Bradford had a pretty good game coming just shy of a 300 yard passing performance and posting a 100.7 QB Rating.  The following chart shows Bradford’s numbers followed by the top 5 QBs from the week, listed in descending order (ranked by QB rating).  It isn’t very surprising that the QBs with the top 5 QB ratings all won their respective games, as this is a QB driven league.  If it weren’t for the phenomenal play by the Arizona Cardinals Tyrann Mathieu to force the early Jared Cook fumble, or the boneheaded/unfortunate pick 6 Bradford threw he could easily have been in the top 5 for week 1.  Of course football is a game of inches, and statistics don’t always accurately tell how a player performed.  So while statistically speaking Bradford was pretty good lets take a closer look at the tape for analysis.

Week

Player Final Score Comp Att Comp% Yards TD INT Sack Fum Rating

1

Sam Bradford 27-24 W 27 38 71.1 299 2 1 0 0 100.7

1

Peyton Manning 49-27 W 27 42 64.3 462 7 0 3 0 141.1

1

Colin Kaepernick 34-28 W 27 39 69.2 412 3 0 2 0 129.4

1

Andrew Luck 21-17 W 18 23 78.3 178 2 0 4 0 127.9

1

Russell Wilson 12-7 W 25 33 75.8 320 1 0 2 1 115.7

1

Drew Brees 23-17 W 26 35 74.3 357 2 1 2 0 113.6

Statistically speaking Sam Bradford has been pretty average during his 3 year NFL career, leaving him open to criticism as a former #1 overall pick and the highest paid rookie ever.  The problem with raw statistics is that they can’t portray just how bad the St Louis Rams were as a team when Bradford started his NFL career.  I have long been a believer that it was impossible to truly evaluate Bradford until the Rams surrounded him with a competent supporting cast.  While the Rams skill players are frighteningly young the Rams offense is as talented as it has been in nearly a decade, which means it may finally be time to see just what Bradford can do.  While the young Rams don’t necessarily have that Larry Fitzgerald type of “Go-To” receiver (Jared Cook may have something to say about this), they had plenty of options on display against the Arizona Cardinals as Bradford found 7 different receivers.  The Cardinals field a pretty solid defense highlighted by All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson, who had Chris Givens on lockdown for almost the entire game.  They also have a fairly aggressive blitz heavy style that can cause quarterbacks and offensive lines trouble.  The offensive line did a very good job on Sunday keeping Sam Bradford upright and clean, and didn’t allow a sack all game.  According to Jeff Fisher the Cardinals only hit Bradford a total of 6 times in the game, a fairly impressive performance for the reworked Rams offensive line and Bradford.

Sam was well protected by the offensive line on Sunday, so how did he respond to having adequate time and a myriad of receiving threats?  The general analysis for Bradford is very positive, he stood tall in the pocket, moved within the pocket when necessary and took what the defense was giving him.  Bradford looked very comfortable running the offense and for the most part was very accurate on Sunday.  He had excellent ball placement that allowed receivers to get YAC (yards after catch) and wasn’t afraid to check down to the running back after going through his progression.  Some of the best throws of the day were to Jared Cook, the big play that Mathieu forced a fumble on was a perfect throw.  A play that really sticks out being the 25 yard completion to Cook with 1:15 left in the game, Bradford was perfect on that play and it really showed the confidence level he has in Cook.  There were 3 critical plays in the game that Bradford would love to forget about though, and they are the types of things he needs to correct before he will be in the “elite” conversation.

The first of these plays was the 3rd down incompletion following the Trumaine Johnson interception in the 3rd quarter.  Bradford appeared to rush the throw even though there was no real pressure on the play, and he ended up throwing it so high that even the 6’3″ Austin Pettis couldn’t get a finger on it.  That possession is the type of thing the Rams need to correct in order to become a playoff team, when given first and goal from the 4 yard line playoff teams get touchdowns.

The second play is the pick 6 that he threw on the Rams next possession.  Some credit goes to the defense as it was a great play to tip the ball by Matt Shaughnessy and a very heads up play by Dan Williams to make the catch and rumble into the end zone.  However good the play was by the defense it was a very poor decision by Sam Bradford.  Shaughnessy was not fooled at all by the play action fake and was unblocked making him a free rusher coming at Bradford.  Bradford tried to fit the ball over Shaughnessy to Lance Kendricks, perhaps a pump fake could have worked but it was only 2nd down and he probably should have just thrown it away.

The third play was his scramble with 5 minutes left in the game where he fumbled the ball.  The game was tied at 24 and it was 3rd and 3 from the Rams own 12 yard line, the decision to tuck the ball and make an attempt at getting the first down was the right decision by Sam.  When I was watching the game live I thought he had tried to pitch the ball to Daryl Richardson, but upon further review it was actually a fumble that wasn’t even caused by contact.  Ball security has to be of the utmost importance in that situation, and seeing Bradford fumble the football without even being touched almost certainly gave some fans chest pains.  Fortunately for Bradford and the Rams Richardson was there to pounce on the ball and give Johnny Hekker the opportunity to blast the beautiful 55 yard punt.

Overall, I would give Sam Bradford a solid B for his performance against the Arizona Cardinals.  The Rams wont see pass defenses as good as the Cardinals every week, which should allow the Rams to open up the playbook a little bit more to get players like Givens more involved in the offense.  If the ball bounces the other way on a couple of plays Bradford could have had an impressive statline.  For the first game in the Bradford-centric offense the Rams and Bradford did just enough to get the W, which is the most important statistic of all.  Thank you for reading and remember to follow me and the other Ramblin’ Fan writers on Twitter, and as always Go Rams!!!

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