Sam Bradford and the St Louis Rams had a pretty rough game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. I am sure it is one that the entire team, especially the young quarterback, would like to forget all about. Luckily for Sam Bradford and the St Louis Rams they have a short week before their Thursday Night Football matchup with the division rival San Francisco 49ers. With both teams bringing two game losing streaks to this primetime matchup it has the feel of a “must-win” game if there ever is one in week 4. Since this is only the second time I have posted this article we will do a brief review of the basic format, 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. The statistics have been taken from ESPN’s statistics page, and will show how Sam Bradford compares to the top 5 QB’s (by passer rating) from that week.
While watching the game I found myself thinking (or yelling) “get rid of the ball Bradford” (or something like that) on virtually every dropback. Upon further review of the game film I really don’t know why I was cussing out Sam Bradford as opposed to his offensive line, or the incredibly bland and predictable playcalling from the offensive staff. I guess those are just the types of things that happen during the game, when the emotions are high you don’t always properly evaluate the things that you are seeing. My general impression after watching the game was that Bradford did alright, with very little support from his offensive line, running game, or receivers. I was shocked to see he completed 60% of his passes for over 200 yards, almost as shocked as I was to see he threw the ball 48 times versus only 12 runs from the offense. When 80% of your total plays are passing plays, you know that something has gone horribly wrong for your team. Let’s go ahead and take a look at some of the numbers on Sam Bradford and how they compare to the week 3 leaders in the NFL before we jump into analysis of specific plays.
|3||Sam Bradford||L 31-7||29||48||60.4||240||1||0||6||0||80.2|
|3||Tony Romo||W 31-7||17||24||70.8||210||3||0||1||0||137.2|
|3||Peyton Manning||W 37-21||32||37||86.5||374||3||0||1||1||135.8|
|3||Russell Wilson||W 45-17||14||21||66.6||202||4||1||2||1||117.5|
|3||Philip Rivers||L 20-17||20||24||83.3||184||1||0||2||0||112.5|
|3||Andy Dalton||W 34-30||20||28||71.4||235||2||1||4||1||105.5|
After reviewing the game film it is clear that while Sam Bradford wasn’t perfect in this game, he was the least of the offense’s problems against the Cowboys. The Rams offensive line was pretty well dominated by the Dallas front as they couldn’t generate any room for the backs to run (not that the Rams really tried that much), or time for Bradford to find receivers downfield. The Rams offensive line even struggled to find their blocks on screen plays, with some perfectly executed plays by Bradford and Pead going for little to no yardage due to a complete failure by the downfield blockers. The receivers seem to have also caught a case of the drops as there were by my count 6 drops by Rams receivers in the game. For all the Bradford doubters out there, don’t worry I saw some things that Bradford likely could have done better too, specifically his play action fakes are still atrocious and he appeared to get “cabin fever” on a few plays, but given the performance the rest of the offense put in on Sunday what Bradford managed to accomplish was above average. Lets take a look at the Bradford specific plays from a few of the teams possessions, which we will just go through in chronological order.
Following a quick 3 and out on the Tavon Austin run off tackle and two dropped passes, the Rams regained possession after recovering the muffed punt at the Cowboys 34 yard line the Rams first two plays gained next to nothing, leaving the Rams with 3rd and 8 from the Cowboys 32. On this play Orlando Scandrick comes on a blitz and brings down Sam Bradford almost instantly, as defensive backs often do when left completely unblocked. The Rams had an empty backfield, and Jared Cook was the closest player to Scandrick at the snap of the ball. This play may be Bradford’s fault as Scandrick showed his blitz with a full 10 seconds left on the playclock, easily enough time for Bradford to audible or slide protection to pickup the free blitzer. It is possible Bradford did attempt to make an adjustment, but if he did no one else knew about it. This is also the play that preceded the ridiculous fake punt attempt by the Rams, while I like Johnny Hekker’s arm no one honestly believes the Rams are punting from the 40 yard line indoors with Greg Zuerlein on the sidelines.
On the following possession the Rams find themselves down 7-0 with the ball at their own 20 yard line, Bradford begins the possession by hitting Tavon Austin with a glorified handoff for 4 yards. The next play Bradford gives possibly the worst play action fake I have ever seen, one that fools absolutely zero Cowboys defenders, before throwing wide of Chris Givens on what appeared to be a miscommunication between the two. The following play Demarcus Ware absolutely demolishes Jake Long on the outside giving up the quick sack, but if it hadn’t been Ware it easily could have been 2 other Cowboys defensive lineman as the pocket disintegrated almost immediately. This was a very ugly 3 and out that sort of set the tone for the Rams offense in the game.
On the third possession the Rams start it off with an offensive holding call followed by a 2 yard run. On 2nd and 18 Bradford does a great job of stepping up in the pocket to avoid pressure and finds Austin underneath for a 7 yard gain to bring up a 3rd and 11. On 3rd and 11 the interior offensive linemen get pushed back into Bradford’s face, who tries to check it down to Benny Cunningham in the middle of the field but the ball is tipped at the line of scrimmage. The penalty and ineffective run on first down really killed this drive.
The 4th possession starts out well with a well executed screen to Isaiah Pead for 14 yards and a first down, followed by a 4 yard run by Pead to bring up 2nd and 6. On 2nd down Bradford wants Givens on the quick slant but he is well covered, Bradford scans the field quickly and throws the ball away in the direction of Corey Harkey as the pocket collapses. On 3rd down Bradford appears to try to scramble for a first down as the Cowboys 4 man pressure collapses the pocket around him, as soon as he tucks the ball he is sacked by George Selvie and the Rams punt yet again.
The 5th possession of the game starts off with a puzzling end around to Chris Givens from the teams own 12 yard line, which loses 4 yards on a nice defensive play by Ware. Bradford does a nice job of sliding up in the pocket to avoid the pressure from the 4 man rush and dumps the ball off to Pead for 8 yards. On 3rd down Bradford is given enough time in the pocket to deliver a strike to Austin Pettis, but a perfectly timed hit by the safety jars the ball loose and the Rams are forced to punt again.
The 6th possession is the final one before halftime. Bradford finds Cook on first down for 9 yards, but he pass was a little low and didn’t allow Cook to utilize his run after the catch ability. On the next play the Cowboys 4 man rush destroys the pocket yet again and Bradford is sacked almost as soon as he sets up from his drop out of the shotgun. A perfectly fitting way to end the half for the Rams.
On the Rams first possession of the 2nd half (7th possession) the Rams find themselves down 24-0 and in need of a big play. Bradford executes a competent play action fake, and the offensive line finally provides protection from the 4 man rush. Bradford zips a beautiful throw to Chris Givens who is wide open 20 yards down field, unfortunately as Givens tries to turn it up field he is stripped from behind and the Cowboys recover the football.
The Rams 8th possession is when they finally break through and put some points on the board. On the first play Bradford does a good job of avoiding pressure and hitting Givens 20 yards down field while on the run. This is one play I actually remember where the commentators had something positive to say about Bradford and the Rams offense. Isaiah Pead then follows it up with a beautiful 11 yard run, showing power to break the tackle at the line of scrimmage and burst to accelerate into the open field for another first down. The following play Bradford tries to step up against a 4 man rush and is taken down by Ware who was unblocked after Pead released into his route, this was a play where the cabin fever probably got the best of Bradford as he had decent protection in the pocket. After a few dink and dunk passes, a defensive penalty and some short runs the Rams find themselves in 4th and goal from the 4 yard line. The Rams had 3 wide receivers right with one to the left and Pead lined up in the backfield, Austin Pettis does a great job of finding the spot in the middle just behind the linebackers and Bradford threads the needle for a TD.
Since the Cowboys essentially played soft zone “prevent” defense for the Rams final 3 possessions we will only look at a few plays, since most of Bradford’s passes would be check downs and dump offs to underneath routes. In the final 3 possession there was 3 drops by Rams receivers, a play where Givens appeared to turn to the wrong shoulder to look for the ball, and Jake Long getting beaten clean again for a sack. On 3rd and 5 from the Cowboys 36 yard line the Rams offensive line does a good job picking up the blitz and giving Bradford time. Chris Givens beats Morris Claiborne, gaining about 4 or 5 yards of separation and providing Sam with an absolute layup opportunity. Bradford underthrows the ball by about 2 yards which allows Claiborne to get his fingers on the ball and tip it away.
Overall I would probably give Bradford a C for his performance against the Cowboys, it is hard to truly judge his performance when the rest of his team performed so poorly. The Cowboys ability to consistently get pressure on Bradford with only a 4 man rush made life difficult for Bradford, as it would for any quarterback. The receivers seemed to have a few cases of “miscommunication” as well as the drops. The running game was pretty much a non-factor again, even though Pead showed some flashes of the talent that made him a 2nd round selection. Sometimes things just don’t go well for your team, and that was the case for Bradford and the Rams on Sunday. The Rams will be hosting struggling division rival San Francisco 49ers on Thursday Night Football this week, they need to find a way to use the home crowd energy to their advantage and get out to an early lead. Thanks for reading and as always Go Rams!!!