Sam Bradford and the St Louis Rams had another rough game against the San Francisco 49ers Thursday night. Luckily for Sam Bradford and the St Louis Rams they have a little bit of extra time to heal up and get prepared for the Jacksonville Jaguars. With the Jaguars struggling mightily, it would appear to be a good opportunity for the Rams to right the ship a little. Of course with the way the Rams have been playing so far this season there is very little reason to feel too confident entering Sundays contest. Since this is still a young 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.
|4||Sam Bradford||L 35-11||19||41||46.3||202||1||1||5||1||59.2|
|4||Peyton Manning||W 52-20||28||34||82.3||327||4||0||1||0||146.0|
|4||Drew Brees||W 38-17||30||39||76.9||413||4||0||2||0||144.5|
|4||Jake Locker||W 38-13||18||24||75.0||149||3||0||2||0||130.0|
|4||Matt Cassel||W 34-27||16||25||64.0||248||2||0||1||0||123.4|
|4||Philip Rivers||W 30-21||35||42||83.3||401||4||1||1||0||120.3|
Looking over the statistics it is easy to see that Bradford, and the Rams offense in general, struggled to get anything going against the 49ers. The complete lack of a running game has made the Rams too easy for defenses to stop, with Schottenheimer’s penchant for short routes allowing defenses to crowd the passing lanes with little fear of being beaten deep. The entire Rams offense has struggled with execution, from the offensive lines inability to open running lanes or protect Sam Bradford to the wide receivers struggles with drops no one is free from blame. According to sportingcharts.com the Rams have 15 total drops for an astounding drop rate of 8.3%, or basically 1 of every 12 times Bradford throws the ball a receiver drops it. Watching games over the weekend I couldn’t help but notice receivers from other teams making tough catches to bail out their quarterbacks (see Doug Baldwin’s toe tapper against the Texans) in key situations. Of course Bradford has also had some issues with accuracy and decision-making this season, as talks of the dreaded “Battered Quarterback Syndrome” (BQS) have resurfaced in St. Louis. While I don’t think Bradford suffers from BQS, I do believe he has lost some confidence in his offensive line in 2013. Over the last couple of games it seems clear that Bradford’s confidence in his protection has faded as the game progresses, which has led to some of the rushed decisions that are associated with BQS. Another thing to note from the 49ers game is that there seemed to be an abundance of bad shotgun snaps, something that can really disrupt the timing of an offensive play. Until the Rams can develop anything that resembles a running game, and protect Bradford from 4 man rushes the offense will continue to struggle regardless of the talent at the skill positions. Lets jump into analysis of a few specific plays from the Thursday Night game.
The first play we will review comes from the teams 2nd possession of the night, which miraculously started at the STL 43 yard line and it looked like the Rams just might take advantage of that field position early. Bradford started off the possession with a play action fake, stepping up into the pocket and making a beautiful throw to Brian Quick for 14 yards. A 15 yard facemask penalty was also added onto the end of the play and suddenly the Rams at the 49ers 30 yard line and looking to strike first. Bradford hit Jared Cook for an 8 yard gain, followed by the typical no gain running play to set up a 3rd and 2 from the 22 yard line. The 49ers do get a little bit of pressure on Bradford with only a 4 man rush, but no one covers Austin Pettis who runs free towards the end zone for what should have been an easy touchdown pass. Instead Bradford puts just a little bit too much zip on the ball and Pettis has no chance to catch up to it, the Rams end up settling for a 40 yard field goal.
The second play comes from the Rams 3rd offensive possession that begins with a Jared Cook drop and ends with a poor throw towards Jared Cook on 3rd and 6. In between there were 3 running plays for a total of 6 yards, and a beautiful pass to Jared Cook for 11 yards and a first down. Following two straight 2 yard runs by Daryl Richardson the Rams were facing 3rd and 6 from their own 22 yard line. The Rams went shotgun with an empty backfield after motioning the RB into the right side of the formation, surprisingly it appears as if all 4 of the 5 Rams receivers ran go routes with the running back running a 4 yard in route. The Rams refusal to use combination routes and bunch formations to provide room for their receivers to gain separation boggles the mind. Bradford stands in the pocket as the Rams o-line provides adequate protection against the 4 man rush and throws a terrible pass towards Cook on the sideline, which appeared to be more of a throw away than an attempt at a completion. The throw was batted away by the defender which prompted the commentators to criticize the throw as dangerous, although I would agree that the throw away could have been better it was not a catchable ball anyway.
The next few plays come from the Rams 4th possession of the game which started with the typical 2 yard run, followed by an offsides penalty setting up the Rams with a 2nd and 3. Unfortunately Scott Wells gets beaten badly by Glenn Dorsey who sacks Bradford for a 6 yard loss bringing up 3rd and 9 and our next play. On 3rd and 9 from their own 9 yard line the Rams go with 3 wide receivers and two players in the backfield, the 49ers only rush 3 so the two players from the backfield each run little curl routes and set up in the zone. Sam Bradford does a good job stepping up in the pocket and delivering an absolute strike to Chris Givens for 20 yards and a first down. The Rams follow this up with a 1 yard run, leading to 2nd and 9 and our next play from this possession. On 2nd and 9 the 49ers blitz and Navarro Bowman hits Bradford just as he is releasing the football, which appears to result in a slight tip of the ball and a change in its trajectory. The ball ends up falling right into Donte Whitner’s hands who ends up dropping it right into Jared Cook’s hands. The Rams were fortunate on this play that the poor blitz pickup didn’t result in an interception. The final play comes on 3rd and ten from the Rams 43 yard line with the Rams going with another shotgun formation and an empty backfield. The interior of the Rams offensive line gets beaten badly again forcing Bradford to scramble to his right, Bradford does an excellent job of extending the play and giving his wide receiver a chance to make a play. Unfortunately Tavon Austin couldn’t reel in the tough catch and the Rams are forced to punt.
During the Rams 5th offensive possession Bradford starts out fast with a 10 yard pass to Austin Pettis. On the second play of the possession Bradford does a nice job of scrambling away from the free rusher by moving towards his left and delivering an absolute strike to Austin Pettis for another 27 yards. Bradford does a great job not only avoiding the unblocked linebacker but he also delivers a perfect throw across his body while on the move and Pettis does a great job making the catch in spite of being mauled by the defender. These are the types of plays that make Rams fans hopeful for the future as not every quarterback is capable of that type of play. Then on 3rd and 1 from the 49ers 38 yard line Bradford makes a throw that a player of his caliber should never make. Bradford is in shotgun and the offensive line actually does a good job providing protection against the 4 man rush, Brian Quick runs a go route on the right side and appears to have a half step on the defender. If Bradford puts the ball on Quick’s outside shoulder the worst thing that can happen is an incomplete pass, while the most likely thing would be a big play and possibly a touchdown for Quick. Instead Bradford underthrows the ball which allows the defender to tip the pass away, which Whitner makes an incredible diving interception in the end zone.
The final play we will look at is the touchdown that Bradford throws to Lance Kendricks with just under 6 minutes left in the game. On first and goal from the 6 yard line the Rams again go with the shotgun formation, leaving the running back in for blitz pickup. The 49ers send only 4 men which the offensive line does a nice job picking up, Kendricks came across the formation prior to the snap and does a great job settling down in the zone between the linebacker and safety just inside the end zone. Bradford fires a laser just past the fingertips of the diving Bowman for a touchdown. Bradford’s accuracy and ability to get enough velocity on the ball to make that throw should make him a dangerous red zone QB. Unfortunately the Rams have struggled in the red zone during Bradford’s tenure, although a large part of that is probably related to personnel and playcalling issues and less about Bradford’s abilities.
So there is a little something for everyone in this game, there are some flashes of absolute brilliance by Bradford for the supporters as well as some very poor throws to help bolster the naysayers. It is quite possible that the Rams offense is still trying to “gel” with all the young skill position players and the new offensive line. The offensive line in particular has seemed to struggle with picking up stunts, something that I believe will improve as the unit gets a better feel for playing together. The Rams will need to figure out a way to get the ground game going though, in my opinion Isaiah Pead provides the best option for running behind a sub par offensive line. Pead is easily the most “shifty” back and has even shown more ability to break tackles than many anticipated, he was also very solid in blitz pickup throughout camp and preseason, something that Richardson has been very poor at so far. The Rams receivers also need to figure out a way to end the drops if Bradford and the rest of the offense are ever going to find any sort of rhythm or success. Overall I would give Bradford a D+ for his performance in the 49ers game, hopefully he finds a way to put in an A+ effort against a struggling Jaguars team in week 5. Thanks for reading and as always Go Rams!!!