Sam Bradford and the St Louis Rams had a bounce back game against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. While Sam Bradford and the Rams didn’t exactly dominate the Jaguars they played well enough to secure a 34-20 win with a pretty respectable stat line for Bradford. Again there were definitely some plays left on the field by Sam as he continues to struggle a little this season with the deep ball especially to Givens. On the bright side the Rams running game got going a little bit on Sunday which helped with the play action pass as well as slowing down the pass rush. On the other hand drops continue to plague the Rams receivers leading to poor third down conversion rate and completion percentage for Bradford. 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.
|5||Sam Bradford||W 34-20||19||34||55.9||222||3||0||2||0||105.3|
|5||Geno Smith||W 30-28||16||20||80.0||199||3||0||4||0||147.7|
|5||Tony Romo||L 51-48||25||36||69.4||506||5||1||4||0||140.0|
|5||Terrell Pryor||W 27-17||18||23||78.3||221||2||0||4||0||135.7|
|5||Peyton Manning||W 51-48||33||42||78.6||414||4||1||0||0||129.6|
|5||Jay Cutler||L 26-18||24||33||72.7||358||2||0||3||1||128.1|
Sam Bradford put together a pretty respectable day against the Jaguars throwing for 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions to end with a 105.3 QB rating. His completion percentage was sub par, but I counted 3 drops by receivers in this game which if caught would have brought his completion percentage up to a respectable 64.7%. One area that Bradford and the Rams offense continues to struggle with is hitting the big play as Bradford ranks near the bottom of the league in Yards Per Attempt (YPA) at 6.09 yards. Of course the complete lack of a running game has limited the Rams ability to run play action passes and allowed opposing defenses to rush the passer on every snap. The Rams have also suffered to generate much yards after catch (YAC) as their top two receivers in terms of YAC Jared Cook and Chris Givens rank T-42nd and 51st in the NFL respectively. For the Bradford’s numbers to dramatically improve Rams receivers will have to start catching the ball with more reliability and generate more YAC once they do catch it. One thing Bradford excels at is his accuracy, and part of that accuracy that has been on display in 2013 is the ability to put the ball in a position that allows the receiver to catch it in stride and turn up the field. Yet for the accuracy and strong decision-making by Bradford the Rams offense has struggled to generate the big plays and YAC that many fans envisioned at the start of the season.
We will start the in-depth analysis with a Brian Quick sighting! During the Rams fourth offensive possession of the day and the Rams trailing 10-7 early in the 2nd quarter they appeared to be on the move following an unnecessary roughness penalty on Jacksonville. With first and 10 from midfield the Rams line up with 1 WR split to each side, two TE and a lone running back behind Bradford. Bradford takes a 5 step drop and is provided with good protection from his offensive line, Sam steps up in the pocket and delivers a laser to Brian Quick along the sideline for 28 yards and a first down at the Jaguars 22 yard line. This play was successful in part because the Jacksonville defender slipped while trying to break on the ball, but with the velocity Bradford put on the ball and the large frame of Brian Quick it was very unlikely the defender could have made a play anyway. Bradford put the ball in the perfect spot expecting tight coverage from the defender and it resulted in a big play from Quick who made a nice catch.
The next play we will look at will come from the Rams 5th offensive possession which followed immediately after Darian Stewart’s impressive forced fumble and recovery. The Rams had first down at the Jaguars 16 yard line and again they go with 1 WR split to each side and 2 TE, with Zac Stacy lined up in the backfield. Prior to the snap they motion Harkey to the left (narrow) side of the field showing a power formation to that side, they play fake the off tackle run to Stacy which draws the entire defensive front 7 in that direction. Bradford rolls to his right and hits Lance Kendricks perfectly in stride as he is running his drag route across the middle of the field. The pass only traveled 5 or 6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and Lance Kendricks did an impressive job taking it the final 10 yards for the score, but a perfectly placed ball from Bradford while on the move made that possible. This play would not have been possible if it weren’t for the effectiveness of the ground game up to this point, as the entire defense sold out to stop what appeared to be an obvious run formation.
The next two plays we will look at come from the Rams impressive 90 yard touchdown drive that chewed up nearly 5 and a half minutes of the final minutes and 50 seconds of the first half. Following yet another special teams penalty the Rams found themselves backed up at their own ten yard line, the Rams quickly moved towards mid field with a solid 13 yard run from Daryl Richardson as well as a pair of nice passes to Givens and Kendricks. Following a short pass to Austin (a screen play where he had 1 blocker and 3 defenders in front of him) and an incomplete pass to Givens on what appeared to be a miscommunication the Rams were set up with 3rd and 6 from the Jacksonville 42. The Rams go with 3 receivers, 1 TE and a running back offset to Bradford’s right as he was in the shotgun. Tavon Austin was lined up in the slot on the left (wide) side of the field, he reads the zone coverage perfectly and sits down to make himself available for Bradford. Bradford gets good protection from his offensive line and lofts a beautiful pass just over the hands of the linebacker and into Austin’s, who turns up field for a 25 yard gain and a first down. Finally a pass to Austin that isn’t less than 3 yards away from the line of scrimmage! The Rams then give the ball to Stacy twice to set up first down and goal from the Jaguars 4 yard line. Naturally being in a goal to go situation the Rams completely abandon the running game and Bradford throws to incomplete passes to set up 3rd and goal. The Rams go with 3 receivers, 1 TE and a RB flanking Bradford who is in the shotgun. At the snap Bradford gets some pretty decent protection which allows him to step up and throw a dart to Austin Pettis for the TD. This play was absolutely perfect as Pettis did a great job of finding the right spot in the zone and cleanly catching the perfectly thrown pass. For the play the ball should be low and outside so only the receiver has a shot at hit and Bradford delivers a beauty for the 4 yard TD.
The next couple of plays come from the Rams 10th offensive possession, and following a defensive pass interference and a drop by Corey Harkey the Rams are faced with 2nd and 10 from their 37 yard line. The Rams line up with two WRs to the right, one in the slot, two TEs and a single running back lined up next to Bradford who is again in the shotgun. Bradford is given great protection by his offensive line and Chris Givens beats his man down the seam for what should be an easy touchdown, unfortunately Bradford is a half second slow/2 or 3 yards to shallow on the pass and it allows the defender to tip the pass away. If Bradford lays the ball out in front of Givens this is an easy walk in touchdown and a play that he should make 9 times out of 10. The next play comes on 2nd and 9 from the Jacksonville 37 yard line. The Rams line up with 1 WR wide to each side, 1 WR in the slot, 1 TE and a RB beside Bradford who is in the shotgun. The Jaguars get pressure early from the middle of the line forcing Bradford to roll to his left, Quick does a nice job of coming back to Bradford who makes a great throw while on the run for 17 yards and a first down. These are the types of plays the Rams envisioned Quick making on a regular basis when they drafted him in 2012.
The next play comes from the Rams final meaningful possession of the game, immediately following Chad Henne’s touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts that made it a one possession game. With first and 10 from the Jaguars 31 yard line the Rams line up with 1 WR split to each side, two TEs and two RBs behind Bradford who is under center. Bradford runs a half-hearted play action fake of the draw as he takes a 5 step drop, the offensive line does a good job providing him with a pocket to step up into. Bradford delivers an absolute beauty to Pettis down the right sideline for the 31 yard touchdown. While the play action fake wasn’t exactly pretty the defensive line got zero pressure on Bradford and the safeties were nowhere to be found as the ball dropped into Pettis’ hands in the end zone. This is the type of vertical passing game that the Rams have been sorely lacking all season long, and you can thank the resurgent ground game for helping to make it possible.
Overall you have to give Bradford a pretty solid B+ for his performance on Sunday. He still missed on a few opportunities, and his team mates let him down on several occasions with drops and improperly run routes (Daryl Richardson’s poor route on the screen early in the 3rd comes to mind). It would be hard to give the guy anything less though considering his 3 TD 0 INT stat line. He does still seem to get too many passes tipped or batted down at the line of scrimmage, and has missed on some big plays that we all expect him to make. Hopefully the Rams can continue to run a balanced offense, which would help them to open up the play book and utilize more of the play action passing that was so effective for the Rams on Sunday (2 of 3 TDs came on Play Action). Bradford will face a tougher test on Sunday against the Houston Texans on the road, but if he continues to make smart decisions with the football the Rams should have a chance to steal a win. Thanks for reading and as always Go Rams!!!