Sam Bradford was having a pretty decent game against the supposedly stifling Carolina Panthers defense, a game that could have been quite impressive had two big plays not been come off the books due to a penalty and a dropped pass. Bradford was really in the middle of a great season, the offense was inconsistent all year but that was largely a result of the Rams incredibly young skill players. Bradford may still have plenty of critics in the mainstream media, as well as among Rams fans but we here at Ramblin’ Fan believe he is the future of this franchise. Obviously the biggest story line from the Rams week 7 loss is the ACL injury to Sam Bradford. This will be the last time we take an in-depth look at Sam’s performance until 2014. We will continue with the article for the rest of the season just reviewing a different QB. 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. My apologies to those who were hoping to read this article on its regular Tuesday date but technical difficulties and a mild case of “life without Sam” depression pushed it back a bit. Before we get to the statistics I would like to give a shoutout to my newest Twitter followers @cohassetsteve, @ramssr69 and @Blackjack702. Thanks for the follow!
|Week||Player||Final score||Comp.||Att.||Comp %||Yards||TD||INT||Sack||Fum||Rating|
|7||Sam Bradford||L 30-15||21||30||70||255||1||1||2||0||93.1|
|7||Matt Ryan||W 31-23||20||26||76.9||273||3||0||0||0||148.4|
|7||Cam Newton||W 30-15||15||17||88.2||204||1||0||2||0||136.3|
|7||Andy Dalton||W 27-24||24||34||70.6||372||3||0||1||0||135.9|
|7||Russell Wilson||W 34-22||18||29||62.1||235||3||0||3||2||122.1|
When you look at the statistics Bradford was having a pretty solid day (other than the “hit arm INT”), of course if you were to factor in the TD to Tavon Austin (negated by penalty) and the TD pass dropped by Brian Quick he would have finished with 343 yards, 3 TDs and a 74% completion percentage. The Rams offense finally managed to make some big plays in this game, against what was supposed to be an imposing defensive unit. In this game Brian Quick and Tavon Austin really flashed big, with Quick’s day being dampened a little by a couple of mistakes (dropped TD) and Austin’s day being dampened by the penalty negated TD and the fumble. Of course if Pettis had managed to get his second foot down on that really tough play in the end zone Bradford would have had 4 TDs in this game, coulda woulda shoulda huh?
The first play from scrimmage ended in disaster for the St. Louis Rams and Sam Bradford, although it very nearly was a huge play for the good guys. The Rams lined up with 1 WR split to each side, 1 TE and an offset I behind Bradford. The Rams go play action and set up for the deep throw, and Brian Quick runs right past the cornerback on his side as the safety appeared to step up to give help on Chris Givens’ deep crossing route. Zac Stacy steps up and attempts to pickup the blitzing safety Mikell, but doesn’t do quite a good enough job which allows Mikell to get his hand on Bradford’s arm just before release. The ball flutters about 20 yards short of the intended target Brian Quick (who had at least 2 yards on the cornerback) and is intercepted by Captain Munnerlyn who returns it for a TD. This play turned out to be a 14 point swing, and if Stacy had managed to slow down the blitzer by just another half a step this game may have been much different.
The Rams 3rd possession starts out with a nice mix of runs and short passes to gain a first down. On the ensuing 1st and 10 the Rams lose 4 yards on a run bringing up 2nd and 14. The Rams go to 3 WR 1 TE in the slot and Zac Stacy in the backfield next to Bradford who is in the shotgun. The Rams run a screen pass to Stacy, which is executed nearly flawlessly, and Stacy does a great job with the ball in his hand and picks up 25 yards. Although nothing special from Bradford this was an impressive play for the Rams, especially for the young back out of Vanderbilt. The Rams then lined up with 2 WR 1 TE and an offset I behind Bradford, they went with play action and the offensive line provided good protection against the 4 man rush. Bradford settles in and fires a strike to Brian Quick 15 yards down field in a fairly tight window as Quick was surrounded by 4 defenders. Quick breaks a tackle and runs the ball all the way down to the 4 yard line, an impressive play for Quick and the type of play the Rams need him to make more often. The Rams offense then sputters inside the red zone as they run for a negligible gain on first down, and appear to have a miscommunication between Bradford and Cook on 2nd down. On 3rd down Zac Stacy very nearly gets his first career rushing touchdown on a good hard run inside. The Rams bring out 3 TE and an offset I behind Bradford on fourth and goal from the 1/2 yard line, Bradford gives a play action fake to Zac Stacy and backpedals looking for Jared Cook to his left. With only 2 receivers running routes and the defense doing a nice job Bradford sails it over Cook’s head instead of risking an INT. Most people would say this is a terrible decision since its 4th down and an incomplete pass is a turnover, however the Rams forced a safety on the very next play which essentially makes the throwaway a 2 point play for Bradford.
On the Rams ensuing possession they start by getting a big 21 yard run from Zac Stacy. Stacy does a brilliant job of breaking 2 tackles at the point of attack and turning what should have been a 2 yard gain into 21. The Rams then get zero yards out of an inside handoff to Daryl Richardson who checked in for Stacy after what appeared to be equipment issues for Stacy. On 2nd and 10 the Rams line up with 4 WR (3 to the left and 1 right) and 1 RB beside Bradford in the shotgun. The Rams run a quick little screen pass to Tavon Austin on the left side, Austin actually receives some good blocks from Austin Pettis and Chris Givens on the play but he gets caught from behind by the Panthers safety as he attempts to make a cut and fumbles the ball. At the time Austin fumbles the ball the Rams were already in field goal range for Young GZ and really missed out on an opportunity to capitalize on the momentum that the Safety had afforded them.
The Rams 5th possession started out with a nice little pass to Cory Harkey in the flat, followed up by a great 11 yard run by Zac Stacy. On 1st and 10 from the Rams own 37 yard line the Rams lined up with 2 WR (1 to each side), a TE and an offset I behind Sam Bradford. Bradford drops back and looks first to his right towards Chris Givens then back to his left and sees that Austin has blown by the defensive back. Bradford throws a perfect pass to Austin who had a full 3 yards of separation on the defender, the ball dropped perfectly into his hands in stride as he cruised into the end zone. Unfortunately the play was negated by a tripping penalty on Jake Long, and while technically it was a legitimate call it had zero impact on the play and probably gets ignored 8 out of 10 times. Either way the route by Tavon Austin was beautiful as he absolutely embarrassed the cornerback, while Bradford delivered a perfect pass 40 yards downfield. The final play from the Rams 5th possession that we will review is the 3rd and goal play from the 10 yard line. The Rams come out with 3 WR (2 left 1 right), 1 TE lined up in the slot on the left and Bradford in the shotgun with the running back to his right. Bradford takes the snap and drops back, pump fakes and then fires a pass towards Austin Pettis who was running a fade route against single coverage. This was a great route by Pettis and he put forth great effort in snagging the pass, which was well placed by Bradford where only Pettis could make a play. Bradford may have been half a second late on delivering the ball which resulted in a tougher catch for Pettis than it should have been. However, the real reason this play turned out to be an incomplete pass was that the defender got lucky as he was diving at Pettis his knee pushed Pettis’ right leg out-of-bounds preventing him from dragging his feet to complete the catch. I believe if this play was run 10 more times Pettis likely makes the play 7 out of the 10 times.
The Rams 7th possession of the game, and first possession of the 3rd quarter was a beauty. The Rams come out with 2 WR to the left, 2 TE to the right and Zac Stacy in the backfield behind Bradford. Givens comes in motion towards the right before the snap, Bradford fakes the handoff to Stacy who picks up the blitzing linebacker. Bradford steps up and throws a perfect pass to Brian Quick 45 yards downfield, hitting him in the hands in stride allowing him to run all the way down to the Panthers 7 yard line for a 73 yard gain. Two young players made excellent plays here, first Stacy picking up the blitzing Keuchly to give Bradford time to make the throw and second Brian Quick absolutely blew the doors off the corner. Quick gives a tiny stutter step that freezes the cornerback and allows him to get behind him, then he drags two defenders down to the 7 yard line showing off his rare combination of size, power and speed. Stacy runs for 3 yards up the middle on first and goal bringing up a 2nd and goal from the 4 yard line. The Rams line up with 3 WR (2 right and 1 left) 1 TE in tight and a RB behind Bradford. Prior to the snap the Rams bring Austin in motion out of the right slot and fake the end around to him, the defense reacts to the fake which allows Zac Stacy to slip out into the flat where Austin was originally lined up for the easy touchdown grab. Bradford did a nice job selling the fake and then floating the ball over the defensive lineman’s outstretched arms to hit Stacy in stride to give the rookie his first NFL touchdown.
On the Rams 9th possession of the game they came out down 30-12 and were rapidly running out of opportunities to make plays to get back into the game. On first and 10 from the 20 yard line they went with 3 WR 1TE in the slot and 1 RB with Bradford in the shotgun. Austin runs a nice go route from the slot, Bradford fires a ball through traffic and Austin makes a great diving catch for 24 yards. The Rams then go into somewhat of a hurry up no huddle offense, sticking with the 3 WR and 1 TE shotgun formation. The Rams move the ball nicely down the field with some quick passes to Tavon Austin and Austin Pettis. On 3rd and 4 from the Panthers 32 yard line Bradford throws a fade route to Brian Quick down the right sideline against the blitz. The ball falls incomplete but the officials call the illegal hands to the face, although they could have easily called pass interference on the play as well. The Rams give the ball to Stacy on a draw on first down and he picks up 3 yards, then an incomplete pass towards Brian Quick on a quick slant as Bradford threw behind him to set up 3rd and 7. The Rams bring out 3 WR to the right and 1 WR to the right with Zac Stacy beside him in the shotgun. Stacy does a great job picking up the blitzing linebacker, which allows Bradford to throw a perfect pass towards Brian Quick for what should have been an easy TD. Instead Quick lets the ball bounce off his hands and the Rams have to settle for a field goal. Quick did a great job of beating the 1 on 1 coverage and Bradford threw a perfect pass, just one of those moments where Quick’s inconsistency cost him an opportunity for a big play. On the Rams next possession Bradford gets hurt scrambling towards the sideline so this was the last play worth reviewing.
It was an awfully tough loss for the Rams in more ways than one. The game was there for the taking as the Rams shot themselves in the foot time and time again with costly turnovers and penalties. The Rams also lost the face of the franchise, and a guy who was playing some very solid football and was improving from week to week. Bradford and the young Rams offense was on track for a breakout season in 2013, but with Bradford on the sideline the young skill players will need to carry on their development without him. Next week we will have another “Closer Look” article on Kellen Clemens and will continue through the end of the season. Thank you all for reading and as always Go Rams!!! Get well soon, Sam.