This has been labeled as a make or break year for St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. People have questioned whether he can lift a team around him to the next level like a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. That is a reasonable question to ask when you consider that Bradford was No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. One of the things that seriously should be considered is the team that has surrounded him for four years. The Rams lacked any type of talent at the receiver positions besides when Brandon Lloyd was brought in and the times when Danny Amendola found his way onto the field in one piece.
At the start of the season Bradford experienced statistical success without a running game leading to 43 pass attempts a game. In the last two games RB Zac Stacy has provided the Rams with a back that’s getting up field at an average of four-plus yards a carry. The result of that has been obvious in the passing game. Bradford has only thrown 36 passes over the last two games. His average attempts have basically been cut in half, and he’s been efficient throwing six touchdowns and zero interceptions. Against the Houston Texans Bradford completed 75 percent of his passes (12-for-16) for 117 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a QB Rating of 134.6. More importantly, the Rams pulled away with a big win.
Teams now have to respect the Rams’ running game leading to Bradford having more room to work with, especially on play-action. There was a clear difference in the Rams’ ability to protect him against the Texans. The offensive line did a great job limiting Texans’ superstar J.J. Watt to zero sacks and only one QB hit. In particular it was Harvey Dahl lining up across from Watt on the line. The Rams used a lot of multiple tight end packages to help chip Watt and deter his ability to get into the backfield. Sam Bradford was upright for most of the day and the line didn’t allow a sack.
It had to be a nice sight for Rams’ fans to see Bradford take a couple shots down field early in the game in an attempt to stretch the field. On the first attempt Bradford attempted to hit Brian Quick deep to the right side drawing a pass interference call on a well thrown pass leading to a TD pass to third string TE Cory Harkey. Chris Givens was the target down the middle of the field on what was nearly a perfectly thrown ball by Bradford. Givens had the ball hit his hands on what going to be a basket catch over the top of his head. If Givens comes down with it he might have been able to turn on the burners for his first 50+ yard catch of the year. It looked as if offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer opened up the playbook early and Bradford threw two catchable passes on his deep attempts.
In addition to throwing a couple of deep balls, Bradford spread it out so that no one felt unused on the day. The Rams had eight different players catch at least one pass on the day. Bradford had time to go through his progressions and find the open man consistently. One other pass stuck out to me as a great job of hitting his receiver in perfect stride when he hit TE Jared Cook for a 34-yard completion right before he was upended by a Houston DE. Cook was able to make the catch in stride and pick up yards after the catch. Bradford made another perfect throw to Brian Quick on a slant from the two-yard line that hit Quick right between his numbers where only he could make a play.
Bradford displayed an extreme level of confidence on Sunday. His throws were on point all day and he even took off for a four-yard gain that drew a penalty against LB Brian Cushing for hitting him after he started his slide. The most important thing for Bradford was that he had the time to find the open man instead of throwing to his first option. This is the type of offense that fits Jeff Fisher‘s style. Sam Bradford controlled the game, hit multiple receivers, and made accurate passes on every type of throw.