The 2013 NFL season has been one of ups and downs in St. Louis thus far. For much of the season Sam Bradford was under fire from fans for the lack of the team’s success. Every one ignores the fact that Bradford was on pace to have a career year for the Rams. He was taking care of the ball as evidenced by a low four interceptions and 14 touchdowns. Those 14 touchdowns were good enough to put Bradford in the top 5 in the league for touchdowns thrown. He was completing 60.7 percent of his passes which is a pretty good mark when compared to Kellen Clemens‘ 53.5 completion percentage.
Not only was Bradford completing a higher percentage of his passes, he was also throwing almost twice as many per game (37 attempts per game compared to 22) than Clemens has been asked to throw. Clemens has started to turn the ball over less, but he has committed six turnovers in four games when Bradford had only six turnovers in seven contests. To put it plain and simple for anyone that is reading this, the St. Louis Rams are asking Clemens to do a lot less. Bradford was being forced to carry the team with his arm and a poor receiving corps that was leading the league in drops.
Why was Bradford being asked to do so much for the offense? Well that’s an easy question to answer. Daryl Richardson was absolutely useless as the starter. As a starter he was averaging 2.6 yards per carry and just a tick over 30 yards per game rushing. Teams knew that the Rams were going to throw the ball early and often. They were as predictable as a team could be while Richardson was in the backfield. Once the brawny rookie Zac Stacy started getting the rock Bradford’s efficiency picked up even better than it was before. The emergence of Stacy was allowing the Rams to run the more balanced offense that you are seeing now.
The difference between the offense with Stacy and Richardson has been basically night and day. Stacy is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and nearly 70 yards rushing a game. That includes his poor but gristly performance in Week 10. He has been more than just a great running back for the Rams. He has also been great in pass protection picking up blitzes and handling incoming defenders much better than Richardson ever did. The ability to run the ball for the Rams is taking pressure off of their defense and the quarterback.
Also take a look at the Rams’ defense and how they performed early in the season compared to the last four weeks. While Bradford was starting the defense had given up an average of 28 points per game over the first seven weeks of the season. The next three weeks featured a fearsome defense that only gave up an average of just 16.7 points per game. St. Louis’ record would be far better than 4-6 had the defense performed anywhere close to that number earlier in the season while Bradford was running the offense. That’s especially true if Bradford would have had Stacy to handoff to instead of the feeble Richardson.
It shouldn’t be difficult for anyone to see that Bradford was performing at a much higher level than Clemens is performing at or ever has throughout his career. The emergence of Stacy revitalized the offense and gave the defense more chances to breathe on the sideline. There is so much less pressure on Clemens due to the fact that the offense can now feel confident in a run play and not to mention not much has been expected of Clemens so every time he does something positive it is more of a surprise than an expectation.