Bernie Bytes: Bradford in the clutch ..
BY BERNIE MIKLASZ Thursday, December 2, 2010 11:30 am
Hello again ...
* In Wednesday's column, I quoted the NFL Network's Jim Mora Jr. as saying that Sam Bradford is at his best when the game is on the line. Some have suggested that this is not true, and that there's a shortage of evidence to back up the opinion. I certainly understand the dissent. I also think that Mora was probably projecting into the future here. I can't speak for the Coach, but I think he sees the qualities in Bradford that inspire him to conclude that Sam will be a money quarterback.
So yes, for now, Mora Jr. probably overstated it. Bradford has had a couple of opportunities to win games near or at the end (Arizona at home, Tampa Bay on the road) and wasn't able to pull it off. But sheesh, the Arizona game was Bradford's reg-season NFL debut, so I think we can cut him some slack for that one. And overall in the 4th quarter Bradford's numbers aren't impressive. But they are improving. As I mentioned on the blog earlier in the week, over the last 6 games Bradford has completed 65 percent of his passes in the 4th quarter with 1 TD and 1 INT for a rating of 80.2. That 4th quarter passer rating ranks 12th in the league over the last six weeks.
And we must also remember three things:
(1) Bradford led a masterful two-minute drive down the field at San Francisco to tie the score 20-20 at the end of the fourth quarter to send it into OT. The Rams probably would have won it in regulation except for a dropped pass by TE Daniel Fells.
(2) Bradford has done a good job of finishing teams off when the Rams have a 4th quarter advantage. That's also the mark of a winner. Examples include the victories over San Diego, Washington, Seattle and Carolina. In the 20-17 win over San Diego, Bradford set up a FG with a crucial third-down and 9 completion for 18 yards to Billy Bajema. That FG made it a two-score game and represented the winning points. Bradford put Carolina away in the 4th quarter with a 24-yard TD pass to Fells on 3rd and 18.
(3) Bradford can only do what the coaches allow him to do. If the Rams' leaders choose to play it safe and put the ball in the freezer rather than give Bradford a chance to continue attacking, then it isn't his fault. The Rams played it safe at the start of OT at San Francisco, they played it safe in the second half of the loss at Tampa Bay, and they ran the ball on seven of their final nine plays on a trio of 3-and-out possessions that gave Denver a frightening opportunity to come back and nearly steal a win.
There is a noticeable difference in the Rams' playcalling after halftime. In the first half, the Rams attempt passes on 62 percent of their plays, which is the 9th-highest rate in the NFL. In the second half, the Rams pass it on 56 percent of their downs. That may not seem significant, but it is in terms of the league rankings. The Rams rank 17th in the league in percentage of passes called in the 2nd half.