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Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB ..
BERNIE MIKLASZ | Posted: Monday, October 4, 2010
Good morning ...
* Is Sam Bradford already the best QB in the NFC West? Well, you can certainly make that case. In San Francisco, Alex Smith has 3 TD passes and 7 INTs for the winless *****. And after Sunday's last-second loss at Atlanta, combustible S.F. coach Mike Singletary fielded questions about benching Smith. (Singletary doesn't plan to.) In Arizona, coach Ken Whisenhunt is said to be close to demoting Derek Anderson in favor of rookie Max Hall. In Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck, 35, still makes his share of plays but appears to be in decline; since the start of the 2008 season he's thrown 26 TDs and 33 INTs and has a rating of 70.1. So when measured against this lot, why wouldn't we rank Bradford as No. 1 in the NFC West? That's especially true if we consider his enormous potential. Bradford has been plenty good, but his accuracy isn't as sharp as it will be once he settles in. You can see Bradford getting a little jacked up at times when he has an open receiver. He's so anxious to make the connection, he tends to sail the pass.
But this kid is so good, I don't even look at him as a rookie. When he threw that bad INT in the end zone Sunday, the immediate reaction was "What was he thinking?" No, the question is: what are we thinking? Bradford has played four NFL games. And when he makes a so-called rookie mistake, it's surprising. We don't expect to see it from him. That's quite the compliment.
* Here's where Bradford shines in the comparison to the other NFC West quarterbacks: third-down passing. He's completed 28 of 49 for 350 yards, two TDs and no INTs. Bradford's passer rating on third down is 93.0, which is the 10th best among all NFL quarterbacks. How does that rate with the the other NFC West third-down passer ratings? Well, take a look: Smith ranks 31st with a third-down rating of 46.9; Anderson ranks 30th with a third-down rating of 47.2; Hasselbeck ranks 16th with a third-down rating of 79.0
* Bradford is making a dramatic difference in the Rams' red-zone success. He's thrown 5 red zone TD passes so far, with only one interception. (That pick, by Seattle's Earl Thomas, was a bad thriow, as Bradford was the first to point out.) This represents a profound improvement over what the Rams had been getting from their QBs in the red zone. Last season, for example, Marc Bulger completed only 8 of 28 passes in the red zone, with 3 TDs and 3 INTs for a passer rating of 35.7. The Rams had only 8 red-zone TD passes in 16 games. Bradford already has 5 in 16 quarters.
* A couple of weeks ago, after the atrocious second-half performance at Oakland, I got on the Rams coaches for their failure to adjust during games. And the criticism was on target. For example, I pointed out that the offense had scored only 1 third-quarter touchdown in 18 games under the new coaching staff. Well, after the wins over Washington and Seattle, it's time for me to give the Rams coaches some credit. Their team has been exceptional in the second half of the last two games. The Rams outgained the Redskins and Seahawks 391-235 after halftime, had 21 first downs to their 10 first downs, outscored them 26-3, and won the turnover battle at +2.
Pat Shurmur's offense scored a third-quarter TD in both wins. Shurmur, has in fact, gone with some new stuff in the second half; he countered Seattle's feverish pass rush with two screen passes that resulted in the third-quarter TD that gave the Rams a 17-3 lead. Ken Flajole's defense has allowed 17 rushing yards on 13 carries in the second half of the last two games. The opponents' second-half passer rating in the last two games is 63.4. The Rams are making changes during the course of the game. The coahing is clearly making a positive impact.
*Again, kudos to the Rams defense. They're looking good on the field, and in the NFL rankings. The Rams are ranked 4th among 32 teams in allowing the fewest points per game, 13.0. They share the NFL lead with Pittsburgh and Baltimore in giving up the fewest TDs (4). The Rams' third-down defense has allowed a conversion rate of 31 percent, which is 5th best. (And teams are 0 for 3 in 4th downs against STL.) The Rams have stuffed 18 running plays for losses; that's the league's 4th highest total. And the Rams are tied for 5th in the league for most takeaways, with 10.
* All in all, an outstanding defensive profile. The Rams give up yards, an average of 347 per game. But they make plays when they have to. And except for the second half of the Oakland game, the defense has gotten better as the game goes along. Here's an example of that: through four games, the Rams are allowing an average of 5.4 yards per rush in the first half, which is 29th in the league. But in the second half the Rams give up. 3.4 yards per rush, good for 10th in the league.
* About those "stuff" totals. (Again, defined as running plays for losses). Rams MLB James Laurinaitis has 4.5 of them, which puts him tied for 3rd in the NFL. And Rams DT Fred Robbins has 3 stuffs, which puts him tied for 13th.
* Robbins has been a terrific free-agent signing. His impact is only partially qualified by numbers. We've seen the stuffs and the QB pressures. And it makes such a difference to be able to get a pass rush from the middle, which Robbins is doing for the Rams. But this guy is a tremendous leader. He sets a good example for the kids. Do you know what it means for DE Chris Long to line up against Robbins? Or for a rookie DL like George Selvie to learn from Robbins? He coaches them up. He teaches them how to be a pro. (Granted, Robbins made a big mistake near the end of the Oakland game by drawing a personal foul for shoving the QB, but it was a borderline infraction. And an example of an older player still needing to adjust to the new way of officiating, with a heavier emphasis on protecting the QB.) I talked to head coach Steve Spagnuolo about Robbins after Sunday's game. Spagnuolo said he wanted Robbins last year, 2009, but Robbins was still under contract with the NY Giants. Spags said he "counted the days" until Robbins could become a free agent. He knew what Robbins could do to help Spagnuolo not only install a defense, but also a mindset. Robbins is 33. He weighs about 315 pounds. He's had some knee trouble. But Spagnuolo said an important key to Robbins' success is staying in shape. "He really takes good care of his body," Spags said. "Which is important for the big guys. It can be a problem for some of them." And Robbins came to camp in excellent shape, which indicated he was ready to go, and that playing for the Rams meant more to him than just a late-career paycheck.
* Yes, discipline matters. The Rams have committed 27 penalties in four games. That seems a tad high, but only nine NFL teams have more penalties so far. And the Rams' opponents have committed 37. That +10 differential on the penalties is important. Last season the Rams were a minus 20 in the penalty differential. It may not seem like a big deal. But it is.
* The Rams were strong on special teams against the Seahawks...but overall, as they season goes on, they'll need more juice from their return game. They rank 25th in punt-return average (6.8 yards) and 20th in kickoff-return average (22.3).
* Really now: did you think that after 4 games the Rams and Colts would have the same 2-2 record?
* A lot of folks -- and not just in St. Louis, either -- are wondering if the Rams can contend for first place in the soft NFC West. On one level it's ludicrous, beause we're talking about a franchise that just went through a stinking mess of a stretch, losing 44 of 50 games coming into the 2010 season. The losing has been chronic and extreme. The Rams haven't been able to win at home. They've gotten dominated -- bullied -- by NFC West rivals. And even after winning two in a row at home for the first time since 2006, and even after putting the hammer on Seattle, the Rams have much to prove. Can they win on the road? That's another big hurdle to overcome. And they'll get their chance to prove it soon; starting with a patch of schedule that begins Nov. 14, the Rams will play four of five on the road. But that's just one side. The other side is this: this division is really bad. The Rams could have the best QB in the division. They have the best RB in Steven Jackson, though the *****' Frank Gore is very good too. And while I believe San Francisco and Arizona have better personnel on defense, the Rams' defense is playing the best among the four NFC West teams. Up front, the Rams have the makings of the best O-line in the division. All of these teams have something to prove. A lot of tests. Seattle has the best homefield advantage, but can the Seahawks ever get something done on the road? Will Arizona be taken down by mediocre/poor quarterback play? Can San Francisco recover from an 0-4 start with a head coach who seems to be cracking, and with a starting QB who already is under fire from media and fans? Yes, the notion of the 2010 Rams as a first place team is pretty comical in the abstract ... at least until you look around the rest of the division. And then you realize that anything is possible. But the Rams will have to improve and stay healthy and win the games that are sitting there to be claimed. They cannot afford many more injuries, or missed opportunities.
Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB ..* Here's where Bradford shines in the comparison to the other NFC West quarterbacks: third-down passing. He's completed 28 of 49 for 350 yards, two TDs and no INTs. Bradford's passer rating on third down is 93.0, which is the 10th best among all NFL quarterbacks. How does that rate with the the other NFC West third-down passer ratings? Well, take a look: Smith ranks 31st with a third-down rating of 46.9; Anderson ranks 30th with a third-down rating of 47.2; Hasselbeck ranks 16th with a third-down rating of 79.0
Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB ..
Sam has given the offense a second dimension(can't just cover Jax and beat us), has given the offense hope and confidence, and has also made the defense better just by giving them sustained offensive drives which let the defense stay fresher throughout the game so that they can actually play in the 4th quarter.
That was the issue I always saw last year: the defense would keep us in the game until halftime, but in the second half, they were so gassed that they couldn't keep up and eventually crumbled, leading to run away scores. Now, our offense is holding up their part of the bargain and our defense is able to play all four quarters. Suh just can't do that.
Suh + Feeley < Bradford + Robbins.I believe!
Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB ..
I think one thing these stats show is how much easier it is to play defense if you have a lead
Re: Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB ..
RANKED 4th in the NFL in the points allowed category. UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!
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