Bernie Bytes: Take 5 on the Rams

23 hours ago • BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist

Take 5 on the Rams:

1. How could Rams quarterback Sam Bradford win some fans over? Easy: by doing something that starting quarterbacks Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo, Christian Ponder, Mark Sanchez and John Skelton were unable to accomplish: win a road game at Seattle.

So actually, it’s not that easy. This season, the seven starting visiting quarterbacks (plus Arizona backup Ryan Lindley) have combined for an awful passer rating of 61.3 at CenturyLink Field, throwing only four TDs with 10 interceptions.

Though Green Bay lost because of a disputed (and stupid) officiating call early in the season, Rodgers had the best passer rating of a visiting QB at Seattle this year, 81.5. But he was sacked eight times in the game and didn’t connect for a touchdown.

Brady threw for 395 yards at Seattle but needed 58 passing attempts to get it done. Brady was intercepted twice in the second half, completed only three of nine in the fourth quarter of a close game, and the Patriots blew a 23-10 lead in losing 24-23.

Romo had a quiet game, with only 81 yards passing in the second half. Dallas lost by 20 points after trailing by only six at halftime.

One week after throwing four TD passes to lead San Francisco to a win at New England, Kaepernick completed only 1 of 8 passes on third down (with one interception) in a 29-point loss at Seattle.

In their team’s games at Seattle, Ponder, Sanchez, Skelton and Lindley combined to complete 39 of 83 passes with no TDs and six INTs.

Bradford’s brief experiences at Seattle have been horrific. Among visiting-team quarterbacks that have made a minimum of two starts at Seattle since the new stadium opened in 2002, Bradford has the lowest passer rating — 51.3 in two games.

Reasonable and intelligent people already recognize Bradford’s improvement in 2012, but he could score points with the skeptics, critics and assorted loons by leading the Rams to an upset win at the NFL’s toughest home venue.

Good luck with that.

2. On the other side of the equation, Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has the NFL’s best passer rating (121.5) at home this season; he’s thrown 17 touchdown passes with only three interceptions and has completed 67 percent of his passes in seven games at CenturyLink. And if that isn’t enough for the Rams defense to worry about, the Seahawks are leading the NFL in rushing yards at home this season, averaging a robust 174.7 yards per game. Marshawn Lynch is averaging 106.7 yards per game rushing (and 4.8 yards per carry) at home.

3. Since we’re talking quarterbacks, let’s update the Bradford index to note the areas where he’s improved this season:

• Completion percentage: up.

• Yards per passing attempt: up.

• TD pass percentage: up.

• Passer rating: up.

• Deep passing accuracy: seventh-best in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Bradford has a better deep-ball accuracy rating than Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Tony Romo and Philip Rivers (among others).

• Passing under pressure: Bradford has faced pass-rush pressure on 189 of his 519 dropbacks; that’s the 10th-highest rate among NFL quarterbacks. According to film-study charting done by Pro Football Focus, Bradford’s accuracy under pressure ranks 12th in the NFL; it’s superior to that of Brady, Stafford, Cam Newton, Romo, Flacco, Luck, Eli Manning.

• Red zone passing: Bradford got off to a cold start in this area this season. But in his last six games, Bradford has completed 16 of 23 in the red zone, throwing 7 TDs with one INT. That’s a dramatic move in the right direction.

OK, so where does Bradford need to improve? Obviously there’s a need for continued improvement in all areas. But his third-down passing fell off this season. Among QBs that have attempted at least 100 passes on third down, Bradford’s third-down passer rating of 68.8 ranks 23rd. This has to get better in 2013.

4. I would expect Steven Jackson to return to the Rams in 2013. There’s plenty of fuel left in the tank. Jackson will be 30 next season, and 31 in 2014. In NFL history, backs age 30 or older have gone for 1,000 yards in a season 44 times, and made 19 Pro Bowls. Backs that are 30 or 31 have combined for 33 seasons of 1,000 yards rushing. If we lower the standard – say, 700 yards rushing which still represents good productivity in a time-share, two-back system – there have been 113 seasons of 750+ yards. Jackson is viable. He’s a low-risk investment for the Rams. It makes little sense to create another roster hole by letting Jackson leave.

5. St. Louis-based attorney Bob Wallace, the former front-office executive with the Cardinals, Eagles and Rams, made a correct ruling in favor of Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman had appealed the NFL’s finding that he’d failed a league’s PED test. The collection of the urine sample was a mess, and an abomination — and if that wasn’t enough, the collector then tried to conceal the fact that he’d concealed his errors made during the process. Wallace got it right, and I commend his integrity.

Sherman is the league’s best corner, but wasn’t voted to the Pro Bowl team. The NFC players that refused to vote for Sherman until the appeals process played out should be ashamed of themselves.

The Rams will see a highly motivated CB at CenturyLink Field. Sherman is out for revenge.

I’m off to Seattle for Sunday’s game . . . have a great weekend.

Thanks for reading.

— Bernie