Bradford learns a lot in first game ..
BY JIM THOMAS • Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:10 am
It didn't take long for Sam Bradford's answer when asked about his favorite moment against Arizona.
"When we scored right before halftime, I don't know if I've been that jacked up in a long time," Bradford said. "I was as excited as I can get when that happened."
Complete with fist pump. But it didn't take Bradford long to come up with his least favorite moment, either.
"Obviously, the interception to Adrian Wilson in the first half; that's a throw I wish I had back," Bradford said. "I was a little late, left it a little behind. He made a great play to get to it."
After going the entire preseason without throwing an interception, it took just seven tosses Sunday before throwing his first regular-season pick. The Pro Bowl safety schooled the rookie quarterback by undercutting the route.
It was that kind of day for Bradford. Some highs, some lows, and about a month's worth of experience rolled into one NFL Sunday. He threw 55 passes, tied for the third-highest total in Rams history. He took part in two-minute drills in the first half (successful) and second half (unsuccessful).
And he had to adjust to the shifting personnel that sometimes takes place on Sundays. Pass-catching tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was lost to an ankle injury seven minutes into the game; wide receiver Danny Amendola (leg cramps) and Laurent Robinson (ankle) were in and out in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals threw a lot at him. By unofficial count, they blitzed him 25 times. (A blitz is defined here as more than four pass rushers.)
Arizona sent linebackers and safeties off the edge; delayed Wilson up the middle, or overloaded one side with extra pass rushers. But Bradford never seemed startled.
"A few maybe small things (were surprising), but to be honest, no," Bradford said. "There wasn't really anything that caught me or this offense off-guard. I felt like we were very well-prepared."
Nonetheless, Bradford took his share of shots from an active, aggressive Arizona pass rush. A review of the game showed that Bradford was hit 13 times, and knocked to the ground eight times. (Those totals include the two times Bradford was sacked.)
A few of the hits were little more than love taps. But a couple were jarring blows, including what looked like a helmet-to-helmet hit by defensive end Calais Campbell which drew a roughing-the-passer penalty.
Bradford said he wasn't all that sore Monday morning.
"Besides a couple bruises here and there I felt great," he said after Wednesday's practice. "Today, I came out here and felt really good, so I really wasn't any more sore than I would be after a college game."
Even with the increased speed of regular-season play, Bradford for the most part showed the decision making and quick release he displayed during the preseason. Not that every play was executed perfectly.
Besides the first-quarter interception by Wilson, there was an earlier throw that Bradford would take back. On third-and-7 from the Arizona 16, wide receiver Laurent Robinson broke open over the middle at about the 5. Had the throw been on target, it's at least a first down and maybe Robinson scores. But rolling right, Bradford skipped the throw in front of Robinson. Bradford reacting by slapping his hands together — he knew he'd missed one.
It was uncharacteristic because Bradford throws very well on the run. He threw about a half dozen times Sunday on designed rollouts to the right. On the first play of the game, he completed a 13-yard pass to Mark Clayton rolling left.
Bradford's second interception of the game looked like a late throw to Billy Bajema. (This was the pass picked off by Kerry Rhodes at the Arizona 6 with about 1 minute, 40 seconds to play in the game.) But it looked like Bradford couldn't get everything on the throw: he was clobbered by Big Red linebacker Joey Porter who got around rookie left tackle Rodger Saffold.
Two plays before the Rhodes pick, on first-and-10 from the Arizona 21, Bradford threw deep and incomplete in the right corner of the end zone to a well-covered Robinson. Had Bradford waited a hair longer on the play, he might have noticed Clayton breaking open over the middle around the 5. Like the first quarter one-hopper to Robinson, this one might have gone for a touchdown.
"After looking at the tape on Monday, I felt like our offense did some good things," Bradford said. "At the same time, when we get down to the red zone or the fringe area, we've got to find a way to get touchdowns and not field goals. (Or interceptions.) But I thought we moved the ball fairly well, so I think we feel fairly confident going into this Sunday."
As much as Bradford may have learned, the Oakland Raiders present a new challenge. They rely mainly on their front four to pressure the quarterback without much blitzing. They play man coverage and have very good team speed. Bradford used his arm strength to squeeze the ball into some tight spaces on a few throws against Arizona. Will that work against the fast Raiders?
"They're a very good defense, totally different scheme than what we saw in Week 1," Bradford said. "You know, they're going to challenge us. They're going to get in our face, they're going to play a lot of man coverage. Obviously, Nnamdi (Asomugha) is one of the best corners in the league, so we have to be very careful in the way we plan to attack them. But if they do come up and play man, we have to be able to beat their coverage."