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  1. #1
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    Road win next big step for Rams, Bradford ..

    Bernie Miklasz Sunday, November 14, 2010 12:25 am

    SAN FRANCISCO • Given that Sam Bradford already has renewed and transformed an entire franchise, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to ask a small favor of him:

    Can you win a road game for the Rams, Sam?

    When the visitors go into Candlestick Park to take on what should be a highly agitated group of San Francisco *****, they will be led by a quarterback, 23, who had his right arm in a sling a year ago.

    And the 2009 Rams should have been outfitted in straitjackets as they trudged to a 1-15 fate.

    Look at how far Bradford and his team have come. With some help from his friends, Bradford has elevated a Rams team that went a ghastly 6-42 in the three seasons that preceded his arrival. But one thing is missing: a road win.

    There are two firm truths about competition in the National Football League: (1) roughly 33 percent of the games are decided by a touchdown or less; (2) it's difficult to win on the road. Road teams have won only 42 percent of the time this season. Seventeen of the 32 teams have losing road records. The Rams are one of six winless road teams.

    It's tough out there. And the Rams and their fans know all about it, with halftime leads vanishing in narrow losses at Oakland (16-14) and Tampa Bay (18-17).

    "Playing on the road can be extremely intimidating, especially when you're a rookie," said ESPN's Mike Golic, an NFL defensive tackle from 1986 through 1993. "Playing on the road is a great way to find out which players are ready for the big time, because it's a total sink-or-swim moment for a young guy. Obviously, you want a guy on your team who wants to make that big play and shut the crowd up."

    Bradford will, in time, be that guy for the Rams.

    Is it time? The ***** aim to find out. I don't see how a physical team coached by feverish Hall of Fame middle linebacker Mike Singletary will allow the day to be controlled by Rams running back Steven Jackson. Besides, Jackson isn't at full throttle because of a broken finger.

    Could we see SJ39 gallop the Rams to a victory? Sure. Anything is possible. But you just get the feeling that this game will come down to Bradford's ability to make plays over four quarters, even if it's a bloody, ugly mess of a brawl.

    Moreover, I'm sure Singletary and the ***** believe they'll be able to rattle the Rams rookie QB.

    In their last game, a win over Denver, two ***** (Manny Lawson and Ahmad Brooks) drew fines for outlaw hits on Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton. Bradford will see a 3-4 defense for the second time this season; in the first, against San Diego, he got smacked around more than he had in any game this season.

    In a league where so many of the contests are tight, the quarterback is the most important player. He often represents the difference between winning and losing. He makes plays. (Win.) Or he doesn't make plays. (Lose.) Bradford isn't alone here. The Rams defense will have to clog up the running lanes and keep Frank Gore from slashing them on the ground. Coach Steve Spagnuolo will get after a young ***** offensive line and quarterback Troy Smith with a menu of blitzes. It's up to Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to tap into some creativity and do his part to keep the chains moving.

    But if it's close, if it's the fourth quarter ... Bradford looms as the likely key.

    At home, Bradford has completed 62 percent of his passes and has an 79.6 QB rating. And the Rams are 4-1 at The Ed.

    On the road, Bradford has completed 52 percent of his passes, with a rating of 68.4, and the Rams are 0-3.

    The split in Bradford's road performance has been magnified in the second halves of the those heartbreakers at Oakland and Tampa Bay; he completed a combined 12 of 26 passes for 104 yards with a touchdown and an interception with a rating of 54.0.

    Getting it done on the road is a challenge for any QB. It can be a numbing, humbling experience for the young ones. As a rookie in 1983, John Elway was 2-5 on the road, completed 41 percent of his passes, and threw one TD and 10 INTs. His road passer rating: 31.8. Joe Montana went a combined 1-6 in his first seven road starts in 1979 and '80. Troy Aikman, 0-5 on the road as a rookie in 1989, had four TDs and seven picks and a rating of 64.2. Peyton Manning was 0-8 on the road as a rookie in 1998, with 12 TDs and 13 interceptions and a rating of 70.7.

    To his credit, Bradford continues to set ambitious standards for himself and his team. He doesn't want to have the developing-quarterback excuse put on him like a diaper. Bradford gets on that airplane with one goal, and it isn't a window seat. He wants to win. That's why he humbugs the notion of the Rams being a 4-4 surprise.

    "I think coming in here into this training camp, we had the expectations for this team set a lot higher than most people would have expected," Bradford said. "We're still shooting for those. We're a long way from being the team we want to be. We have to make a lot of improvements and get better each week."

    Bradford is so close. You may recall his first halves at Oakland and Tampa Bay: a combined 15 of 25, 189 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 123.1. But here's the challenge for him Sunday: finish strong and close out his work day with a productive second half. If Bradford can do that, the Rams will have a good shot at winning and taking control of the NFC West.

    This could be Graduation Day, with the young Rams winning their first road game.

    Or it could be Groundhog Day, with the Rams losing their way on road all over again.

  2. #2
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    Re: Road win next big step for Rams, Bradford ..

    This is the biggest game of the season for our RAMS. Being fired up and ready to play should be a given. There are no excuses.....

    GO RAMS!

  3. #3
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    Re: Road win next big step for Rams, Bradford ..

    The ramifications are HUGE for the season today. Rams win, whiners out of contention. Rams win, they take control of division. Rams lose, Whiners are right back in it after horrific start. Time to play ball. I will be there rooting for the Rams in the sea of Red called Whinerville.

  4. #4
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    Re: Road win next big step for Rams, Bradford ..

    Yet another pivotal game against the whiners that could define the direction of the NFC Western Division.

    I think Spags will have them ready...

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