While many fans and media members are praising Sam Bradford for his performance on Sunday in the preseason opener at Indianapolis, a simple glance at the numbers doesn’t tell the whole story.
Bradford went 7-for-9 for 57 yards in two offensive series. Two incompletions in nine attempts—that’s good. He was even named the St. Louis Rams’ “Star of the Game” by the St. Louis broadcast team.
But seven completions for 57 yards, an eight-yard average, point to more of the same mediocre, lack-of-big-play offense the Rams have had the last five years. The Rams quarterbacks—Bradford, Kellen Clemens and Austin Davis—completed 23 of their 33 attempts for a whopping 159 yards.
Even in those seven completions, Bradford was far from accurate.
He missed on a deep throw to Steve Smith, who was behind his defender. A completed pass to Smith likely would have resulted in a 62-yard touchdown. Instead, Bradford threw the ball out of bounds down the left sideline.
Both of Bradford’s possessions ended without points. Moving down the field only to have drives stall inside the opponent's territory is largely what led to the Rams having the NFL’s worst scoring offense last season. It was also a contributing factor to Sunday’s 38-3 loss to the Colts.
The Rams drove to the Colts' 37-yard line on the opening series, only to have Bradford miss an open Danny Amendola in the flat on 4th-and-3.
“Obviously, we would like to have had points on that drive,” Bradford told reporters after the game. “I thought we did a good job, we have just got to finish. That’s what these games are for; to come out here and learn from your mistakes and hopefully next week we won’t do that.”
Earlier, Amendola had to dive to catch a six-yard pass from Bradford. The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner and top overall pick in the 2010 draft also threw high on a simple slant pass to Austin Pettis. The throw was complete for a 13-yard gain on third down, but an accurate throw could have resulted in a much bigger gain.
It wasn’t much better for the Rams starting defense, which gave up a 63-yard touchdown pass on Indianapolis’ first offensive play from scrimmage. It was a simple shovel pass from Andrew Luck, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, to running back Donald Brown. The Rams’ starters surrendered 130 total yards and two scores in three series.
“It’s good for us to get out here and mess some things up sometimes,” defensive end Chris Long said after the game. “We are going to learn from those mistakes. I am glad they are happening now rather than week one so we are just going to continue to build on what we’ve been building on. Nobody is panicking over a preseason loss but nobody is happy about losing. So we have to keep an even keel and come out and work through it.”
There are never many good things in a lopsided loss. Some players who did play well were wide receiver Austin Pettis, defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo, tight end Lance Kendricks, undrafted rookie safety Rodney McLeod and Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson, who finished with 17 yards on four carries. The Rams ran well to the right side behind tackle Barry Richardson and guard Harvey Dahl.
Center Scott Wells, wide receivers Danario Alexander and Brandon Gibson, safety Darian Stewart, cornerback Bradley Fletcher and defensive tackle Trevor Laws did not play. Dressed for the game, but not seeing any action were quarterback Tom Brandstater and tight ends Jamie Childers and Brody Eldridge.
Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Matt Conrath had been getting reps with the starting defense in practice, but was pushed around badly by Indianapolis' offensive line. The 6'7", 261-pound rookie from Virginia struggled to get leverage against both the first- and second-stringers.
Left tackle Rodger Saffold did play after being held out of practice all week with a slight groin pull. Richardson, who started the last two seasons for Kansas City, started for the Rams at right tackle. Richardson has surpassed Jason Smith on the depth chart. Smith, the second overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, was beaten by Jerry Hughes on a third down deep inside Colts' territory. The Rams kicked a 37-yard field goal following the sack of backup quarterback Kellen Clemens.
The Rams offensive line did not play well at all. The consistent pressure resulted in several incompletions and contributed to Bradford’s lack of accuracy.
Every NFL quarterback faces pressure. What will make Bradford go from potentially being a great quarterback to actually being a great quarterback is the ability to make accurate throws in the face of pressure.
Ron Clements is a Featured Columnist and also writes for Examiner.com.