Ravens vs. Rams: Breaking Down Sam Bradford and the First-Team Offense
After two rocky weeks (Week 1 and 3) from the first-team offense, Sam Bradford and the gang wanted to make things right by finishing the final preseason game on a high note.
Granted, Baltimore did not deploy their entire first-team defense against the Rams first-team offense, but the signs of life from this unit were encouraging. Bradford's on-field play was just as impressive as his stat line indicated.
He finished the night 11-of-16 for 175 yards and three touchdowns. The most remarkable aspect of his game tonight wasn't anything that could be measured within the box score. His throws were delivered on time with velocity and touch.
It was the most animated game from an arm standpoint that I've seen since the 2010 season. Yes, I do realize it's preseason and by no means am I telling fans to get ahead of themselves, yet it's important to evaluate the one thing the quarterback relies upon to make his living.
The first-team offense played deep into the second quarter, which was much longer than anyone expected. It became apparent after the first quarter what coach Fisher was trying to do. Not only was he trying to get the first unit more reps, he was trying to build their confidence at the same time.
Confidence is key, especially when they open up on the road against Detroit. So, it's not too far-fetched to believe their confidence was a little shaken after last week's beat down that was served fresh from the Dallas Cowboys.
By breaking down Bradford's three touchdown passes, it will allow us to see what concepts Brian Schottenheimer's offense uses against man and zone coverage.
Touchdown Drive No. 1: 9 Plays, 94 Yards
On this play the Ravens are lined up in man-to-man coverage against the Rams 11 personnel package. Austin Pettis, the recipient of the touchdown pass, is lined up at the right wide receiver position.
When the ball is snapped he runs a simple drag route across the face of the offensive line. It appears as if the left cornerback, No. 24, was expecting Pettis to run a route to the right side of the field because of his initial back pedal.
Because of the misread by the cornerback, Pettis goes uncovered until he catches the ball just inside the numbers at the 9-yard line. He puts the finishing touch on the touchdown reception by turning on the jets as he beats four defenders to the pylon.
Nothing more than good protection up front and a perfect throw and catch from 14 yards out.
Touchdown Drive No. 2: 2 Plays, 8 Yards
Bradford's second touchdown toss was equally as simple as the first, yet the offense showed a different formation and personnel grouping this time around. St. Louis was in 12 personnel, but it wasn't a traditional set, as tight end Matthew Mulligan was split out wide at right wide receiver.
Danny Amendola recorded his second touchdown catch of the preseason from seven yards out on an inside zig route. Baltimore's defense is in zone coverage, which leaves the middle of the field wide open because of the dead spot in the zone.
Again, protection up front was solid as Bradford was in the pocket for three seconds before he released the ball. With the Ravens only rushing three and dropping eight, it was wise of him not to force anything. He waited for the routes to develop and took what the coverage gave him.
Touchdown Drive No. 3: 13 Plays, 91 Yards
Lastly, Michael Hoomanawanui got in on the action, which was a welcomed sight considering no one has heard his name called since Week 10 of the 2011 season.
On this third-down play the Rams deploy 11 personnel against the Ravens man-to-man defense, just like touchdown catch No. 1. The play calls for Hoomanawanui and running back Daryl Richardson to run across each other when they get into their routes.
Richardson is set to run a slant route out of the backfield and Hoomanawanui runs a deeper slant that pushes the cornerback up the field. When the cornerback falls into the trail position "Illini Mike" takes advantage of that inside position and extends out for the touchdown grab at the 1-yard line.
For the third time I mention the offensive line's protection first, but rightfully so, because that's the way it should be. Quarterbacks are only as good as their offensive line allows them to be. A quarterback that is on his back does absolutely no one any good.
The three touchdown passes are everything coach Fisher wanted to see. The mental aspects of being poised and confident proved to be half the battle in being a successful offense. If the offensive line keeps playing at a high level, there is no reason Bradford won't have a career year in 2012.
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