Sam Bradford is getting protection like he's never had this season.
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford’s 117 passing yards in Week 6 marked a career low for the four-year pro. So did his 16 passing attempts. Both of those marks include games that he has limped into and games he has limped out of—but when you contrast them with his productivity, none of that matters.
His QBR was 93.2, which was another personal record. It was just the second time he’s crossed the 90 QBR plateau in his career.
And the Rams won by 25.
Those numbers make it sound like St. Louis only needs to continue running its offense as is. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Ancillary playmakers like tight ends Cory Harkey and Lance Kendricks provided sparks in the first half against Houston. Then the team poured it on with scores from Brian Quick, Daren Bates and Alec Ogletree—the latter two are linebackers—which changed the way Houston was able to approach St. Louis defensively.
Being up two or three scores gave the Rams more options. Chief among them was the ability to run the ball, which needs to be a focus going forward to balance a young and emerging passing attack. Zac Stacy showed plenty of toughness between the tackles, and the Rams would do well to get Daryl Richardson outside so he can add a few long gains of his own.
Additionally, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer needs to work on getting the rock to Jared Cook and Tavon Austin. Three combined targets for the two explosive playmakers is baffling.
But the most underutilized play in the Rams playbook—now that we have proof that it’s actually there—is the screen pass. Even a front seven as stout as the Carolina Panthers’ can be worked on with screens.
St. Louis converted an unlikely 3rd-and-10 with this halfback slip screen out of the shotgun.
There’s just grass between Richardson and the first-down marker now, and he takes 18 yards on his only target of the game before Danieal Manning runs him out of bounds.
Carolina would love nothing more than to rack up 200-plus yards rushing on St. Louis. The Panthers average more rushing attempts (32.6 per game) than passing attempts (30.6) on the year.
Despite Steve Smith’s present ranking as third on his own team in receiving yards (224), the Rams cannot overlook the 5’9” veteran. He still leads the squad in targets (42) and receptions (23) and has scored a pair of touchdowns in five games. He totaled four in 16 games last season.
Tight end Greg Olsen currently leads Carolina in yards after the catch (104), so the Rams linebackers will have their work cut out for them.
St. Louis has scored a defensive touchdown in back-to-back games. To extend its streak, it will seek to keep Cam Newton (5.8 rushing attempts per game) in the pocket and beat him up or force him into chucking a few ill-advised passes. Newton has been sacked 16 times, including seven by the Cardinals in Week 5.
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