When quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a season-ending injury against the Carolina Panthers last year, a handful of pundits wondered if Bradford had taken his last snap as a member of the St. Louis Rams.
At the time, the notion of Bradford never playing for the Rams again was a plausible one based on his contract and injury-riddled past. Yet, St. Louis didn’t waver. It stuck to its guns and threw all of its support behind the former No. 1 pick.
All things considered, the move was a bold one. But that didn’t matter to general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher. Both men knew Bradford had the ability to lead the Rams in the always competitive NFC West.
Coincidentally enough, it’s starting to look like Snead and Fisher made a wise decision to throw all of their support behind No. 8. Why? Because Bradford proved on Saturday that he is exactly where he needs to be after his big day against the Green Bay Packers.
Even though Bradford only logged 22 offensive plays, he made the most of every snap. He completed 75 percent of his throws, threw one touchdown pass, tallied 101 yards passing and finished with a quarterback rating of 127.4.
As you can imagine, those were the types of numbers the Rams wanted to see from their veteran signal-caller. Sure, Bradford (like any other quarterback) missed a couple of throws, but that’s going to happen from time to time.
No one player is ever going to turn in a perfect game. In the NFL, it’s all about consistency. And that’s exactly what Bradford was on Saturday. In addition to putting up an impressive stat line, his timing, accuracy and arm strength were all there.
Honestly, his performance should be categorized as beautiful. Yes, it has only been one preseason game, and there is a long season ahead of St. Louis, but it’s hard not to be optimistic.
Sam Bradford's last four throws were EXACTLY what we were hoping to see today. Accurate. Confident. Down the field.— Nathan Kearns (@nkearns12) August 16, 2014
Bradford looked more confident than he has in a long time. And it’s not like he was playing against a junior-varsity defense. Green Bay had all 11 of its starters on defense, which ultimately says a lot about the Rams offense as a whole.
This, in turn, means the status quo hasn’t changed. It’s simple; the Rams will go as far as Bradford can take them this year, which means he has to stay healthy.
Fortunately for the Bradford, he will have more help offensively than he has ever had before.
Running backs Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham and Tre Mason should easily combine to make up one of the best backfields in the NFL, while wide receivers Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey now have enough experience as a unit to play with a high level of steadiness.
Obviously, injuries could end up throwing a wrench into anything the Rams are currently building. But for the time being, St. Louis looks like a team on the rise.
Rams have (on paper) a lot of weapons and (on paper) a talented OL. Seems like this is how they begin every season. #GoodLuckJasonSmith— _BVM (@_BVM) August 16, 2014
On paper, this has been the case for a few years now. Yet, for a multitude of reasons, things haven’t come together the way the Rams had hoped they would.
Thankfully the only thing that matters is what they are doing right now. As long as St. Louis continues to improve, it shouldn’t have a problem competing for a playoff spot in the NFC.
Without a doubt, a playoff bid for the Rams looks like a long shot since they haven’t made a postseason appearance in nine years and play in arguably the league's toughest division, yet there’s no reasoning as to why they can’t this year.
If Bradford can stay healthy, how many games will the Rams win in 2014?
Shoot, let’s not forget St. Louis won seven games last year with Kellen Clemens under center for more than half the season. If they can go 7-9 with Clemens, the Rams can easily win nine to 10 games with Bradford at the helm.
However, aside from Bradford staying healthy, St. Louis has to win games at home and play up to expectations. Much like the Dallas Cowboys, the Rams are perpetual underachievers.
Since Coach Fisher arrived in 2012, the Rams have seemingly been in every game. Yet, they have never been able to get over the hump and string together multi-game winning streaks.
To win and make the playoffs in the NFC, that’s something St. Louis has to learn to do. The good news is with a healthy Bradford and gobs of talent elsewhere, the Rams are now in a position to wreak havoc in 2014.