Bradford Off to Career-Best Start

Posted Oct 9, 2013

Sam Bradford isn’t typically one to draw attention to himself.

Since entering the league as the top overall pick in the 2010 draft, Bradford has had no shortage of changes around him, whether in coaching or the offensive personnel around him. Through the various stages of transition, Bradford has handled each twist and turn of his career over the past four years with a certain degree of aplomb and deference of credit to those around him.

So it shouldn’t take anybody by surprise that his start to the 2013 season—the best of his career by a multitude of measures—comes a nod to other members of the Rams’ offense.

“Obviously, the guys around me, those guys are playing really well up front, giving me time to make the decisions that I need to get the ball to the open receiver,” Bradford said.

Bradford has established career-bests in passing yardage (1,315), touchdown passes (10), completion percentage (58.3) and quarterback rating (85.7) through the first five games of a season.

While the season has more than two-thirds of its schedule yet to play out, at his current pace, Bradford would finish the year with 32 touchdown passes, which would be the most by a Rams quarterback since Kurt Warner threw for 36 during the 2001 season.

In his fourth year, Bradford has also done his best work in terms of protecting the football, with just three interceptions in 216 pass attempts. His career interception percentage of 2.16 is the lowest in team history. That number becomes more significant when taking into account the attention directed his way while the Rams’ running game scuffled through the first four games of the year.

“He’s making good decisions,” Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher said following last week’s 34-20 win over Jacksonville, in which Bradford passed for 222 yards and three touchdowns without committing a turnover. “I thought he made some good decisions with his legs. A couple of throws—the one to (TE) Lance (Kendricks) on the bootleg to his left, throwing across his body with a guy in his face, an outstanding throw. And, same thing to find Tavon in the hole to keep that drive alive was another outstanding throw. Then, the touchdown pass to ‘AP’ (WR Austin Pettis) was a great throw. I thought he picked it up. He can still do much better just like all of us.”

Bradford’s progress this year can be traced in part to a second consecutive season working under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. A year ago, Schottenheimer became Bradford’s third different coordinator in three seasons. Having a second year to prosper under the Schottenheimer scheme has paid early dividends for the Rams’ signal-caller.

”Being in the same offense for a second year, I think that helps,” Bradford said. “Knowing that, going into the week on a day like today when the game plan gets put in, I’ve seen all the plays, I’ve repped all the plays that we’re running as opposed to last year, when at times a good majority of what we were putting in was new.”

In addition to an improved familiarity with the offensive system, Bradford has taken to his role as the unquestioned leader of the team’s offense. That role was often shared over the past three years with RB Steven Jackson, now a member of the Atlanta Falcons.

While his first five games in 2013 have been statistically the best of his young career, Schottenheimer believes the best from Bradford and the Rams’ offense as a whole has yet to be seen.

“(He’s) started really, really well,” Schottenheimer said prior to last week’s game against Jacksonville. “I think he can play better. I think he’ll tell you that, but again the best way to get him to play better is to have balance. There’s certainly some bad breaks that Sam’s had, but he’s never wavered in his work ethic. Again, if we can find our balance, and again have the ability to run it when people know we’re going to run it and throw it when people know we’re going to throw it. That’s when I think we’ll hit that level of offense that we expect that we can be.”