Bradford Stays Calm in Debut

Posted Sep 12, 2010

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

When the Rams installed their game plan for Sunday’s regular season opener against Arizona, it never crossed the mind of quarterback Sam Bradford that he would throw the ball 55 times in his NFL debut.

As that exact scenario played out in a heartbreaking 17-13 loss to the Cardinals, Bradford didn’t mind.

“That’s probably a little higher than I would have imagined if you would have asked me before the game,” Bradford said. “But I’m a quarterback. I throw the ball, that’s what I like to do. If that’s something we have to do as a team, I am comfortable with it.”

And so went the first game of the Bradford era as quarterback of the Rams. It was a day of ups and downs as is custom for a rookie quarterback.

On the bright side, Bradford threw his first career touchdown pass, engineering a beautiful two-minute drill that he finished with a 1-yard toss to receiver Laurent Robinson while rolling to his right.

Bradford also formed a quick, early bond with newly-acquired receiver Mark Clayton and above all else, maintained his calm and poise while Arizona threw every type of blitz imaginable at him.

“Every time I looked at him, there’s nothing but a competitive look,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “He never gets down. He wants to be out there. He probably wants to be in those situations which is what you want in your quarterback.”

Of course, with the ups, come a few downs and Bradford found himself disappointed with a couple of miscues, namely an interception to safety Adrian Wilson in the first quarter.

“That’s something that I had seen on film all week,” Bradford said. “I knew he was going to undercut our crossing routes and it’s just something I tried to force in there. So that’s something I really wish I could take back.”

As first NFL games go, though, there was a lot more to like than to dislike about Bradford’s initial performance.

He finished 32-of-55 for 253 yards with the aforementioned touchdown and three interceptions, two of which came on last gasp efforts.

Considering the amount of blitzes and trash talking coming his way most of the day, Bradford did enough to earn the respect of his teammates and give everyone something to build on as the season goes along.

“Overall I think he looked good,” running back Steven Jackson said. “To have a lot of pressure from the defense, you have a guy out there talking, chattering, trying to get under his skin and trying to get in his head. I think he was really composed and he commanded the offense in the huddle when he needed to. I think he’s still young, you can’t expect him to just turn things around in one day. But he’s made huge strides and he’s going in the right direction.”

CLAYTON COMES THROUGH: Although he practiced just three times as a Ram in the days leading up to Sunday’s game, Clayton made his presence felt with an impressive first outing of his own.

Clayton got the start at receiver and announced his presence on the Rams’ first play from scrimmage, catching a 13-yard strike from Bradford.

That catch was just the precursor to a total tally that ended with Clayton finishing with 10 catches and 119 yards. His 39-yard catch down the right sideline while falling down and out of bounds set up the team’s only touchdown and gave the Rams’ halftime momentum.

Still, Clayton wasn’t satisfied.

“It was good,” Clayton said. “But offensively we have to put the ball in the end zone. You make a play here, a play there, at the end of the day we have to score points.”

As for his connection with Bradford, the two Oklahoma teammates seemed to have an easy chemistry about that that could bode well toward Clayton emerging as the go-to receiver the Rams have been seeking.

“It’s definitely impressive,” Bradford said. “But we saw it all week. It’s not like he just showed up today and showed us anything different. The first day he was there, he knew exactly what he was doing. He was usually the first guy to leave the huddle, lined up right, ran the right route. So for him

to come out and play the way he did, I really don’t think it surprised any of us.”

INJURY REPORT: The Rams came out of the game relatively healthy according to Spagnuolo, though there are some players who will be evaluate further on Monday morning.

Linebacker Chris Chamberlain suffered a foot injury that was the most notable of the ailments per Spagnuolo. He will be looked at closer tomorrow.

More than anything, it was the small ailments that might not cost players any serious time that actually hurt the Rams, though.

Cornerbacks Kevin Dockery and Justin King suffered hamstring injuries in the second half that severely limited what the Rams were able to do in coverage.

In adjusting to those injuries, the Rams had to use safety James Butler and others to try to slow down the deep Arizona receiving corps.

“It’s certainly hard to play four quality wideouts without your corners. You spend all week long playing four corners against four wideouts and then you don’t have them. It changes a little bit.”