We occasionally hear coaches and players stress the importance of finishing.
Finishing drives. Finishing games. Finishing plays. Finishing blocks.
The subject arose Tuesday during my weekly conversation with Bernie Miklasz on 101ESPN St. Louis. We discussed how Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has fared as a finisher. That got me thinking about the goal-to-go passing stats cited here Saturday.
Bradford completed only one of his 16 pass attempts in goal-to-go situations last season. He's been better in 2012, but there's still significant room for improvement.
The San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith could be Bradford's guide on the matter. Smith completed all three goal-to-go attempts for 19 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona on Monday night. He has completed 7 of 8 attempts with five touchdowns on goal-to-go passes this season. That marks dramatic improvement from last season, when Smith completed only 7 of 28 goal-to-go passes with three touchdowns.
What's making the difference? Superior pass protection and/or play design could be factors. The 49ers also have superior weapons this season. Smith's numbers are better when opponents rush five or more defenders.
Last season, Smith completed 1 of 10 goal-to-go passes with three sacks when pressured. He completed 6 of 18 when facing no pressure.
This season, Smith has been pressured on only two of his nine goal-to-go drop backs. He has completed 6 of 7 passes with four touchdowns when facing no pressure. He has taken one sack when pressured in these situations. He completed a touchdown pass on the other play affected by pressure.
The chart shows 2011 (when applicable) and 2012 goal-to-go passing stats for NFC West quarterbacks. Smith, Bradford, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson are the quarterbacks listed.
Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for the charting info.