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Thursday, November 8, 2012
Around the NFC West: Revisiting Bradford

By Mike Sando

Our recent item asking tough questions about St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has some company heading into Week 10.

Former NFL assistant Rick Venturi punctuated his season-to-date film grades for the Rams' offense with specifics on Bradford:

"Who is he? I've tended to give him a lot of slack. I still do because I think he has been weaponless. But after studying him and the other guys, the new guys -- like [Andrew] Luck you mentioned, [Russell] Wilson, even [Ryan] Tannehill -- what he is not and what is starting to bother me, he is not a creator.

"He is robotic. Not necessarily athletically. He has improved his scramble, he has improved his throw deep, he's done some things we've asked him to do. But very seldom do you see an ad-lib play. Very seldom do you see a great throw when somebody's hanging on him. Very seldom does he ever take a chance. There is no recklessness. ...

"Even though I think he is super talented, I'm still giving him the break, I'm rating him as mediocre because you can't have those kinds of numbers. Because on the other hand, you look at Indianapolis, Indianapolis is fourth in offense with the rookie Luck. Now, I watch Luck last week, he is making throws off his back foot, he's running out not quite as good as [Aaron] Rodgers, but he's getting out of trouble. Same way with Wilson. Those guys are lifting teams. And if you really look at their receiver corps on both teams, take out Reggie Wayne, there is not really that much there. Those guys are up against it, too. You just begin to wonder a little bit."

Bradford faces possibly his toughest challenge of the season when the Rams visit San Francisco on Sunday. If he stands out with top-flight play, great. But if the offense struggles and Bradford doesn't seem to make a significant difference, we'll be back where we've been to this point previously: wondering how much to read into it given obvious limiting factors.

Venturi, in speaking of the Rams' offense in general, has lamented an ability to make plays in the clutch. I think Bradford has been pretty good in those situations.

Bradford found Brandon Gibson for the go-ahead 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter at Detroit. He threw the winning fourth-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Matthew Mulligan against Washington. He rallied the Rams into a three-point deficit at Miami with fourth-quarter plays, including an 8-yard pass to Gibson on fourth-and-2, followed by a quarterback keeper for a touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion pass to Steven Jackson delivered on the run.

For those and other reasons, Bradford trails only Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford in Total QBR for fourth quarters and overtimes. Luck, Robert Griffin III, Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan are just behind him.