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Thursday, November 15, 2012
Bradford, Sanchez and Schottenheimer

By Mike Sando


It's looking like first-year St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer escaped the New York Jets just in time.

His tenure with the Jets had run its course after six seasons amid mounting evidence that quarterback Mark Sanchez wasn't improving. Sanchez and the Jets have only gotten worse since Schottenheimer left to join Jeff Fisher's new staff in St. Louis.

This is one of the subplots for the Jets-Rams game Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

It is difficult to know how much responsibility a coordinator bears for a quarterback's success. It is possible Sanchez was headed on his current course no matter his coordinator. It is also possible Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was going to improve this season simply because he and his team are healthier.

But if coordinators are going to take the fall when things go wrong, it's fair to give them some of the credit when a situation improves. The Rams' situation is definitely improving, particularly on offense.

While Sanchez and the Jets were failing to score an offensive touchdown during a 28-7 defeat at Seattle, Bradford was tossing two scoring passes without a turnover to force a 24-24 tie at San Francisco. Bradford's performance ranked among the finest of his three-year career. He completed 26 of 39 passes for 275 yards and an 82.0 Total QBR score.

The first chart compares 2011 production for Sanchez and Bradford. Both struggled. Bradford missed seven games to injury. He was also learning his second offense since the Rams made him the first player drafted in 2010. Sanchez, the fifth overall pick in 2009, was in his third season with the same system.

The second chart compares production for this season. Bradford has made a 10-point gain in completion percentage and a huge leap -- 6.1 to 7.2 -- in yards per pass attempt. Those figures have fueled a nearly 15-point gain in NFL passer rating. He has completed 6 of 12 passes with four touchdowns and one interception in goal-to-go situations, up from 1-of-16 passing with one score and one pick last season.

Bradford, who suffered a severe ankle sprain five games into 2011, has also realized substantial gains this season beyond just passing. He has five first downs rushing after gaining none last season. He had 10 fumbles last season, with the Rams losing seven. He has four fumbles this season, with none lost.

Bradford has also led go-ahead touchdown drives in fourth quarters against Detroit, Washington and San Francisco. He completed 14 of 19 passes (73.7 percent) for 126 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime against the 49ers.