Let there be no doubt about the St. Louis Rams' decision on a starting quarterback for the regular-season opener.
Sam Bradford has to be the choice.
That was already a logical proposition once the Rams determined Bradford was a quick study and emotionally tough enough to weather what could be a tough season. Watching Bradford perform with poise and moxie Thursday night against the New England Patriots should remove any lingering uncertainty.
Bradford absolutely looked the part of an NFL starter. He's not going to look this good every week, of course, but there's no compelling reason to hold him back. Bradford commanded the offense, scrambled when it was the best choice, threw accurately, checked down quickly to avoid pressure, timed the screen game properly, threw away the ball when appropriate, varied his cadence and even found time to take notes on Tom Brady's body language.
Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com was at the game and passed along some postgame comments from players and coaches.
"I thought he had a determined look in his eye," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said.
Bradford completed 15 of 22 passes for 189 yards, two touchdowns and a 125.0 rating. Spagnuolo singled out a short throw Bradford made between defenders.
"I remember Steven Jackson was on my right at the time when he was out of the game and I asked him if he saw the same thing I did and he nodded his head," Spagnuolo said. "The velocity that it got there, the fact that it beat some guys that were in real close coverage, is a sign of a quarterback."
This game had a historic feel to it: Bradford making his first NFL start one day after Stan Kroenke gained clearance as the Rams' majority owner, with one of the game's all-time great quarterbacks, Brady, on the other sideline.
"Watching the film of the first two games, I felt like I was in the right place with the ball the first two weeks," Bradford said. "I never really felt like I got myself in that rhythm. I felt like I was always trying to rush through things. Tonight, before I went out there, I just took a deep breath and said, 'Stay in rhythm, do what you do.' I knew I was capable of it and think I got some throws under my belt early and got in a rhythm and just felt good out there."
Bradford's receivers made plays for him, which was a good sign. Donnie Avery caught a high, hard pass toward the right sideline (Avery suffered a potentially serious knee injury later). Danny Amendola showed why he's going to produce out of the slot, unless rookie Mardy Gilyard siphons off playing time and catches (Bradford did find Gilyard with an accurate throw on a slant against tight coverage). Rookie tight end Mike Hoomanawanui blocked well in pass protection, caught two touchdown passes and made a one-handed grab downfield.
"Sam Bradford was leading the charge," Jackson said.
Spagnuolo said he would look at the film before answering questions about whether Bradford or injured veteran A.J. Feeley would start the opener.
The coach is going to like what he sees.