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Monday, September 16, 2013
Morning Ram-blings: Checkdowns check

By Nick Wagoner

ATLANTA -- If it seemed like the St. Louis Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford threw a lot of short passes on Sunday, it's because they did.

In the Rams' 31-24 loss to Atlanta, Bradford threw 55 passes. Of those 55 attempts, 35 of them were thrown 5 yards or fewer downfield, according to the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Info. (He completed 19 of those 35 passes.) That total is the highest in Bradford's four-year career, and his average pass for the day traveled 5.6 yards downfield.

To put that in perspective, Bradford's 5.6-yard average is more than three-quarters of a yard less than the quarterback with the lowest average last season, Minnesota's Christian Ponder (6.4 air yards per attempt).

Bradford still managed to throw for 352 yards with three touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 87.8. But in looking back at the game without yet seeing the tape, it seemed that a large chunk of the short attempts came in the first half. Perhaps not coincidentally, those short passes came in an opening 30 minutes when the Rams mustered just three points.

In the first half, running back Daryl Richardson was Bradford's most-targeted receiver with five. Most of those appeared to be checkdowns, with Bradford opting to eschew targets further down the field for the supposedly safer options. No need to draw sweeping conclusions about how open receivers were down the field without seeing the film, and it's clear that Atlanta wanted to take some of the deeper stuff away, but it seemed as though Bradford and the Rams too often took something short when there may have been opportunities down the field.

Of course, some of this runs counter to the idea of yards after the catch that we discussed last week. The Rams do want the ball out of Bradford's hand quickly so as to allow the playmakers to run after the catch. That's a big part of the team's offensive approach. But it's hard to imagine the Rams wanted Bradford to attempt so many passes in short areas.

I.C.Y.M.I.

Our daily rundown of the stories that occupied this corner of cyberspace. ...  After the game, I offered a Rapid Reaction for both the Rams and the Falcons, including the upward trending stock of linebacker Alec Ogletree. ... From there, we ran through the Rams' postgame locker room with Locker Room Buzz. ... We also revisited three things to watch and evaluated how the Rams fared in those areas. ... Perhaps the most frustrating thing for the Rams in their loss to Atlanta was that the game appeared there for the taking were it not for so many self-inflicted wounds. ... Finally, we took a look at the idea of the no-huddle, up-tempo offense that worked for the Rams in the second half and offered a brief look at reasons for and against pushing the pace earlier.

Elsewhere: 

Stltoday.com columnist Jeff Gordon offered his grades on the Rams' performance against the Falcons.

From before the game, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Strauss wrote about Bradford's ability to engineer comebacks in the fourth quarter.

Post-Dispatch beat writer Jim Thomas' quick recap of the Rams' loss.

The Associated Press also offered its game story, with info on wide receiver Julio Jones' big day for Atlanta.