Hurried, Hit and Sacked: the Heat is on Sam Bradford

It has now been three weeks since Sam Bradford has thrown a touchdown pass, possibly the longest drought of his football playing days. The Rams have lost two of those three games, both against playoff-ready teams, preventing them from taking the next step forward into becoming a postseason contender themselves. While we can't pin those losses entirely on Sam Bradford, one thing is clear — opposing defenses have changed their tactics, and clearly believe that they can pin a loss on the Rams by ratcheting up pressure on young #8. 

Bradford's drought came after a miraculous 6-game stretch in which he threw 11 touchdowns against only 1 interception; this stretch was capped by a "breakout performance" in Denver: his first 300-yard game, and his first 3-touchdown game. While the resulting pyrrhic burning of Denver's coach, Josh McDaniels, stole headlines, the league's defensive coordinators took more notice of Bradford's official debut as a star quarterback.

Most notably, Sean Payton's Saints departed from their usual gameplan, specifically to prevent Bradford from getting comfortable.  

Gregg Williams pressured more than normal in this game, which is saying something. The Saints came after Bradford with a variety of pressures, many off the right side. Later in the game, as the Saints built a large lead, Williams sent safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper on blitzes seemingly at will. The Saints finished with three sacks (one by Harper and another by linebacker Jon Vilma), eight quarterback hits and a forced fumble. "I thought that aspect of the game was important with regards to what quarterback was going to be in duress and which one wasn't," Payton said. "I felt like that was something we were able to win and that led to a lot of the things we are discussing now, like the time that Drew (Brees) had and the pressure we were able to apply on their quarterback."

– Jeff Duncan, New Orleans Time Picayune

How has pressure played into this slump? Check out this graphic charting the opposition's onslaught on the pocket.

hurried-hit-and-sacked-2010-(1)

(Note: "hurries" are not captured as part of the NFL.com game book, and have to be manually charted, which the fine fellows at PFF do so well. No doubt, when they finish their analysis, the KC number will be high.)

With two must-win games remaining, the Rams offensive line will have to step up its protection, and their offensive pace must quicken to keep the opposing pass rush on its heels. Especially as both remaning opponents, the 49ers and Seahawks, have been a step ahead of the game in terms of putting the heat on Bradford.

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