Sam Bradford and the speed of the game

Sam Bradford targets Lance Kendricks vs the Chiefs
Sam Bradford thinks the Rams’ offense is just now starting to click.

The Rams have gone from scoring 33 points against Indianapolis, to 17 points against Tennessee, to 14 points against Kansas City. But talk to Sam Bradford and he’ll tell you that the offense is getting better.

“I think everyone looked and felt more comfortable out there this week than they had in the past two weeks, including myself. I just felt much better with our operation. I felt we were quicker in and out of the huddle. I felt like our communication was better at the line of scrimmage. I just felt like everything (Friday) was almost normal in the sense that everyone’s kinda starting to jell.”

The Rams did put together their first sustained scoring drive of the preseason, a 13-play steamroller that immediately took the fight to Kansas City in their own stadium, and set the tone for the game. They followed that up with a pass-heavy ten-play drive that literally knocked the lights out at the stadium.

Says Bradford:

“We didn’t really do anything that elaborate or that exciting, but we did our jobs and we were fortunate enough to put points on the board the first two drives.”

After those first two drives, Bradford was 8-8 for 76 yards and two touchdowns. Hard to improve on that. But after those two drives, Bradford completed only one of eight passes and threw an interception, and had to scramble out of two more busted throwing plays.

So what happened? We take a look at the film to find out. One hint – the WR groupings changed.

@RamsHerd What grade would you have given Rams WRs vs KC? I didn’t think they had nearly enough separation for Sam…coverage pressure

Our man with the gradebook this weekend was Tim Shields, and he gave the receivers and tight ends a B+ for their efforts on the game. And with Brandon Gibson, Lance Kendricks and Mike Sims-Walker making big plays, it’d be hard to argue. But an interesting dynamic emerged once the Rams started subbing younger players into their first team offense – Bradford’s decision making in the pocket got perceptably slower.

Passes 1-9: A perfect machine

Here’s a quick chart of Bradford’s time from snap to release on each pass play, including those interrupted by penalty or pressure in the pocket.

  • 3rd-9: 3.5 seconds. Screen pass to Kendricks (negated by penalty).
  • 3rd-19: 2 seconds. Complete deep left to Gibson.
  • 2nd-8: 2 seconds. Complete short right to Bajema.
  • 3rd-4: 2.5 seconds. Complete short left to Amendola.
  • 2nd-2: 3 seconds. Play-fake, then complete intermediate right to Sims-Walker. TOUCHDOWN
  • 2nd-8: 2 seconds. Complete short right to Amendola.
  • 2nd-10: (blacked out). Complete to SJ
  • 3rd-5: (blacked out). Complete to Kendricks
  • 2nd-8: (blacked out). Complete to Kendricks. TOUCHDOWN

You can see the quickness of delivery and decision-making here. Except for plays that are designed to run longer to suck the defensive front forward (screen passes and play fakes), the ball is out of his hands two seconds after the snap. That’s a sign that his primary read has done a good job of getting to the spot that Bradford is expecting.

Passes 10-20: Sand in the vaseline

That quickness was on display in the first pass of the next sequence, but a superhuman play by Derrick Johnson turned it into a negative. After that throw, Amendola and Gibson’s time on the field was essentially done, giving Pettis, Salas, Sims-Walker and Danario Alexander time with the first teamers.

  • 2nd-12: 2 seconds. INTERCEPTED by D Johnson (intended for Salas).
  • 1st-10: 4 seconds. Rollout – scramble for 5 yards
  • 1st-10: 3 seconds. Incomplete (no target). Pressured by Allan Houston.
  • 3rd-8: 2.5 seconds. Big blitz, pocket collapsed – SACKED. Kendricks should have been hot read.
  • 3rd-5: 3 seconds. Incomplete (Williams).
  • 1st-10: 3 seconds. Complete short right to Cadillac Williams. DX was primary read.
  • 1st-10: 3 seconds. Incomplete (Alexander). Broken up by T Daniels.
  • 2nd-10: 3 seconds. Pocket pressure – scramble for 13 yards.
  • 1st-10: 3 seconds. Incomplete (Alexander). Broken up by B Carr.
  • 2nd-10: 2.5 seconds. Incomplete (Williams). Broken up by linebacker.
  • 3rd-10: 5 seconds. Hail mary. Incomplete.

Twice Bradford put the ball on Alexander’s hands, but another pair of hands was there as well. At least one other time, he had to look off and find his running back underneath. DX really struggled to separate last weekend. 

This is where the speed of the game is just ruthless. One extra second of luxury gives defenders that much more time to recover and make plays, whether in the secondary or in breaking down pass protection. Early in camp, Bradford was enjoying the red jersey and took his time watching the plays he’d studied on paper unfold in real life, in real time. He stood leisurely and picked his spots.

We’ve seen Bradford take quantum leaps in his development before. Getting the offense humming on a 2-second clock and hitting all parts of the field is a great sign that things are indeed starting to click. But if this is the pace at which the offense must be run, it makes life that much more difficult for the players on the wide receiver bubble. Your window to make plays seems almost impossibly short, and it would be easy to start pressing.