Bradford insists he hasn’t hit rookie wall
Thursday, December 23, 2010
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Sam Bradford is in a slump, throwing no touchdown passes and five interceptions in the last three games.
The St. Louis Rams’ rookie quarterback insisted Wednesday he hasn’t hit the wall mentally or physically. He’s fired up about leading a team that could secure its first playoff berth since 2004 with victories over the 49ers at home and at Seattle to finish the season.
Even after last week’s loss to the Chiefs, who sacked him three times, intercepted two passes and hit him with regularity, Bradford said he feels better than he did at this point of the year in any of his college seasons at Oklahoma. He credits extra weight added during offseason conditioning.
Bradford insists his eyes never, ever glaze over during late-night video sessions.
“I’m up to the challenge every week,” Bradford said. “I haven’t hit the point where I’m watching film at night and I’m like, ‘OK, what defense, who are we playing again?’
“Everything very clear, so I think that’s a good sign.”
His teammates see no letup.
“Nah, no way,” wide receiver Danny Amendola said. “I don’t believe it. He’s a great player and he’s going to continue to play great.”
The No. 1 pick is having one of the top statistical seasons for a rookie quarterback in NFL history, last week becoming the third to pass for 3,000 yards. He’s also third on the list in attempts and completions, and beyond the rookie numbers he’s one of only six quarterbacks in the NFL to take every snap this season.
That last fact is a point of pride for Bradford, who long ago quieted concerns his surgically repaired throwing shoulder wouldn’t hold up in the NFL.
His statistics the last three games, however, have dropped off. Bradford enjoyed his first career 300-yard game with three touchdowns at Denver in Week 11, but since then he’s 57-for-104 for 599 yards against Arizona, New Orleans and Kansas City.
Before the slump, the last two games representing a step up in competition, Bradford threw at least one touchdown pass in 10 of the first 11 games.
No question, he’s not happy with his recent work. He said it has nothing to do with different strategies defenses have cooked up.
“Obviously, the past couple of weeks I haven’t played as well as I would have liked to,” Bradford said. “It’s frustrating at times, but you can’t get caught up in the past.
“It’s me not being as clean in my reads as I need to be.”
Of course, it’s not all on Bradford that the Rams (6-8) have scored one touchdown per game the last three weeks. The line has had protection issues, giving up eight sacks in that span and leaving Bradford on the run much of the time. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said the team’s no-name crew of pass catchers has had trouble getting open fast enough.
“It all kind of ties together,” Spagnuolo said. “We all love it when it’s protected perfectly and the ball gets out perfectly on time.”
Penalties cost the Rams last week, leading them to settle for field goals on three promising possessions instead of building a nice cushion against the Chiefs.
“I felt like we left some points on the field again last week,” Amendola said. “It’s a matter of execution, a matter of getting the job done. Taking advantage of those moments.”
Bradford refused to blame the line, minimizing it to a “couple of times where the pocket has been pushed.”
Center Jason Brown said it’s time the rest of the offense made it a little bit easier on the kid. But he said Bradford has never complained.
“Sam is poised, he’s calm, he’s assertive,” Brown said. “He hasn’t said much, but yet I can see it in his face that he doesn’t like being on the ground.
“And I don’t like him being on the ground.”