Bradford shows he’s ready for clutch time

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford looks to throw during Sunday’s game against the 49ers in San Francisco.

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford looks to throw during Sunday’s game against the 49ers in San Francisco. Photo by The Associated Press.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — At Oklahoma, Sam Bradford rarely played in a game that was hanging in the balance as the clock wound down.

“I can’t really remember even one game where we had to put a drive together in the fourth quarter to come back and take the lead,” the St. Louis Rams’ rookie quarterback said Wednesday.

Without that seasoning, Bradford hasn’t seemed to mind the late-game pressure the NFL brings on a weekly basis. The lone rookie in the NFL who’s started every game this season, Bradford calmly led the offense to a late field goal that forced overtime in last week’s loss at San Francisco.

“It’s just one of those things, you go out there and do what you do,” Bradford said. “You do exactly what you would do on any drive previous in the game, just with a little more sense of urgency.

“As any competitor, at least for me, those are probably some of the funnest times you’ve had.”

Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Bradford’s late-game poise was one of the biggest positives from a loss that dropped the Rams (4-5) to 0-4 on the road. Bradford was 7-for-9 for 69 yards on the tying drive, a major step forward in his development for a player who ranks 17th in the NFL in fourth-quarter passing and first among rookies.

“I whacked him on the butt and said, ‘This is your time, go ahead,’” Spagnuolo said. “He doesn’t even flinch, he just goes.”

Next time out, Bradford will know he’s been there before. Next time, maybe he’ll get the touchdown that would have ended the Rams’ road woes.

“If you find yourself in that situation again, I think the guys will have confidence,” Spagnuolo said. “I see that in him and I see the guys around him getting more confident.”

Among signs of Bradford’s steady development, half of his 12 touchdown passes have come on third down and he hasn’t thrown an interception in 138 consecutive passes the last four games, nine shy of moving into the top three in franchise history, although he said he wasn’t aware of the streak.

On third down he’s yet to throw an interception and has 44 first-down completions, second best in the NFL.

Regardless of the number, Bradford said the streak shows he’s getting better at not throwing into coverage, and at being patient in an offense minus a deep threat and designed to move downfield one first down at a time.

He ran the no-huddle offense efficiently, too, including at least a handful of times on the tying drive, and flashed some moves to avoid a near sack. Bradford gets the plays called in from the press box and relays the call to teammates, no different from when he was directing the Sooners.

“He’s commanding in the huddle,” said wide receiver Danny Amendola, who leads the Rams with 52 catches and has scored a touchdown the last three games. “He has a presence that’s unlike a rookie.

“He’s a great quarterback to play with.”

The No. 1 overall pick of the draft has completed 60 percent of his passes overall with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Rams are near the bottom of the NFC in scoring inside the 20, getting touchdowns 39 percent of the time, but it’s a big improvement over last season when they averaged only 10 points per game.

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