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Bradford, Offense Finding Ways to Finish

Posted Dec 12, 2012


After another come from behind win in which he engineered a game winning drive, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was his usual, humble self. That is to say he was quick to deflect the credit to the entire offense for putting together its third game-winning drive and fourth comeback in the fourth quarter this season.

Asked about the improved propensity for coming through in the clutch again Wednesday, Bradford again shared the credit but pointed out that a lot of that improvement in finishing games is part of a new outlook that may not have existed in the past and permeates the locker room.

“I think it’s just the attitude of this team and this offense,” Bradford said. “I’ve said it all year. There’s such a difference in the locker room both during the week of practice and in the locker room before games on Sundays. The attitude is just different. I think everyone believes in the system. Everyone believes we are going to make that play this year whereas in the past there might have been some doubt. Doing it a couple times, I think gives guys some confidence. I think that’s one of the reasons we have been able to do it this year.”

Although he won’t discuss it, Bradford is also one of the reasons, a big reason; the Rams have been more successful in close and late situations this season. According to a statistic from ESPN.com, Bradford is second among all NFL quarterback in QBR (the network’s own way of measuring quarterback performance) in the fourth quarter. 

Put in simpler terms, Bradford’s performance in close and late situations is even easier to measure. In the fourth quarter of games this season in which the Rams are either ahead or trailing by seven points or less, he’s 40-of-63 for 485 yards with five touchdowns and one interception for a rating of 106.9.

That rating places Bradford fifth among all quarterbacks in such situations.

“It’s one of those things that has always been there,” receiver Danny Amendola said. “Everybody here knows he is a great quarterback and when it comes down to the wire, we like to have the ball in his hands and him making the decisions.”

It’s helped Bradford that coach Jeff Fisher and his staff regularly put an emphasis on late-game situations in practiced. Once a week in practice, the first team offense works against the first team defense with a simulated late game situation.

During training camp, those matchups were even more prevalent.

Those sessions regularly get quite competitive by the two sides and give Bradford a much closer look at what it will be like when those opportunities actually arise.
Additionally, the coaching staff preaches the importance of not picking up silly penalties or allowing sacks in those situations because those negative plays can quickly kill late drives. Alternatively, an incomplete pass isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it stops the clock and the offense can regroup.

“(He’s) making wise decisions,” running back Steven Jackson said. “Sam has made some wise decisions in the fourth quarter. He has gone out on the field with a ton of confidence. He exudes it and he trusts his receivers to make plays. He is definitely growing and being patient. Whenever you have a guy that can continue to be patient and take what you see, take what the defense gives you, you can take advantage of that.”

That isn’t to say that Bradford isn’t making his share of big plays. His perfectly placed throw to tight end Lance Kendricks in the midst of three defenders is a prime example of making something happen when nothing appeared available.

“I think it’s all those drives and all those scenarios that are paying off,” Fisher said. “You have to make plays in two-minute drives. You saw the tight throws, the tough throws. The throw he made to Lance was pretty impressive. For Lance to make that catch, then of course, the one he got to (WR Brandon Gibson) on the sideline where he broke free and stepped out of bounds, stopped the clock. He works on it, he’s very accurate.”

As Bradford and the offense get more and more opportunities to close out games late, they only figure to get more efficient and productive. Having done it a handful of times already this year certainly serves as a reminder that it can be done and helps eliminate any pressure that might linger.

 “Anytime you can go out and win a game in the final minute it gives you confidence,” Bradford said. “We’ve done it a couple times but to do it again on the road, with conditions that weren’t great, it says a lot about our offense.”

SAM’S VOTE: As a former Heisman trophy winner himself, Bradford is a part of the electorate that gets to choose college football’s most outstanding player in each season.

Last year, Bradford cast his lot with eventual winner Robert Griffin III and this year again vote for a quarterback that turned out to claim the victory.
“I did vote for (Texas A&M QB) Johnny Manziel,” Bradford said. “I just think he deserved it. The way he played as a freshman, the way he was able to lead that team was pretty impressive.”

Manziel won by a comfortable margin over Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o when the award was announced on Saturday night in New York City.

DEFERRED: For the better part of the season whenever the Rams have won the opening coin toss, they’ve taken a little different approach than what is usually seen around the league.

Instead of taking the ball first, they’ve consistently deferred the choice to the second half. It’s actually a tactic that’s become a bit more popular around the league.

And, as is usually the case with Fisher, there is quite a bit of reasoning behind the approach, two-pronged reasoning.

“One, if you win the toss and defer it’s the only way you are almost guaranteed to have back to back possessions, one at the end of the first half and then you start off the third quarter with the ball,” Fisher said.

The other reason isn’t quite as obvious.

“The other thing is typically at halftime, most of the spectators go upstairs so if you come back on defense and you want crowd noise, you don’t get it in the first series of the third quarter because nobody’s in the seats,” Fisher said. “If you are on the road, you don’t have to worry about it offensively and it gives you an opportunity to settle down. It’s nice to go into the locker room at halftime and make adjustments knowing that you are going to have the ball first.”

INJURY REPORT: The Rams injury report was a little longer Wednesday than it’s been in recent weeks as they bounce back from yet another tough, physical game. Although it doesn’t seem likely any of the new additions are dealing with a long-term ailment, the Rams had some pretty important spectators on the sidelines for Wednesday’s practice.

Joining usual Wednesday watchers Jackson (foot) and Scott Wells (knee) were cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), safety Craig Dahl (concussion), tight end Mike McNeill (thigh) and linebacker James Laurinaitis (back).

Dahl is going through the usual concussion protocol before being cleared to return and McNeill is working his way back from an injury that kept him out last week. Laurinaitis and Finnegan were new additions to the report and will be monitored throughout the week.

Amendola again did some individual work but no team and was listed as a limited participant. Linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow) made it through the game OK and was a full participant in Wednesday’s workout.

Of note for Minnesota, cornerback Antoine Winfield (knee) did not practice and running back Adrian Peterson (abdomen) was limited.

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