The 49ers face the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The Rams bring with them a rookie quarterback in Sam Bradford who has impressed mightily for a first year player. Bradford has thrown nearly 300 passes through the first half of the season; putting him on pace for around 600 attempts by year's end.
In those 292 (to be exact) passing attempts, Bradford has completed 58.6% of his passes and has a TD/INT ratio of 11/8. The last stat is perhaps the most striking for a rookie as they generally tend to turn the ball over more often than this. But the most notable stat may be that the Rams, a team who won only one single game in 2009, are 4-4 under Sam Bradford thus far in 2010.
So how has he managed to lead his team to victory? Just what has Sam Bradford shown us so far this season that makes him an efficient QB who, at the very least, doesn't lose the game? The answer, after the jump.
The bottom line that most non-Rams fans will see is, again, that the team is 4-4 with Bradford at the helm. This is impressive in and of itself because it eclipses the team's total wins from 2009 by THREE...and they're only at the mid-point of the season!
"Wow, that Bradford kid must be a good quarterback to take that team from where they were last year and turn them around like this! He must be making plays, huh!"
True, he's not throwing tons of INT's this year...averaging one pick per game. His completion percentage is pretty good at just under 60% but not stellar (25th in the NFL).
But Bradford's number of completions might be the most remarkable stat some fans will notice. We all look for the stat-lines after a game that say "23/40, 200yds, 2TD, 1INT" or something similar. We'll see that Bradford has completed an averge of nearly 22 passes per game, as a rookie!
Then...I went right to the film and put on the Carolina game from October 31, 2010...the Rams last game before the bye-week (that gave me so much time to watch games over).
I watched every attempt Bradford had in the game and here are the lengths of completions from the game-book:
As you can see, the game plan with Bradford is a LOT of dink and dunk. Sure there were a few plays, but if you go back and watch the games (and others) you'll realize it's mostly screens, shallow crosses, and dump offs to the flat. This pretty much explains why Bradford has been able to complete so many passes and also not turn the ball over much.
Looking at the stats some more we see that Bradford averages a measly 5.73 yards per attempt, backing up what we see on the tape. This also equates to 1,572 passing yards, good for 24th in the NFL and worse even than ours truly, the 49ers, who rank tied for 18th with 1,738 yards.
Lastly, Advanced NFL Stats shows Bradford as second-to-last in "Deep Percentage", a stat that measures the number of pass attempts covering at least 15 yards in the air.
Sure, you can say, "Hey! Two of those 5.73 yard passes equals a first down!" To which I'll reply, "Hey! There's a reason teams have to go deep every now and then...defenses will just play shallow zone and you'll never move down the field!" Then we'll both go deaf from shouting "Hey!" at each other.
Now, obviously the Rams have been able to get four wins out of this style of play, so it's not completely faulty...but I hope the 49ers are ready to defend the screens and short passing game in general. However, that being said...the defensive backs MUST stay honest and make sure no one gets behind them! This has been the bane of the secondary in 2010...biting on run-fakes and double-move routes then being in poor position, trailing a receiver for a big gain.
Overall, it's a smart strategy and one that apparently only half the teams the Rams have faced have figured out how to stop! Here's hoping the 49ers have something up their sleeve to shut down the prolific...err...tank-like passing offense of Rams in week 10.