Sam Bradford is starting to make some people nervous. After winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2010, the St. Louis Rams quarterback has struggled to put together a run of consistent play.
The team around him, one without a reliable offensive line and a group of b-list receivers, has done little help, but to exempt Bradford completely from the team's scoring troubles is off base. He has a chance for a big game this week against a Patriots pass defense that has been very generous to opposing quarterbacks.
Have a look at Bradford's stats:
Viewed in the aggregate, those numbers are not terrible, but they are not in-line with expectations, even the most reasonable of expectations for the third season of a quarterback picked first overall in the NFL Draft. Two career fourth quarter comebacks, game-winning drives are indicative of a player that has struggled to make plays when it matters most.
New England has allowed 16 passing touchdowns this season, tied for the most in the NFL, and opponents are averaging 290 yards per game through the air. Seattle rookie Russell Wilson threw three touchdowns and no interceptions beating the Patriots two weeks ago. Wilson overcame a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. Even Mark Sanchez threw for 328 yards, a touchdown and one interception last week.
St. Louis is the underdog this week, by a touchdown, and any team playing the Patriots is vulnerable to surrender 30 points or more. As with the Packers, this is not a game the Rams can win with field goals alone. They have to score points, touchdowns.
On Wednesday, Bernie Miklasz talked about Bradford on his 101 ESPN show, making a very rational point in the discussion over the Rams quarterback: this week will give us a clearer picture of what kind of quarterback Bradford is.
Here's what Bernie said (right about the 25-minute mark):
"What would be the excuse this week if they can't pass the ball and pass it rather well against the New England Patriots? I don't think there's an excuse Sunday. I don't think this passing game has got to do a lot of damage, they should do a lot of damage ... This is the first game this year where I look at Sam Bradford and I say 'okay big fella it's on you, let's get something done.' I really believe that."
Gut check time for Bradford. No the line isn't going to be perfect. None of the receivers are going to turn into Larry Fitzgerald. But Bradford should still be able to make things happen against one of the league's worst passing defenses. He has to.
Nobody expects the Rams to win the Super Bowl this season, but we do expect them to win games, beating teams like the Patriots along the way. This is a game that the Rams can win, but they have to score points and they have to do that via the passing game.
If Bradford cannot make this a competitive affair, if he struggles against this defense, then it's really time to start asking some serious questions about his future viability.