St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford had his weekly media session on Wednesday afternoon. Questions ranged from his performance in a comeback win last week over the Bills to prepping for a Minnesota defense that's much better than it gets credit for being.
Here are Bradford's comments with out annotated remarks.
(On if his throw to TE Lance Kendricks in double coverage was one of his best throws as a pro)
"It's definitely up there. I don't know if I've had one at a more crucial time. We needed something to get us going and Lance made a great catch and got us to midfield. Then, we were able to go down and score."
We've talked about that drive a couple times on the site. That throw to Kendricks helped keep it alive. Here's the GIF again.
(On Minnesota's defensive front)
"Their front's good. Their front seven is probably one of the best fronts that we'll see. They do a great job of taking away the run game and then when they're able to do that, they're able to play a lot of split safety behind it to eliminate the big plays in the pass game. It's important for us to come out and get the run game going and hopefully get them dropping a safety down into the box, and then take advantage of some of the matchups on the outside."
According to Football Outsiders, Minnesota has the 9th best run defense in the NFL with a -11.6 DVOA. Opponents average 4.0 yards per carry against the Vikings. Fortunately for the Rams, the pass defense ranks 26th, per FO. Jared Allen leads the team with nine sacks and also in concussions handed out to opposing players. It's off his 20+ pace from last season, and the Vikings' adjusted sack rate has plunged by more than three percent from last season to this one.
(On being able to make big plays at the end of games this season compared to previous seasons)
"I think it's just the attitude of this team and this offense. I've said it all year: there's just such a difference in the locker room both during the week at practice and then in the locker room before games on Sundays. The attitude's just different. I think everyone believes in the system, everyone believes that we're going to make that play this year, whereas in the past, there might have been some doubt. Doing it a couple of times, I think, gives guys some confidence and I think that's one of the reasons we've been able to do it this year."
Believing in the offensive system is important. Being comfortable in the offensive system is important. But the most important thing of all is being able to execute said offensive system. The Rams offense is still struggling score points, something Fisher pointed out several times in the days since Sunday's win.
(On how important controlling the clock is when facing Vikings RB Adrian Peterson)
"It's extremely important. We talked about it as an offense today that in the games that they've lost in the past couple weeks, I think they've only had the ball for 20 minutes, 22 minutes a game. In the games they've won, they've controlled it for about half the game or more. So, we know that it's extremely important for us to maintain drives and convert on third downs. I think that's obviously an area that we've struggled on. We struggled a lot in that area in the first half last week. So, for us to keep drives going, we've got to be good on third down this week."
The best way to stop Adrian Peterson is to keep him off the field. The Bears tried that with Jay Cutler. It didn't work. Bradford needs his offensive line to keep him upright this week, but more importantly, he needs his front five to open big holes in the run game.
(On if he has confidence in all of his receivers)
"Absolutely. I think everyone stepped up when they had to and made plays. Obviously, Lance's (Kendricks) catch was great. (WR) Austin Pettis' kept the game going for us. If he drops that, it's fourth down, we don't get another shot. Then, obviously, (WR Brandon Gibson) ‘Gibby' had some big catches at the end of that game. I think with (WR) Danny (Amendola) down, everyone realized that they needed to step up, and they did and made plays."
This is something to keep an eye on going forward this season. It will also go along way in deciding who sticks around next year.
(On how good of a feeling it is to see the team having fun)
"It's a really good feeling. Obviously, in the past couple years, we've been through some pretty tough times. It wasn't a lot of fun last year at this time of the year. Weren't a lot of smiles in the locker room, on the practice field. But to put three in a row and to win some games, it just changes the whole attitude and makes it a lot more enjoyable to come to work."
FUNdamental truth: Winning is FUN!
(On if the different attitude is a result of guys becoming more mature or if it comes down from the head coach)
"I think it's a little bit of both. But, I think a lot of it does come from the head coach. Granted, I think we have grown up as a team. Some of the young guys have matured a lot this year, but I think just Coach Fisher's attitude and the way he handles everything just trickles down to everyone in this locker room, and that's why you see us playing with the confidence that we have."
What? The coaching change made a difference? What happened to all the folks who wanted to keep Spags around out of the fear of change?
(On how Brandon Gibson has grown from his first season)
"I think Gibby's probably been one of the most consistent receivers we've had here for the past three years. Gibby's just a guy that does everything right. He's a guy I've got a lot of trust in, too. I know that he's going to be in the right spot at the right time and I want to give him the chance to make plays. But just his route running, his overall football IQ, I think has grown in the past three years and that's why you're seeing him make some of the plays that he's made."
Gibson's a free agent after this season. It looks like, a la Bradford, some stability in the offense has benefited. Will that be enough to keep him around?
(On spreading the ball around to his different receivers)
"I think that's just kind of our philosophy right now is we're going to spread the ball around. Whoever gets open, whatever matchups we feel like we can take advantage of, that's what we're going to do. I think that's why you've seen a number of guys catch multiple balls in different games."
(On their struggles to score touchdowns)
"Going back to what I said earlier, I think it starts on third down. When you don't convert third downs, you don't give yourself a chance to establish drives and you don't put yourself in a position to score touchdowns. In order to score touchdowns, you've got to get down to the money zone, and that's just something that we haven't done. Last week, we got down there twice and scored two touchdowns, but when you don't get down there, you just don't give yourself enough opportunities to score."
I disagree on the third down part, but it's such a standard belief in the NFL that you sound sort of silly questioning it. Make the plays work on first and second down, and third downs fall into a statistical norm. Offensive continuity and a consistent running game is big.
(On what's keeping them from converting third downs)
"It's been a variety of things. It's something that we seem to look at every week. I think to convert on third down, it takes 11 guys doing their job. There's just a lot of times that we don't have all 11 guys on the same page, and that's what we're working to get."
Winding up in third-and-long situations too much is part of the problem. Again, make the other downs work and third down success will follow.