St. Louis Rams' QB Sam Bradford: Red Zone Success?

Dilip Vishwanat

Sam Bradford has thrown 45 TD’s over the course of his three year NFL career - 35 of those TD’s [78%] have come within 19 yards of the end zone.

To be fair, Sam Bradford hasn’t played three full seasons. In 2011, he played in only 10 games as a result of injury. That doesn't really have any bearing on what’s about to be covered, though. The question that arises is whether or not Bradford’s ability to convert in the red zone is truly success, or a bi-product of the offense’s inability to make big plays that go the distance.

Bradford has thrown 45 TD’s since being drafted in 2010. His best season-long performance came last season, when he threw for scores on 21 of his passes - 18 of the remaining 24 [TD’s] were thrown during his rookie campaign. The intriguing thing about his 45 scores isn't where they rank among other NFL QB’s or who they were thrown to. It’s in how deep the Rams needed to move into their opponents side of the field in order to strike.

As mentioned, nearly 80% were scored in the red zone. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The Rams’ offense has lacked much explosion for several years; specifically in the aerial attack. Coupled with the fact that inconsistencies along the offensive line have made it difficult to punch it in on the first - sometimes second - attempt.

Let’s have a look at how Sam has dispersed his 45 TD’s, specifically in regards to the Rams location on the football field.


Field Position
Comp %
Opp’s 19-1 yd line
Opp’s 49-20 yd line
Own 1-20 yd line
Own 21-50 yd line


Opp’s 19-1 yd line
Opp’s 49-20 yd line
Own 1-20 yd line
Own 21-50 yd line


Opp’s 19-1 yd line
Opp’s 49-20 yd line
Own 1-20 yd line
Own 21-50 yd line

Field Position & Attempts

At the conclusion of the 2012 season, Bradford has thrown 1,498 career passes. 179 [11.9%] of his attempts came at a time when the Rams were in the red zone. 407 [27.2%] were thrown after the Sam lead the team past the 50-yard line, yet not quite into the red zone. On the Rams half of the field, 242 [16.2%] passes were thrown inside their own 20, and 670 [44.7%] between their own 21 and midfield. I find that putting stats like this into fancy bar chart format make it easier at a glance…

In breaking it down by halves of the field in which Sam targeted his receiver[s], 586 of his 1,498 pass attempts [39.1%] came on the Rams half. This is certainly a statistic the Rams would benefit from nudging closer to a 50/50 split. The 2012 season - in Sam’s best year statistically - the number of attempts by half actually displayed a downward trend. Only 207 of his passes came after eclipsing the 50-yard line, accounting for 37.6% of all his attempts on the year.

No need to sweat it, though. Last year’s rookie phenoms
Andrew Luck [37.0%] and Robert Griffin III [36.9%] didn’t fair any better. So don’t throw in that towel just yet.

Completion Percentage

It’s pretty clear to see - looking at completion percentage in the chart above - that Bradford struggles to find his receiver in the opponent’s red zone, as opposed to other areas of the field. It’s to be expected. The size of the field is drastically reduced, allowing the defense to concentrate it’s efforts. The offense, conversely, has far less room to maneuver, find space, and make plays. Timing and execution are critical, especially on pass plays. With that being said, completion percentage is a two-way street. If the Rams' receivers fail to be in the right place at the right time, or if Sam’s pass is a second too early [or late] the chances of the play proving successful are drastically minimized.

The numbers - in term’s of Bradford’s completion percentage as it relates to field position - are intriguing, though typical. Being able to open up the full playbook allows for more creativity, and opening up the field provides better opportunities. The Rams’ signal caller and his WR’s have been most successful at linking up with their backs to their end zone. 65.7% of Bradford’s passes have been completed between their own 1-20 yard lines. A slight decrease [60.0%] has been the result after passing the 20 and heading to midfield.

After eclipsing the 50-yard line, the numbers continue to decrease. As Sam leads the team into comfortable field goal position for Greg Zuerlein [49-20] his completion percentage dips slightly to 56.8%, before ultimately bottoming out in the red zone at 46.4%. The woeful offense from the 2011 season adversely impacted this figure, as Bradford’s 25% comp. percentage [again, a season in which he played only 10 games] lowered the stat line, which would raise to 51% if the 2011 season didn’t occur…which some folks wished it hadn’t.

If Sam’s best shot at accuracy is a sizable distance from his desired destination, then why not take shots down the field? Well, in 2012, he did…and it paid off.


The 21 touchdowns that Bradford threw in 2012 are a career high number. The manner in which he scored them, though, is slightly dissimilar than in the two years prior. But as referenced in "Sam Bradford and the Not-So-Deep Threats" twelve of Bradford’s 21 scores came from within ten yards of the goal line.

Bradford - and his ‘arsenal’ of wide outs - didn't connect on passes on their half of the field that resulted with a six being added to the scoreboard. Every one of the receiving touchdowns from 2010 and 2011 were 50 yards or less.

In 2012 Sam Bradford connected thrice on TD’s of 50+; two to Chris Givens, and one very long, very slow 80 yard catch-and-run from Lance Kendricks. The fact remains, though, that the trend of needing to be on the opposition’s side of the field in order to catch a TD pass was extinguished.

Reverting back to the original point, 35 of Bradford’s 45 career scores have come within 19 yards of the end zone. Statistics aside, the Rams have been a team thats relied heavily on Steven Jackson to move them up the field, and the receiving corps is garnering respect for the first time since Bradford’s been drafted. With Jackson’s exodus, this is now Bradford’s team. The organization's offseason moves show continuity in trying to surround Sam with weapons, and ultimately make this a more dynamic, explosive offense.

There’s little reason to believe that Bradford and this Rams offense won't continue to score from all four sections of the football field in 2013. If the team’s offensive acquisitions pan out [and there’s nothing to suggest they won’t], I look forward to using my strike through function on the "Not So" description of Sam Bradford’s deep threats.
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