St. Louis Rams fans, you have been challenged, your honor, your dignity, your future...it's all on the line. Yesterday, our SBNation brother, Field Gulls, the Seahawks site, took Sam Bradford, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, to task, calling his debut season "overhyped." Some context.
In a series looking at the most crucial plays of the SeaChickens' season, they put Sam Bradford's 4th quarter interception on the list at #9.
As one of the people who thought Sam Bradford's rookie year was insanely overhyped, this play has a taste that goes deeper than a playoff spot on the line, or a division rival getting its just deserts. Call it petty if you must, but I vividly remember NBC's Bradford hype leading up to and including this game.
The play in question was a 4th quarter, 1st-and-10 interception that came with 8:47 left in the game and the Seahawks leading 13-6. Breaking it down...
The Seahag hyperbole aside, what an awful game. Bradford and the entire Rams team was terrible. Despite that, the Rams had more than 8 minutes left on the clock to score a touchdown and tie it.
Immediately preceding his INT, Bradford had just completed his first pass of the 4th quarter, putting him at 1/5 in the final frame, up to that point. This was the Rams' third drive of the quarter, following two three-and-outs that gained a total of 5 yards, both on Steven Jackson runs. Finally, Bradford connects with Brandon Gibson for 14 yards, setting up the 1st-and-10 at the Seattle 46.
Let's look at the play itself, which you can watch here. The snap gets off and Seattle send their front four, the rest dro back in coverage. The line does a decent job of protection, and Bradford has time to throw. However, the pocket collapses and he's forced to make his throw from the pocket, unable to move outside.
No question about his, Bradford looks for his primary read, Brandon Gibson, who runs some aborted version of a hook route. It's an ugly thing to look at. He goes 9-10 yards down the field, half turns, buried in coverage, and has no chance to catch the ball. This game really exposed the inability of the Rams' receivers to get separation and make catches with consistency. This play is a reminder of why Austin Pettis and Greg Salas look like upgrades. A bigger receiver with better hands would have had a better chance of plucking the ball, were it thrown a little higher, of just pushing off the two defenders.
But don't exculpate Bradford for the INT. You can see it on the replay, he looks for and never away from Gibson. He had to have seen him smothered on an ugly route by the defense...and he made the throw anyway.
On the outside, further down the field, Laurent Robinson runs a deeper curl route and has only a cornerback on him. You can't tell from the video whether or not that was a viable option for Bradford in the pocket. Had he been able to roll out (again, I'm not sure he would have done it) Robinson would have been the better target on the right side of the field. But Robinson wasn't able to catch anything all day; he caught 2 passes on 7 targets. Why would a young QB have any faith in his receivers at that point in the game? That point in the season?
Given the situation, Bradford should have just thrown it away and started over on 2nd-and-10. Take away the fan hyperbole from the Field Gulls post, and the author actually nails it with his last three words: "classic rookie mistake."