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Sam Bradford & The Not-So-Deep Threats

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For the first time since 2006, a St. Louis Rams Quarterback was able to eclipse 20 passing touchdowns in a single season. Sam Bradford, who just finished his third year as a pro, had the best season of his young career. Let’s have a look at his 21 touchdowns.


First things first. As pre-conceived notions would have it, you’ve already formed a strong opinion on the quarterback situation in St. Louis. Fair enough. You either belong to the "it’s a make-or-break year for Sam" camp, or the "You can’t question his ability until you surround him with NFL caliber talent." To each his own. As long as you’re not sporting a tattoo of your significant other in a Bradford jersey, your stance on Bradford has it’s merits.

As for 2012…by all accounts, you’ve got to be encouraged by the direction that the Rams are headed, and the direction that Sam Bradford is leading them. Any NFL fan - regardless of whether you’re an avid Rams fan or not - knows that the Rams have been deficient at two key positions on offense: Wide Receiver and Offensive Line. You look at the win column for the Rams over the past six years, and you can directly correlate the results to the absence of the aforementioned offensive contributors.

Give Sam credit. He hasn’t made something out of nothing, but it’s about as close as you can get.

Comp %

Touchdowns aren’t everything in the NFL; winning is. And 21 touchdowns isn’t overly impressive, given the fact that the league leader - Drew Brees - more than doubled that figure with 43. It does demand respect, though, in regards to the company that he keeps. Matt Schaub, who just so happens to have an excellent group of WR’s, threw 22 TD’s in 2012, and right below Sam in the rankings, with 20 TD’s, was Matthew Stafford. That’s one QB who lead their team to a Divisional Championship in 2012, and one QB who’s thrown for over 10,000 yards in the past two seasons…and has the most dominant WR in the game.

Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson; Final answer. The question? "What’s the difference?" If you find it fair to assume - and I’ll trust that you do - Sam Bradford could potentially excel in the NFL with an elite wide receiver like either Johnson. So just how did he keep pace?

Let’s revisit each passing touchdown for the season...

Week 1[Lions] : 23 yard pass To Brandon Gibson (4th quarter)

Week 2 [Redskins] : 1 yard pass to Danny Amendola (2nd quarter)
Week 2 [Redskins] : 34 yard pass to Brandon Gibson (3rd quarter)
Week 2 [Redskins] : 1 yard pass to Matthew Mulligan (4th quarter)

Week 3 [Bears] : None

Week 4 [Seahawks] : None

Week 5 [Cardinals] : 7 yard pass to Lance Kendricks (1st quarter)
Week 5 [Cardinals] : 51 yard pass to Chris Givens (4th quarter)

Week 6 [Dolphins]: None

Week 7 [Packers]: 3 yard pass to Austin Pettis (4th quarter - 19secs left)

Week 8 [Patriots]: 50 yard pass to Chris Givens (1st quarter)


Week 10 [49ers]: 36 yard pass to Brian Quick (1st quarter)
Week 10 [49ers] : 2 yard pass to Austin Pettis (4th quarter)

Week 11 [Jets]: 1 yard pass to Brandon Gibson (1st quarter)
Week 11 [Jets] : 2 yard pass to Brandon Gibson (4th quarter)

Week 12 [Cardinals]: 37 yard pass to Lance Kendricks (2nd quarter)
Week 12 [Cardinals] : 37 yard pass to Chris Givens (3rd quarter)

Week 13 [49ers]: None

Week 14 [Bills]: 13 yard pass to Brandon Gibson (4th quarter)

Week 15 [Vikings] : 4 yard pass to Brian Quick (2nd quarter)
Week 15 [Vikings] : 6 yard pass to Danny Amendola (4th quarter)
Week 15 [Vikings] : 6 yard pass to Lance Kendricks (4th quarter)

Week 16 [Bucs] : 80 yard pass to Lance Kendricks (3rd quarter)
Week 16 [Bucs] : 6 yard pass to Austin Pettis (3rd quarter)

Week 17 [Seahawks]: 2 yard pass to Austin Pettis (2nd quarter)

While compiling these stats - and watching each on NFL Rewind - there were several things of interest that I thought should be noted.

First, that I was typing the name of a 2013 free agent whom many deem replaceable - Brandon Gibson - early and often. Second, that Chris Givens should re-invigerate Rams fans who yearn for a deep threat. Third, the majority of these touchdowns were near goal-line. Finally, not who or how, but when these TD’s were being scored.

Rams 2012 TD Receptions - 21

Brandon Gibson - 5
Austin Pettis - 4
Lance Kendricks - 4
Chris Givens - 3
Danny Amendola - 2
Brian Quick - 2
Matthew Mulligan - 1

Hmm…intriguing. Brandon Gibson, who is now in a contract year, lead the Rams in receiving TD’s in 2012. For those of you thinking ‘so what?’ go back and watch some tape. Not only did he lead the team in TD’s [and nearly yardage], but he had a tremendous rapport with Bradford nearing season’s end. Once [potentially still] known for being a preseason MVP, Gibson proved to be a capable - and reliable - receiving option throughout the duration of the 2012 season.

Right behind Gibson, finishing with four touchdowns, is Austin Pettis. The interesting thing about these TD figures is that most speculate that it’s a ‘one-or-the-other’ situation in regards to this tandem of WR’s. Pettis, who was drafted under the previous regime, is not in a contract year and will only count $780,000 [per] against the cap over the final two years of his initial rookie contract, which ends in 2014.

In case you missed it - and I did not - Pettis’ touchdown yardage stats point to him being anything other than the deep threat receiver that Chris Givens obviously is...

Total Yards on TD Receptions - 402

Rams Receiver
Yards per TD Catch
Chris Givens
Lance Kendricks
Brian Quick
Brandon Gibson
Austin Pettis
Danny Amendola
Matthew Mulligan*
* Matthew Mulligan has the best punt block-to-touchdown ratio on the team. Just so you know

Sam Bradford threw for a total of 3,702 yards in the 2012 regular season, and 402 of those [9.2%] of those came on touchdown passes. 20% of those combined TD yards derived from one play; an 80yd touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks in Week 16. You remember it? Danny Amendola threw a great block late in the play, and even Lance Kendricks was surprised that he had the stamina to make it the distance. Seriously, it was pitiful…

Over half of Bradford’s TD reception yards came from plays over 35 yards. 218 yards [54%] were the result of four very long, very exciting touchdown catches in 2012. Aside from Sam’s aforementioned season [and career] long, the remaining three TD’s came from a shiny new Rams weapon, and the only one who - at this point - has truly earned the honors of ‘deep threat.’ Now, in unison…"Thank you, Chris Givens."

If you haven’t noticed it already, statistically, it’s more telling...

By Length of TD Reception:

>10 yds: 12
11-20 yds: 1
21-30 yds: 1
31-40 yds: 4
41-50 yds: 1
50yds+ : 3

As I’ve mentioned - on more than one occasion - Sam Bradford’s 21-TD season was impressive. Equally as impressive was the season that mainstay running back Steven Jackson had. Jackson joined Hall-of-Fame company by finishing 2012 with his eighth consecutive 1,000+ yard season. He also tied Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford for rushing TD’s…with four. Why does this matter?

It matters because twelve of Sam Bradford’s receiving TD’s came within ten yards of the goal line. As I mentioned previously, Austin Pettis is clearly a red zone target in the eyes of Bradford. In case you missed it, though, Pettis’ four touchdown receptions were for a combined 13 yards [receptions of 2, 2, 3, & 6 yards]. Brandon Gibson, who lead the team in TD catches, had both of the teams TD catches in Week 11…for a combined 3 yards.

Steven Jackson is another Rams free agent who seems to be getting the "it’s time to move on" treatment. I’ve got to wonder if the eight touchdowns that Sam Bradford threw for four yards [or less] had been handoffs to Jackson, if that would still be the case.

To put it into perspective - and Jackson were able to convert - he would’ve gone from four TD’s to twelve, and would’ve had more rushing TD's than Marshawn Lynch, Trent Richardson, and Doug Martin [all with 11]. He would’ve tied for 3rd in the NFL with Stevan Ridley…oh, and Adrian Peterson.

The fact that that Brian Schottenheimer and Jeff Fisher have enough faith in Sam and their WR’s to throw the ball from the goal line speaks to their trust in both. But what does it say about their faith in their offensive line’s ability to push forward sufficiently enough for a power back to run three to six more feet? Not a whole lot.

Regardless of how they were scored - or who scored them - why didn’t a career high in passing TD’s equal more success for Sam Bradford and the Rams in 2012?

Touchdowns By Quarter:

Pass TD’s by Qtr

If you’re a Rams fan then you know the majority of games went into halftime close enough for you not want to change the channel…with the exception of a few games [go ahead and forget about London]. That doesn’t mean, however, that the halftime speech from Coach Fisher was enough to will them to victory.

Of the nine 4th quarter TD’s that Rams scored last season, the result was 2-6-1 in the win/loss/tie column(s). The touchdowns, though comforting, mean little when scored in garbage time. Not to discredit Sam, the receivers, or the team, but a more efficient offense with a propensity to score those TD’s earlier in the game heightens their potential to win, and compete for a playoff spot in the future.

So what’s it going to take for the Rams offense to improve? Nothing more than he should have been equipped with when the Rams made him the highest paid rookie in NFL history...

Sam Bradford’s Wish List Heading Into 2013:

( ? ) A Bolstered Offensive Line…that can stay healthy
( ? ) A Quality Cast of Wide Receivers
( √ ) A QB Coach
( √ ) Continuity At Offensive Coordinator
( √ ) A General Manager/Head Coach Who Actually Understand What It Takes To Win

The results of the 2012 season should provide hope for the team and it’s fans. For the first time in years, we've witnessed true progress. With Jeff Fisher at the helm - having all the faith in the world in Sam Bradford - sustained progress is now the expectation for 2013.

We all know what Sam Bradford - and the Rams offense - needs. We’re not General Managers, and collectively we cannot replicate the coaching prowess of Head Coach Jeff Fisher. If you’re not already, go ahead and excited about the 2013 offseason. There are two question marks listed above, and I’d be willing to bet that Rams’ brass knows how to turn them into check marks.

Given the time to set his feet and throw the ball, Sam Bradford makes anyone targeted a deep threat. In April - possibly sooner - we’ll find out how the Rams plan to afford him that luxury.

Thanks for stopping by Turf Show Times for non-stop St. Louis Rams news. Follow us at @TurfShowTimes. Follow Brandon Bate at @NoPlanB_