Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is only in his third season in the NFL, so it might be a bit of a stretch to say that he looked like his old self in Sunday’s 2012 home opener against the Washington Redskins.
But Bradford didn’t look anything like the beaten and battered guy who played under center for St. Louis in 2011.
Sunday’s performance against the Redskins looked the guy that won virtually every NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010.
“He was dialed in all week and certainly dailed in today,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. “He and ‘Schotty’ (Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) were on the same page. This was a difficult defense. Coach (Redskins defensive coordinator Jim) Haslett does a lot of different things. Again, I thought we had a great play and Sam had some answers. He knew where to go with the football for the most part.”
Right from the start, Bradford was on target with his reads and his throws.
Sure, Washington actually scored points on St. Louis’ first play of the game, but that wasn’t Bradford’s fault.
He completed that pass, and it went for 13 yards and what should’ve been a first down. It was receiver Danny Amendola that fumbled the ball away, and opened the door for Washington’s Josh Wilson to scoop up the ball and return it 30 yards for a touchdown.
Bradford was dynamite throughout in the entire first quarter, completing eight of his first 11 passes for 61 yards. But he was really only just getting started.
In the second quarter, as the Rams battled back from a 21-6 deficit, Bradford was 9-of-12 for 120 yards and a touchdown to Amendola.
A turnover by Washington just before the half, allowed the Rams to pull to within 21-16 at the break.
The third quarter might have been Bradford’s best work of the day.
Statistically, the second quarter was better, as Bradford completed only six-of-eight passes for 107 yards and another touchdown in the third.
But the Rams QB made three all-world throws to help put St. Louis back in the lead for good.
He hit Steve Smith for a 25-yard gain early in the third, then threw his best ball of the day, for a 34-yard touchdown to Brandon Gibson to give the Rams their first lead.
Then on St. Louis’ next drive, facing 3rd-and-long deep in his own territory, Bradford moved away from a blitzing ‘Skins linebacker and calmly delivered a 17-yard completion to Amendola to give the Rams a first down.
Unfortunately, Bradford’s next throw was his worst throw, when he was intercepted by Washington’s London Fletcher in the end zone with St. Louis facing 1st-and-goal at the ‘Skins 6.
Bradford threw what proved to be the game-winning touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to tight end Matthew Mulligan, and really spent most of the rest of the game handing the ball off, as St. Louis tried to control the ball and run out the clock.
That plan fortunately worked out, as Washington was forced to punt on its first three fourth-quarter possessions, and then had to settle for a 62-yard field goal on its last turn with the ball.
The kick wasn’t close. The Rams won the game. And Bradford truly looked like his old self, finishing the day, 26-of-35 for 310 yards and three touchdowns.
It was definitely a turn-back-the-clock kind of performance for the Rams QB.
Monday Morning Quarterback Grade: A-minus. For 34 of Sam Bradford’s 35 throws on Sunday, the Rams QB was A-plus. Just a brilliant day for Bradford.
But you have to take points off for the terrible red-zone interception in the third quarter. St. Louis was in position to take the lead there, and had driven to the Washington 6-yard line.
That pick could’ve been a killer. Fortunately, Matthew Mulligan bailed the Rams (and Bradford) out with a blocked punt, and Bradford paid Mulligan back by finding him wide open in the end zone, for what proved to be the game-winning score.
Still, Bradford was just outstanding, and playing behind a makeshift offensive line and with the second-string running back for most of the day, the Rams QB’s performance could be called extraordinary.
But we’ll give Bradford an A-minus on this one, with a chance to improve his grade this Sunday, when the Rams head to Soldier Field in Chicago to take on the Bears.