Going into the 2013 off-season, the major directive for the Rams’ front office was loud and clear: Surround franchise quarterback Sam Bradford with weapons in the way of receivers to increase his productivity and help the club take the next step toward making the playoffs. The progress and development of Bradford – and building a trust with his new cast of tight ends, receivers and running backs – came to a dramatic halt yesterday. Late in the third quarter of the Rams’ Week 7 contest against the Carolina Panthers, Bradford was flushed from the pocket rolling toward the Rams’ sideline and tackled awkwardly. The result: a major knee injury, a lasting image and one gut-wrenching feeling as No. 8 was carted off the field.
The MRI result Sunday night confirmed everyone’s worst nightmare. Bradford had torn his ACL, with the organization confirming the sobering news Monday morning. While the Rams’ record doesn’t reflect as much, the man from Oklahoma City had compiled impressive numbers that compared favorably with other esteemed QBs around the league entering the matchup vs. Carolina:
*Tied for sixth with New Orleans’ Drew Brees and the Chargers’ Philip Rivers for the longest streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass (six), trailing only stars like Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan.
*Lowest interception percentage among NFL signal-callers with a minimum of 1,500 attempts (2.138).
*Second in the NFC with 13 touchdown passes, three interceptions and 1,432 yards through the air.
Yesterday, Bradford finished 21-of-30 for 255 yards, one touchdown and an interception, and was sacked twice. He was very efficient with the ball and was quietly getting the job done moving his team despite fumbles and several key dropped passes by his young supporting staff.
This was to be Bradford’s get-over-the-hump season, especially with the newly acquired weapons at his disposal. A captain who had stepped out of the shadows of Steven Jackson (now playing for Atlanta) would help deliver this organization and its thirsty fan base a playoff opportunity. Now, at the age of 26, Bradford finds himself facing a long and grueling rehab, a daily grind to get him back and ready to compete come training camp 2014.
A statistical look at Bradford’s tenure:
Games played/started: 49/49
Overall record: 18-30-1
Completion percentage: 58.6
Touchdowns/pass attempts ratio: 3.4
Yards per attempt: 6.3
Yards per game played: 225.8
Quarterback rating: 79.3 (90.9 in 2013 was his highest)
Fourth-quarter comebacks: 5
One of the few items missing from the resume: playoff appearances. It’s not about individual stats at the end of the day, but rather wins. For Bradford, that will be his drive to return.