The first game of the Sam Bradford Era didn’t kick start the Rams into the NFL season with a victory, but his display of playmaking abilities and moxie justified why he won the Rams’ starting gig. The Rams coaching staff seemed fully confident in the rookie as they asked him to throw over fifty passes in his debut against the Arizona Cardinals. Nevertheless, Derek Anderson slung a 21-yard strike to Larry Fitzgerald halfway through the fourth quarter, and the Cards gritted out several late game rallies from the Rams en route to a 17-13 win.
The Rams looked to give the Cardinals a heavy dose of Steven Jackson early, as they gave him the rock most of the first quarter. After both teams exchanged field goals, the second quarter arrived and so did Bradford’s passing game. The Cardinals would find pay dirt first as Tim Hightower scored on a one yard dive. Bradford would get his first career touchdown pass as time expired in the first half. Bradford rolled out to his right and fired a bullet in between two Cardinal defenders to Laurent Robinson.
The Cardinals game out of the gates in the second half riding their two-headed monster to the outside on several stretch and toss plays. This was a huge contrast from the first half where Arizona kept attacking the middle of the Ram defense, but the combination of Derek Anderson’s inability to complete passes and the Rams ability to blitz Anderson led to the new offensive approach.
Ronald Bartell stuck to Fitzgerald like Tim Tebow and unproven hype, but the Rams had no answer for Steve Breaston in the second half. And Breaston exploited the St. Louis secondary for 132 catching every pass DA threw his way. Still, the Cards kept malfunctioning in the redzone with costly penalties and poor ball security.
The Rams had opportunity upon opportunity but still couldn’t get any points on the board. Jackson had no running lanes, and Bradford had no help. Bradford would connect with a 15-20 yard strike, then hand it off to S-Jax a couple times for minimal gain, and not complete a third down throw. This wasn’t the case every offensive series, but it certainly was a re-occurring pattern.
Derek Anderson shook off his atrocious second and third quarter outings and found his circa 2007 self, as he moved the ball downfield, evaded defenders and eventually hooked up with Fitzgerald for his aforementioned 21-yard touchdown. The Cardinals had chances to put the Rams away but as soon as Bradford would throw a “mistake”, the Cardinals would chime in with a turnover of their own.
The final drive of the game was in Bradford’s hands, and Coach Steve Spagnuolo likes to keep his timeouts in his pockets… For reason unbeknown. Poor clock management and a good defensive effort from Arizona led to a hail mary bomb that would be picked off with zeros glaring back at the St. Louis fans on the scoreboard.
Newly acquired Mark Clayton (Baltimore) was Bradford’s unquestioned favorite option, as he was targeted 16 times, catching ten of those targets for 119 yards. Danny Amendola, widely thought to be the starting no. 1 receiver heading into Sunday’s game, caught six passes for 67 yards along with his standard punt returning duties. Steven Jackson received 22 carries despite the heavy passing attack. He wound up with 81 yards, and never really found any creases in the defense.
Coach Spags defensive unit looked more than formidable with the likes of James Laurinitis, O.J. Atogwe, and Chris Long frequently making plays. The one weak-spot was the unanswered question of, “Who the hell can cover, Breaston?” The Rams collectively nabbed up three fumbles, hit the QB 8 times, and garnered two sacks.
Bradford said before the game that he knows he’s going to make mistakes but the difference is he has to learn and not repeat the same mistakes. The three mistakes “Sam-I-Can” threw Sunday better get fixed in a hurry – He will not get the same about of second chance opportunities every week like he did Sunday.