Bernie Bytes: Ignore the haters — Bradford is improving

2012-12-04T11:55:00Z 2012-12-18T10:28:12Z Bernie Bytes: Ignore the haters — Bradford is improvingBY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist

Bernie’s Extra Points:

• I don’t know what other reviewers are saying, but I thought Sam Bradford played very well in Sunday’s win. The 49ers were tremendous defensively, and it wasn’t going to be an easy day for Bradford. The 49ers’ front seven was pretty much immovable against the run, and that increased Bradford’s challenge. The 49ers’ coverage was tight, so Bradford frequently had nowhere to go and had to settle for check-down throws.

• Bradford, however, was efficient and avoided the kind of mistakes that could have doomed the Rams in a close, tense game. The Rams took their shots downfield, without much success. But overall Bradford completed 26 of 39 passes for 221 yards. That’s misleading, because Rams receivers dropped five passes. Bradford was also charged with an incomplete pass when he spiked the ball to stop the clock. Subtracting the spike and the drops, Bradford connected on 26 of 33 passes. And after the first quarter he completed 24 of 28.

• Bradford also made a patient, accurate throw on the two-point conversion pass to TE Lance Kendricks that tied the game at 10-10. That was a big moment in the game. With the Rams down 13-10 with 1:34 remaining in the 4th quarter, Bradford made two big runs to propel the game-tying drive. He scrambled for 14 yards, and then 11 yards. The 49ers were flagged for hitting Bradford late on the second run, and the 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the San Francisco 40-yard line. With the Rams facing a 2nd and 15, and with nothing open downfield, Bradford smartly went short for two completions that picked up 10 yards. It doesn’t look like much on the stat sheet, but those two short passes put kicker Greg Zuerlein in range to tie the game with his 53-yard field goal.

• In overtime, the Rams had a 3rd and three from their own 48, and Bradford hit Chris Givens on a slant for six yards and a first down. (The pass was thrown slightly behind Givens, who made a poised catch.) Without the third-down conversion, the Rams don’t get the chance to set up Zuerlein for the winning 54-yard field goal. That game probably ends in a 13-13 tie.

• Feel free to criticize Bradford for not putting up big numbers. Rip him for not throwing a TD pass. Go right ahead and demonstrate your complete lack of knowledge in understanding quarterback play. It doesn’t bother me. Sunday’s game was a brawl, and the fight for yards was brutal. Bradford’s calmness, intelligence and efficiency served his team well.

• San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick made three crucial mistakes in Sunday’s loss.

(1) On a play that began on his own 17-yard line, he retreated into the end zone and got trapped. Forced to discard the football, Kaepernick was penalized for intentional grounding, and the Rams were awarded a two-point safety that began their comeback.

(2) Kaepernick’s errant pitch to Ted Ginn Jr. resulted in a fumble that was cashed in by Rams rookie CB Janoris Jenkins in the game’s most pivotal play.

(3) With the 49ers tied 10-10 and in excellent position to put the game away, Kaepernick inexplicably ran out of bounds to stop the clock with 1 minute 44 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter. The Niners should have bled the clock before David Akers’ go-ahead field goal. But instead of getting the ball back with less than a minute remaining, the Rams had 1:34 to work with. And that left plenty of time for Bradford to come up with a quick 40-yard advancement on his two runs and the accompanying personal-foul penalty.

• Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young made a spot-on comment Monday: “A huge aspect of playing quarterback is avoiding mistakes that put your team in a hole. I’d say 75 percent of a quarterback’s value comes in the way he manages the game.”

• Bradford did an exceptional job of managing Sunday’s game. Kaepernick did not. I thought Bradford displayed impressive mental toughness with Sunday’s game on the line. The runs were large.

“Sam, he sees things very well,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “He played very well. He threw balls away today. He made some tight throws. I thought he played really well against a tough defense and then, obviously, you’ve got man-to-man commitments with the linebackers and secondary. In two-minute (situations), that’s what he does – he’s coached to run. People don’t see him necessarily as a guy that can make plays with his legs, but he did that. That was a huge part of that drive.”

• If anything Bradford should run more often. He’s an athlete. He’s mobile. He can make a difference by picking his spots and taking off.

• Pro Football Reference credits Bradford with three fourth-quarter comebacks and two game-winning drives this season. (The number of GW drives would have been doubled were it not for the Rams' defense surrendering two late leads.)

• By the way, for the season, here are Bradford’s numbers when the Rams are in the 4th quarter and either leading by a touchdown or less or trailing by a touchdown or less … in other words, money time: 47 attempts, 33 completions (70.2 percent), 4 TDs, 1 interception, 8.17 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 114.1. That passer rating ranks 5th among NFL starting QBs.

• In the last two games, Bradford has completed 16 of 20 passes when he targets Givens. They’re onto something.

• According to Pro Football Focus, Bradford ranks 9th among NFL quarterbacks in adjusted accuracy when under the pressure of a pass rush. (Adjusted accuracy takes dropped passes into account, which is the fair way to completely assess a QB’s performance.)

Don't listen to the haters.

Bradford is improving.

Thanks for reading …

— Bernie

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Bernie Miklasz

You've read Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch since 1989. Now check out a new video "Breakfast with Bernie" every weekday morning. You'll also see more "Bernie Bytes" around the clock as he posts quick-hit commentaries on a variety of topics.

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