Friday, August 27, 2010

Bradford good, Pats defense bad in Rams’ 36-35 win

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP)—Sam Bradford(notes) hasn’t had many chances to enjoy football since winning the 2008 Heisman Trophy.
That changed in his first pro start Thursday night.
The top pick in this year’s draft played with the poise of a veteran, completing 15 of 22 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. That first-half performance launched the St. Louis Rams to a 36-35 exhibition win over theNew England Patriots.
“Tonight was really the first time that I had fun,” said Bradford, who missed 10 of 13 games at Oklahoma last season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. “I felt like I was doing what I am used to doing, which is moving the offense up and down the field and scoring points.
“Anytime you can do that, it’s a blast.”
In Thursday night’s other game, Green Bay beat Indianapolis 59-24.
Bradford had plenty of help from a Patriots defense that couldn’t stop any of the Rams’ three quarterbacks.
St. Louis (2-1) led in time of possession, 43:46 to 16:14, and in offensive yards, 462-288. The Patriots gained more than 10 yards on just four of 11 series while the Rams went nine for 11. And only one of the Patriots possessions lasted more than five plays; the Rams had nine.
Bradford “made some good throws,” Patriots cornerback Leigh Bodden(notes)said, “but we didn’t make a lot of plays to make him look bad.”
He was on the sideline to see rookie free agent Thaddeus Lewis(notes) throw a 20-yard scoring pass to Brandon Gibson(notes) on the first series of the third quarter and then watch quarterback Keith Null(notes) guide a 41-yard drive toJosh Brown’s(notes) winning 37-yard field goal on the final play.
But will Bradford be back under center for the Rams’ first snap Sept. 12 against the Arizona Cardinals?
“We’ve got to look at the film,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “I want to see how he handled things when there was pressure.”
He seemed to do just fine. Bradford completed his first six passes, rarely got flustered and quickly located open receivers.
“He was putting the ball on the money,” Rams running back Steven Jacksonsaid. “You can tell he really knows the offense. I’m really impressed with how far he’s come in a short time.”
When training camp began, Spagnuolo gave the starting job toA.J. Feeley(notes), but he was sidelined with a sprained right thumb and Bradford got his chance after struggling for two games as a backup.
Other than Tom Brady(notes), who completed 18 of 22 passes for 273 yards, and rookie tight endRob Gronkowski(notes), who caught two of Brady’s three touchdown passes, there was very little impressive about the Patriots (2-1).
“We just couldn’t stay on the field offensively and, defensively, they just couldn’t get off the field,” Brady said.
The Patriots didn’t get a first down until 3:10 remained in the first half and finished with 12. The Rams had 30.
“They were able to move the ball at will,” safety James Sanders(notes) said. “It was demoralizing.”
New Rams owner Stan Kroenke had a much different feeling. One day after the NFL approved him as owner, he went into his team’s locker room before the game.
“That was terrific,” Spagnuolo said. “He stayed for the entire game— late into the night.”
The Patriots turned a 27-14 deficit into a 35-27 lead on Brady’s touchdown passes of 65 yards toRandy Moss(notes) and 20 yards to Gronkowski and Brian Hoyer’s(notes) 5-yarder to Sam Aiken(notes) with 11:14 left after an interception by Brandon McGowan(notes).
Keith Toston(notes) scored on a 2-yard run, but an incomplete pass for a conversion left the Rams behind 35-33.
Bradford had led scoring drives on three of his first four series.
He went 4 for 4 for 48 yards and a 5-yard touchdown pass to Michael Hoomanawanui(notes) on his first. On his third, Bradford was 3 for 4 for 48 yards, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Brown. And on his fourth, he hooked up with Hoomanawanui again for a 12-yard score and a 17-7 lead. Brown added a 45-yard field goal after Gronkowski’s 14-yard touchdown catch, putting St. Louis ahead 20-14 at halftime.
The highlight of the game for the Patriots came on the first play when Brandon Tate(notes) returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.
Then Bradford took the field.
“You never like to see a kickoff return against you but, at the same time, that meant I didn’t have to sit around and wait on the bench and that means I was able to get on the field even sooner, which I like,” he said.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rams Struggle Against Vikings

- The Rams fell to Minnesota 28-7 on Saturday night in a game that featured a few big plays, most for Minnesota and a whole lot of penalties.

- On the injury front, the Rams made it through the game relatively clean though cornerbacks Jerome Murphy (left ankle) and Kevin Dockery (hip) were forced from the game with ailments. Neither injury appeared serious.

- LB Dominic Douglas suffered a shoulder injury and Craig Dahl "bumped" his knee according to Spagnuolo.

- The extent of those injuries won’t be known until tomorrow but they did leave the Rams woefully thin at corner where rookies Marquis Johnson and Antoine Thompson got most of the rest of the work.

- With Murphy and Dockery hurt, the Rams were missing that duo as well as Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher and Justin King at the corner position alone not to mention safety James Butler.

- On the offensive line, the Rams were missing just guard Jacob Bell (hamstring) from the lineup and shuffled accordingly. They started the night with Rodger Saffold at left tackle, Adam Goldberg at left guard, Hank Fraley at center, Jason Brown at right guard and Jason Smith at right tackle. That group stayed in for the bulk of the first half with the only change moving Brown to center and Fraley to guard when rookie QB Sam Bradford stepped in.

- Speaking of Bradford, he got off to a nice start on his first possession. After misfiring on his first attempt, Bradford settled in and hit Laurent Robinson for a gain of 18. He got the Rams the furthest in the first half, moving them to Minnesota’s 36 before that drive failed.

- In addition, Bradford was able to silence any naysayers who believed he wouldn’t be able to handle getting hit. Bradford took a few shots in his time, including three sacks and bounced right back up from each of them.

- All told, Bradford took 22 snaps and got his first taste of NFL action. Like any rookie, there’s plenty of work left to do.

- The Rams got a little early dynamite from one of training camp’s most impressive players as Danny Amendola continued to make an impact. He returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown and showed burst that he might not have showed before, outracing the majority of the Vikings coverage unit for the score.

- Linebacker Larry Grant provided a bright spot in the first half as he was seemingly all over the field on both defense and special teams. He finished with four tackles and two pass breakups.

- Another impressive defensive youngster was end George Selvie, who just continues to find ways to make plays when the lights shine brightest. He had a sack and created pressure on multiple occasions throughout the night to follow his big scrimmage at Lindenwood University when he had two sacks.

- Additionally on the injury front, receiver Brandon McRae missed most of the game because of what Spagnuolo called a "significant" ankle injury.

- Chris Massey (special teams), Steven Jackson (offense) and James Hall (defense) were the pre-game captains for the Rams.

- As expected, Jackson was held out of the game as the Rams attempt to protect him from unnecessary wear and tear before the regular season.

- The Vikings did the same with RB Adrian Peterson, who also did not play.

- Rookie RB Keith Toston showed some burst on a nice kickoff return and again as he got some carries in the game’s waning moments before an injury ended his evening about three minutes early. He had the wind knocked out of him but should be OK.

- Thaddeus Lewis did a nice job on his first possession, advancing the Rams the furthest they were able to move all night as he got the Rams into the red zone for the first time.

- The Rams are back to practice on Monday and visit Cleveland next Saturday night.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bradford creates a buzz for St. Louis Rams

Bryan Burwell 314-340-8185 | Posted: Sunday, August 1, 2010 12:05 am

It was just a little before noon, and already the Rams' marketing department worker bees were busy scrambling about in a focused fury, transforming one corner of the parking lot in front of Rams Park into a makeshift, interactive football carnival.

Over there, they were scurrying about stocking the shelves of the merchandising trailer with new Sam Bradford jerseys. And over there, they were pounding a life-sized color cutout of their new rookie quarterback into the soft green grass just in front of the entrance gate.

And what was that over there?

Why step right up and get your digital photo taken in an authentic Bradford game jersey and regulation Rams helmet.

If you didn't know any better, you'd think going to Rams Park on Saturday afternoon was a pretty big deal or something. More than three hours before the franchise unveiled its nouveau riche No.1 draft pick in his first official practice of training camp, Rams fans were already lining up just outside the facility gates, eager to be among the first to get an up-close-and-personal glimpse of the kid with the newly minted $78 million contract and the outsized professional expectations. Eventually, nearly 1,300 spectators would walk through the Rams Park gates, buzzing with an excitement that isn't often felt around a team coming off a 1-15 season.

They would come in their Bradford Rams jerseys and their Bradford Oklahoma jerseys. They would come clutching photographs and mini footballs and helmets and small scraps of paper and just about anything else with a flat surface for young Mr. Bradford to autograph.

But all of that was three hours away, and right now the only thing that was of the utmost concern to Rams executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff was those dark and ominous storm clouds that were gathering over Earth City, threatening to ruin the show.

"I told (coach Steve Spagnuolo) this morning, 'I don't care if it's a torrential downpour and lightning bolts are striking the goal posts. We're practicing outside today, OK?'" Demoff joked.

OK, now based on the consistently wretched recent history of this ill-fated franchise, this is where we would honestly expect storm clouds to gather, a twister to come rolling over the horizon and lifting Rams Park into the air like a scene out of "The Wizard of Oz," then have it come crashing down right on top of our young QB phenom, crushing him like he was the wicked witch, and Demoff would be left to curse his fate and mutter, "Ohhh, what a world!"

But if you are looking for signs that the fortunes of the woebegone Rams might actually be turning, maybe this was it. A gentle wind blew the clouds off to the north, and the largest crowd in recent years to watch a Rams practice poured into the facility and got to see exactly what they were looking for. All Sam, all the time.

Really, the best sign that things were changing around here was the simple fact that Demoff delivered Bradford to camp with a complicated six-year deal that makes Bradford's contract the richest rookie deal in NFL history, and he did it without a protracted holdout. When the full squad of rookies and veterans walked onto the field shortly before 3 p.m., Bradford was with them.

That nothing bad or crazy or weird or goofy or tragic or just plain stupid cropped up at the 11th hour to keep Bradford from reporting on time might not seem like a miracle to anyone who doesn't follow the Rams closely. But to long-suffering Rams loyalists who have spent an eternity hoping for the best but always, always expecting the worst, this was a refreshing change of pace.

And that explains why one particularly excited and grateful fan approached Demoff in the parking lot, and upon discovering that he was the Rams executive who was responsible for Bradford being signed, sealed and delivered, the fan actually bent down on one knee, clutched the VP's hand and shouted "THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!" much to the obvious embarrassment of Demoff.

Eventually, all the clever marketing and skillful negotiations in the world won't matter nearly as much as a team delivering victories on football Sundays. But for the time being, doing things the right way, the smart way and the sensible way off the field can't hurt. History shows that far too often in the past, good things happened to the Rams in spite of their efforts, not because of them.

When things like this happen, when you see the franchise find a way to not only get the Bradford deal done on time, but also without any unnecessary trepidation about the blow back of giving the kid the sort of money that the current market bears for a quarterback drafted No.1 overall, it makes me think that I can lose that reflex action that expects something bad to always happen to the Rams.

And it helps that there are some legitimately hopeful signs on the field, too. Bradford just might be as good as advertised.

"How 'bout that bleepin' kid?" eight-year veteran offensive tackle Adam Goldberg said as he watched Bradford walk off the field after practice. "I mean, how 'bout him, huh? He's so cool and calm for a rookie. Doesn't act like anything gets to him. I couldn't believe how even-keeled he was out there. Walked into the huddle like he'd been there all his life. Now we'll have to see how that all works when another team's blitz package is thrown at him. But man, today he walked right into the huddle and took control. (Veteran center Hank) Fraley and I looked at each other and both of us said, 'Hmmmmm.' We noticed right away how the kid had immediate command as soon as he came into the huddle."

One day down, a career to go.