Personnel report: Sam Bradford's riddle

Sam Bradford has it backwards.

The St. Louis Rams' rookie quarterback should be struggling in critical situations and padding his stats when circumstances are more favorable.

Instead, Bradford has no touchdowns, five interceptions and a 47.1 on first down, when running back Steven Jackson provides the greatest threat. Bradford has six touchdowns, no interceptions and a 102.6 rating on third down, flourishing even in third-and-long situations.

The stats exclude clock-stopping spike plays. What's going on? Bradford appeared to get a little careless on some first-down plays early in the season, especially when the Rams were playing from behind. Evidence suggests he has corrected the problem.

The first chart shows Bradford's numbers by down, not counting spike plays.

2010 Sam Bradford by Down: Weeks 1-9

The second chart singles out Bradford's five first-down interceptions. I've included information on personnel groups -- "21" indicates two backs and one tight end, for example -- to more clearly define situations. The three fourth-quarter picks came as the Rams were playing from behind in their pass-oriented 11 personnel grouping.

There's been only one first-down interception since Week 3 and that came during the fourth quarter of a blowout defeat at Detroit, suggesting Bradford has improved in these situations.

Bradford's first-down INTs

The second chart singles out Bradford's six third-down touchdown passes. This chart and the previous one show how widely Bradford has distributed the football. The 11 plays featured in the two charts targeted nine different Rams players.

Bradford's third-down TDs

The final chart breaks down Bradford's passing numbers by down for every personnel group the Rams have used this season, based on my charting.

Bradford has completed all seven attempts from the run-oriented 22 personnel group. With teams guarding against the run, Bradford can become more dangerous on bootlegs and conventional pass plays.

The third-down numbers are generally terrific except for when the Rams go with two backs and no tight ends. Bradford has zero completions on these throws. Pass-rush concerns have sometimes affected these plays. The sample size is relatively small, however.

The second-down passing numbers from 21 personnel (base offense) appear quite strong. Teams must respect the run when the Rams line up with a fullback. Second down is also when offensive play callers have quite a bit of flexibility. Bradford could be using these situations to his advantage. Just a thought.

The numbers from 12 personnel should improve as the Rams get healthier at tight end. Again, "20" personnel reflects two backs and no tight ends, etc.

2010 Sam Bradford by Down, Personnel Group