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Closer look at Sam Bradford, NFC West QBs

Sam Bradford's media conference call Wednesday provided an opportunity to ask about something I've found curious.

The St. Louis Rams' rookie quarterback has struggled on first down relative to other downs. He has 15 touchdowns and four interceptions on second and third down. The first-down numbers: one touchdown, five interceptions.

These numbers have held up over the course of the season. They do not make sense, at least on the surface. Bradford should be most effective, at least in theory, when opponents must worry most about running back Steven Jackson. That would be on first down.

Bradford offered no help on the conference call. He said he wasn't aware of the numbers.

"I don’t know if I can answer that right now," he said.

One theory: Bradford might be most comfortable operating from the shotgun formation. The Rams might be less apt to use the shotgun on first down. Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information ran the numbers for shotgun and non-shotgun plays. Bradford's first-down numbers are better from the shotgun, but his overall numbers are better from under center.

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2010 Sam Bradford Stats: Shotgun vs. Under Center

Another theory: The Rams tend to throw shorter passes on first down as an alternative to running the ball. We've seen them throw quick passes to wide receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage, knocking down Bradford's yards-per-attempt average.

Bradford averages only 4.5 yards per attempt on first down when throwing from under center. The figure is 6.0 from the shotgun. Bradford averages about one additional yard per attempt from under center on second and third downs.

I'll close by passing along situation ratings for NFC West quarterbacks.

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2010 NFC West Passer Ratings

Where primary NFC West quarterbacks Bradford, Troy Smith, Matt Hasselbeck, Alex Smith and Derek Anderson rate across downs and within various third-down distances. I used red text to single out a few notable numbers.