Lebron factor: Fourth-quarter QB mettle

A Lebron James discussion broke out on my Facebook wall and I started it.

Nineteen comments into the discussion came this question: "Is this what the lockout has brought us to? Discussing the NBA?"

JamesJamesWell, almost. I've taken a related concept -- James' performances during critical moments of fourth quarters of the NBA Finals -- and applied it to NFC West quarterbacks. The chart shows how each of those quarterbacks performed during fourth quarters when the score differential was no greater than seven points.

A few observations:

  • Seattle did not play many close games. That explains why the Seahawks' quarterbacks combined for only 13 attempts in these situations.

  • The San Francisco 49ers' Troy Smith played with a looseness that might have served him well here. His 28-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree broke a 10-10 tie against Denver in the fourth quarter of their game in London. Smith beat the Rams at home in a close game one game later.

  • The Arizona Cardinals' Derek Anderson posted decent stats in these situations. Another completion or two in the late going against Minnesota would have been the difference in the outcome of that defeat, however. Anderson rallied the Cardinals into a fourth-quarter lead against Tampa Bay, only to throw a killer interception later in the game.

  • BradfordBradford

  • This is one area for Sam Bradford to show progress in 2011. His St. Louis Rams were 2-4 in games decided by four or fewer points. Bradford had three touchdowns and 10 interceptions in fourth quarters overall. Bradford did complete an 18-yard pass to Billy Bajema on third-and-9 to sustain the clinching fourth-quarter drive during a 20-17 victory against San Diego. His clutch touchdown pass to Mark Clayton against Oakland did not factor in these stats because the Rams trailed by nine at the time.

  • Alex Smith was at his best in helping the San Francisco 49ers force overtime against New Orleans in Week 2. He also threw a third-down scoring pass to Frank Gore to get the 49ers within a field goal of Philadelphia with 2:06 remaining. Smith ended that game with a pick. A third-down grounding call against him at Altanta proved costly during a 16-14 defeat.

Now, on to the stats. Again, these were from fourth quarters when the score differential was no greater than seven points, according to player stat pages such as this one for Bradford. And, uh, no, I'm not comparing any of these quarterbacks to James in ability or expectations.

2010 Fourth-quarter QBs: Score Within Seven Points