Bradford shows he's ready for clutch time

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ST. LOUIS -- Sam Bradford rarely played in a game that was hanging in the balance as the clock wound down while at Oklahoma.

"I can't really remember even one game where we had to put a drive together in the fourth quarter to come back and take the lead," the St. Louis Rams rookie quarterback said Wednesday.

Bradford hasn't seemed to mind the late-game pressure the NFL brings on a weekly basis despite the lack of seasoning. Bradford, the lone rookie in the NFL who's started every game this season, calmly led the offense to a late field goal that forced overtime in last week's loss at San Francisco.

"It's just one of those things," Bradford said. "You go out there and do what you do. You do exactly what you would do on any drive previous in the game, just with a little more sense of urgency.

"As any competitor, at least for me, those are probably some of the funnest times you've had."

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said Bradford's late-game poise was one of the biggest positives from a loss that dropped the Rams (4-5) to 0-4 on the road. Bradford was 7 of 9 for 69 yards on the tying drive, a major step forward in his development for a player who ranks 17th in the NFL in fourth-quarter passing and first among rookies.

"I whacked him on the butt and said, 'This is your time, go ahead,'" Spagnuolo said. "He doesn't even flinch. He just goes."

Bradford will know he's been there before next time out. Maybe he'll get the touchdown next time that would have ended the Rams' road woes.

"If you find yourself in that situation again, I think the guys will have confidence," Spagnuolo said. "I see that in him and I see the guys around him getting more confident."

There are signs of Bradford's steady development. Half of his 12 touchdown passes have come on third down, and he hasn't thrown an interception in 138 consecutive passes over the last four games, nine shy of moving into the top three in franchise history.

He's yet to throw an interception on third down, and he has 44 first-down completions, second best in the NFL.

Bradford said the streak shows he's getting better at not throwing into coverage and at being patient in an offense that lacks a deep threat and is designed to move downfield one first down at a time.

He ran the no-huddle offense efficiently, too, including at least a handful of times on the tying drive, and flashed some moves to avoid a sack. Bradford gets the plays called in from the press box and relays the call to teammates, no different from when he was directing the Sooners.

"He's commanding in the huddle," said wide receiver Danny Amendola, who leads the Rams with 52 catches and has scored a touchdown in the last three games. "He has a presence that's unlike a rookie."

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