Bradford blames mental mistakes for offensive woes

Thursday, November 10, 2011

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams can't score with or without Sam Bradford behind center.

Bradford believes mental letdowns are to blame for puny production, especially in the red zone. He once thought it might have been new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' system, but not now.

"At this point, I think to use that as an excuse or reason for our struggles, I don't think that's right," Bradford said Wednesday. "As much as I hate to say that, I think it's a lack of concentration once we get down there. Some of the mistakes that we do make down there, there's no reason for them, and we've got to find a way to eliminate those."

They reverted to form a week after the Rams (1-7) put it all together for the first time in a 31-21 upset over the Saints. St. Louis managed three field goals and lost in overtime to Arizona with Bradford back after missing two games with a high left ankle sprain.

The Rams lost despite piling up 383 yards and Steven Jackson earning his second consecutive 100-yard rushing day. The Rams are next to last in the NFL with a 12.5-point average and only eight offensive touchdowns. The offense has 500 penalty yards, third most in the NFC, and the passing offense is struggling.

St. Louis and Seattle are tied for the fewest trips inside the 20 at 18 apiece, and the Rams are last in the NFC with seven red zone TDs.

The offensive line has been effective lately on the run game, helping Jackson break out a bit. But center Jason Brown's 84-game streak of consecutive starts is in jeopardy because of the inefficiency. Brown said Wednesday he's been told he won't start at Cleveland on Sunday.

"We get down there and we just continue to shoot ourselves in the foot with either penalties or negative plays that put us behind the chains and put us into bad situations," Bradford said. "The sooner we can eliminate those negative plays, I think the sooner we'll finally start to see rewards."

The good news for Bradford is there were no setbacks from the Cardinals loss. He's still wearing a brace but said his ankle "definitely" feels better than last week at this time. He ditched the walking boot the day after the game. Barring further injury, he expects the ankle to be healed in two or three weeks.

Bradford said he got a few rehab tips from the player who finished right behind him for the Heisman Trophy. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy competed against Bradford in some Texas-Oklahoma college showdowns, and McCoy had a high ankle sprain as a rookie last year.

Bradford said the Rams already were doing most of what McCoy recommended.

"It's not like he gave me a piece of advice that changed our game plan as far as handling it, but it was just nice to hear he was able to get over it and play the rest of the year," Bradford said.

The offense might get a bit of a lift this week with the return of Mark Clayton, Bradford's top receiving threat early last season. Clayton's comeback from a knee injury early last season has been hampered by an Achilles tendon injury, but he's felt better the last week or so and said Wednesday he probably was about 90 percent.

"I'm ready to play," Clayton said. "The past couple weeks I've been able to get hold of it, calm it down. Last week was really good. This week, we're trying to build on it."

The Rams need Clayton after losing their slot receiver, rookie Greg Salas, for the year with a broken leg. Salas leads the team with 27 receptions.

"I'm definitely excited to get Mark back," Bradford said. "Especially after losing Salas, we need someone to come in and step up, and it's just great timing that Mark's finally getting healthy."

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