Week six was kind of a watershed moment for Sam Bradford and his offensive line. He got sacked only three times and hit only five more by the Green Bay Packers. For the St Louis Rams, sadly, those are pretty good numbers.
But the punishment is adding up, and not in a good way, for the Rams' second-year quarterback. How bad is it? Bradford is taking more punishment than any other quarterback in the game over the season's first six weeks. And that's including the week off. He has eleven more weeks of this, assuming he plays this week on his high ankle sprain.
This interactive chart -- my first, so enjoy -- details just how bad it is for Bradford. If we only look at sacks and QB hits, Tarvaris Jackson was getting knocked around at a slightly higher rate before getting knocked out of last week's game. But if we add double weight to the ultra-damaging "Hit as he threw" stat, where the quarterback is completely unprotected, Bradford vaults ahead of the pack.
We've gotten to the point where no one questions Bradford's toughness any more. If the kid was fragile he'd have broken in half by now. But the constant pressure is having an obvious effect on our passing game.
ESPN Stats and Info reports that Bradford is by far the worst passer in the NFL at passing under duress. He is completing only 13% of his passes while throwing early, off-balance, or while being hit. (The best in the game, not surprisingly, is the tank-like Ben Roethlisberger, who completes 60% of said passes.)
The Rams' offense has shifted dramatically to account for this. 30 of Sam's 38 passes last week were targeted inside of ten yards from the line of scrimmage, even when the Rams spent most of the game behind by three scores. Clearly, McDaniels no longer trusts his offensive line to build a Tom-Brady-like pocket and allow his complex routes to develop.
This offensive approach can work -- if the Rams can grab a lead and keep adding on to it. But when you're coming from behind? It's a death sentence. And it just means more punishment in store for Sam.