St. Louis has yet to provide Bradford with a legitimate deep-threat wide receiver
I hate to come up with something negative about the Rams after a solid win at home that makes 4 wins in a row at home, but there was some conversation about the Rams inability or unwillingness to throw the ball down the field against Carolina and in previous games.
The Rams offense is not known as a defense-stretching offense, but over the last few games, the Rams have been throwing more and more short passes. There are several reasons that people have given for the Rams inability to throw down-field. Bernie Miklasz and others have said that the Rams are unwilling to throw down-field because of the lack of a quality wide receiver that can stretch the field for the Rams. The Rams are able to get long passes completed with their current wide receivers as we saw in the end of the game against Carolina. The Rams have the offensive line to protect Bradford long enough to throw down-field to their wide receivers whatever their name or ability. Bradford was able to find Brandon Gibson for a 33-yard reception that led to the Rams icing touchdown. So, the Rams have the ability in their wide receiver corps to throw down the field, but they need great protection and enough time for the players like Brandon Gibson and Laurent Robinson to get open. Bradford also had Michael Hoomananui open downfield, but the pass was knocked out of Illinois Mike’s arms as he injured his ribs.
Other people have hinting to the fact that the Rams coaching staff does not trust the offense to successfully complete long passes and they prefer to stick to the short and conservative passes. This is certainly true in some ways because of the Rams use of the West Coast offense. That offense is based on short passes that turn into long gains. So far, the Rams have been unable to take any quick slants or WR screens for long gains. However, they have been very successful with the tight end and running back screens for long gains. The offense is designed to use the short passes for long gains and so far the Rams have only turned screens into long gains. The Rams offense is designed for more short, quick passes, but it is not designed to totally ignore the long passes.
Sam Bradford said in his post-game press conference that early in the Panthers game that the Rams were taking what the defense was giving them with the short passes. I’m sure that is true because of Bradford’s willingness to take the quick completions, especially early in the game. But, the Panthers were closely covering all the short passes early in the game, holding the Rams to no gains. Could the Panthers have been playing defense so deep to take away the Rams non-existent long passes, cover Steven Jackson’s running and blanket the short passes? It is certainly possible because the Panthers had a great game tackling on Sunday and were able to make the 1 on 1 tackles to keep the Rams to short gains. I believe Bradford when he says that the Panthers were giving up the short passes, but they were not making it easy on the Rams receivers.
The Rams struggles with the long pass could be attributed to a little bit of each of these reasons. As usually occurs in the NFL, the reasons for something happening is not a single incident or reason, but a whole cauldron of issues mixed into one. However, Sam Bradford gained confidence quickly in the Panthers game with the quick passes and allowed him to get in rhythm to be able to make the longer passes later in the game. The short passes were infuriating early in the game, especially when they were not working for more than 1 yard.