ST. LOUIS — Sam Bradford has gotten off to the best start of his career by spreading the wealth.
The St. Louis Rams ran only 41 plays last week while riding a wave of turnovers to an easy win at Houston. It helped that Bradford found a way to get almost everyone involved, with nine players combining for 12 receptions and three running backs getting touches.
Through six games, Bradford is sixth in the NFC in completions (126) and tied for fourth in the NFL with 13 touchdown passes.
After a humbling 35-11 loss to San Francisco, the Rams were 1-3. In the last two weeks, Bradford threw three touchdown passes in each game, both wins, and the Rams outscored their opponents 72-33.
Coach Jeff Fisher is happy with Bradford’s play.
“Been great. No mistakes,” Fisher said. “There’s only two quarterbacks, I think, in the NFC that have more touchdown passes than he and one is (Cowboys QB Tony) Romo and the other’s (Saints QB Drew) Brees. He’s got 13 and they’ve got 14, so he’s coming on. He enjoys what he’s doing. He’s managing the thing and practicing well. His feet are excellent right now in the pocket, so he’s playing well.”
Against Houston, the Rams scored 38 points while running just 42 offensive plays. Bradford threw just 16 passes with no interceptions against the Texans. He finished with a 134.6 passer rating, the highest of his career.
There’s more to it than Bradford: The Rams have been using multiple tight end sets and the running game has benefited. Rookie running back Zac Stacy started for the second consecutive game. Against Jacksonville, Stacy gained 78 yards on 14 carriers. He followed that with 79 yards on 18 carries against Houston.
The balanced attack is a welcome one for the Rams, who missed the departed Steven Jackson early this season.
“You’ve seen the past two weeks just having some balance between the run game and the pass game, I think it’s led us to be more efficient,” Bradford said. “We’ve kept defenses off balance with what we’re doing. I think it’s been really good for all aspects of our game.”
Distributing the ball to different receivers shows growth for Bradford, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. Bradford has been sacked just 13 times, none by Houston.
Throwing to multiple receivers also shows the Rams have depth, Schottenheimer said.
“We have a lot of weapons. We use a lot of different personnel groupings. We mix and match the pieces pretty well,” Schottenheimer said. “Again, he just shows his ability to go through progressions. He’s willing to take what the defense gives him.”
The receivers know that. The ball can come at any time to any one depending on what the defense does.
“I think that shows how much Sam knows and that he can read the defense,” Austin Pettis said. “I think he is playing really well, absolutely. You wouldn’t really know that because of his demeanor.”
There are six receivers who have caught 12 or more passes. Twelve different players have caught a pass this season. Six receivers have caught touchdown passes. Tavon Austin leads the receivers with 24 catches. Pettis has 23 receptions and a team-high four touchdowns. Tight end Jared Cook has 22 catches.
“Sam is doing a good job spreading it around,” Cook said. “Everybody is getting some balls which is a good thing and making plays when needed.”
NOTES: RB Stacy (chest) and DE Chris Long (thigh) both returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday’s workout.