In Sunday’s frustrating loss to Carolina, Sam Bradford actually played much better than earlier in the season, and he was hurt by a bad rash of receiver drops. You’ve heard that several times already, and it’s true.
On most of the check downs he was criticized for, Carolina just did a great job of covering and Bradford made the right call. Other plays were designed swing passes.
But a close look at the coaches tape shows that he also missed several open receivers who would have made much better targets.
Start with the interception, which Jordan Matthews definitely should have caught — even though it was one of the few times Bradford threw behind his receiver in this game (after doing that far too often earlier in the season). Three receivers were open on the play for short passes at the 25, and Matthews was much less open than Josh Huff or Miles Austin out wide (circled in blue):
On the next drive, Bradford took a coverage sack on 2nd and 9, and — as on many plays — Carolina’s secondary covered all of the receiving options very well. Here though, Bradford missed a great opportunity to run on the right side of the line. Every potential tackler within 20 yards had a blocker. Instead, Kawaan Short smothered him for a 7-yard loss:
The much-discussed drops were very clear in the All-22 view, too. On the very next play, Bradford tossed a perfect short floater 5 yards downfield to Murray, who had room to run but just completely whiffed on the ball.
By this point, Jason Peters was out with back spasms and the Panthers’ rush was causing problems. With 12:51 left in the second quarter, Sam did a good job feeling the pressure and scrambled for two yards. But he failed to see Zach Ertz wide open at midfield, just behind the linebackers, for what could have easily been a 30-yard gain. (See photo at the top of this item.)
That left the Eagles with 4th and 1. Bradford rolled right, looked like he was about to throw downfield, then put his shoulder down and burst between two Panthers (who collided with each other, hard) for a tough first down at Philadelphia’s 48. It was an awesome and inspiring play.
But at the moment Sam looked like he was about to throw, he was staring right at Josh Huff, wide open at Carolina’s 40 with a lot of room to run:
The short gain kept the drive alive, but a holding penalty on Kelce put the Birds in a hole and they were forced to punt.
It was great to see Bradford throwing accurately (for the most part) and even running for first downs. But it would have been far better if he saw and hit his open receivers.