FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Stan Kroenke has been a primary NFL owner for all of one NFL game. His first was this preseason scuffle, featuring his St. Louis Rams against the New England Patriots here on Thursday night. Kroenke welcomed a visitor at halftime, a peer who already owns three Super Bowl trophies and boasts a franchise-influencing quarterback in Tom Brady.
"Robert Kraft dropped by and told me he thought Sam Bradford was really good and impressive and really putting the ball in pinpoint places that make you a winner,'' said Kroenke of the Patriots owner. "And that coming from him? That's good.''
Bradford did that. It was as if he played with lasers of floodlights upon him. And with each pass, he crafted a swank script.
It was his first NFL start. It did not matter to him or his teammates that it was preseason. When you are coming off a 1-15 season, like the Rams are, each fresh moment is a chance to shake free from that disaster, to create a new order, a new mindset.
Winning 36-35 like the Rams did over the Patriots meant something to the Rams.
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Watching their rookie quarterback, last April's No. 1 overall draft pick, complete 15 of 22 passes for 189 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 125.0 quarterback rating while playing the entire first half -- well, that meant more.
Bradford's offensive line gave him time to prick the Patriots defense and to punch it downfield. His deep ball was effectively aggressive. He was stepping into his throws with authority. There was a completion where he zipped the ball in-between three Patriots defenders and smack onto the numbers of his receiver. That one, especially, caught his coach, Steve Spagnuolo's attention, who said he asked someone standing next to him on the sideline "Did I just see what I think I saw?''
Bradford's accuracy was impressive.
But this is what I noticed most about the Sam Bradford effect: His teammates on the sidelines, his teammates on the field with him, their body language, their level of play, all of that elevated with his presence and performance.
The Rams did not look like the Rams.
When you have a quarterback who energizes his team, who maximizes their output and effort, you have an exclusive quarterback.
"I definitely felt their energy,'' Bradford said. "I felt them feeding off me. I was doing the same off them.''
He had that look in his eyes.
It had been there for most of this week once he learned he would start in place of injured A.J. Feeley (thumb, elbow).
"This was his first pro start, against a franchise that has done big things, in their place, and I thought he handled all of that with a calm and a focus that is really him,'' Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. "I think once he had that extra time to prepare, it was all he needed to get his mind right and focused. And this is what we got. I'm very pleased with it. It's a new adventure for us and for Sam every day.''
Bradford made the Rams sing.
He made Patriots coach Bill Belichick bellow.
Belichick was unhappy with his offense, especially unhappy with his defense and said when asked of Bradford: "I'm worried about ... I'm really concerned about my team. I'm not really worried about anybody else.''
Yeah, Bradford torched them. He led the Rams to a 20-14 halftime lead.
And so did the rest of the Rams offense, which then won it by scoring 16 second-half points.
Why wouldn't Spagnuolo just make Bradford the starter now and roll the dice with him in 2010? I mean, the Rams are rising from 1-15. Bradford looks like the type of quarterback that the more he plays, the more he absorbs. The more he absorbs, the more he applies. The more he applies, the better he can be. Just play him.
He is, right now, rookie and all, the Rams' best quarterback,
He rattled the Patriots so much that Brady wound up playing into the fourth quarter. Brady completed 81.8 percent of his passes, threw three touchdown passes -- only once in the regular season in his career has he had a better passing rating than the 158.0 he accomplished on Thursday night.
And he still lost to Bradford. To the Rams.
The Rams may have lost receiver Donnie Avery to a knee injury. That was the lone trouble on this night.
Because Sam Bradford made his case that he should be the Rams starter from Game 1 this season and on and on and on ...
"He had that determined look in his eye,'' Spagnuolo said.
Exactly the one the Rams need.