ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – As the Rams offense retired to the locker room at halftime following a sluggish first half in which yards were difficult to come by, they began an immediate search for some kind of spark.
They didn’t much care where it came from but with usual spark plug
Danny Amendola inactive again with a foot injury and the Bills taking great pains to shut down the run game and Steven Jackson, there was no doubt it would have to be a more unusual suspect.
Brandon Gibson. After finishing the first half with one catch for 10 yards on just two targets, Gibson took the reins.
“It was a huge jump start,” quarterback
Sam Bradford said. “I think he went over 100 today or right at 100 today. We came in at halftime and knew we needed to make some adjustments. I thought Gibby did a great job getting open, creating after the catch too. The one third down I don’t know what he ran for after he caught it but that was huge just getting us down there on their side of the field.”
Indeed, Gibson became Bradford’s favorite target and finished with 100 yards on six catches and one gigantic, game-winning touchdown catch. In the final 30 minutes, Gibson had five catches for 90 yards and his production gave him his first career 100-yard game.
With Amendola out, the receivers and Bradford have insisted that filling the void is a group effort but that group still needs someone to lead the charge. As Gibson continued to find ways to make plays at the most important of times, his teammates followed his lead.
“He didn’t get as many looks in the first half and as receivers we just know in the back of our heads that we have got to go out and make plays to help this offense move along and put points on the board,” Pettis said. “So I think it’s a testament to Gibby’s mental toughness to go out in the second half and play like a No. 1 receiver and carry us throughout the second half in the pass game.”
Givens’ role has only increased in recent weeks as the majority of Amendola’s looks have gone Givens’ way. That hasn’t left many chances for Gibson but as the longest tenured of the Rams wideouts, Gibson hasn’t let any of those things bother him in his pursuit to contribute.
“It’s not something I can worry about,” Gibson said. “All I can do is go out there and make sure I get open and week to week I try not to worry about getting the ball. I just want to be in the right spot when the right time comes.”
There was no better time than the second half Sunday after the Rams offense mustered just 71 total yards in the first half. Trailing 6-0 coming out for the third quarter, the Rams immediately put together their best drive of the day.
And no play on that drive was bigger than Gibson’s 22-yard catch and run to the Bills’ 25 on third-and-7. That helped set up Jackson’s 1-yard touchdown run and got the offense into something of a rhythm.
Still, it was the big plays on the final drive that mattered most.
“We knew it was probably going to come down to the last drive,” Gibson said. “We kind of sputtered around the first half and coming up with points was big, we have to do a better job of that and winning on third down so those are our goals and we’ll just continue to get better at it.”
On the game-winning drive, Gibson narrowly missed a chance for a big play down the left sideline before bouncing back with a catch for 15 yards on third-and-10 to Buffalo’s 13.
Two plays later, Gibson squeezed the winning touchdown in the back of the end zone and helped set off a wild celebration.
“This is huge for Gibby,” Jackson said. “This season alone is huge for Gibby. When you have a guy that continues to grow each year…I think we have seen that and from when we traded for him and got him from Philadelphia, we have seen Gibby grow. This is a huge year for him and I am happy for him. He’s showing up at big times.”
RUN DOWN: The top priority for the Rams defense all week was slowing down the Bills’ fourth-ranked rushing attack led by the two-headed monster of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
There was further motivational fuel thrown into the mix during the week when one of the backs appeared on a talk back and made mention of a targeted number for fantasy production against the Rams.
Michael Brockers and Co. didn’t take too kindly to that.
“It was a motivation thing,” Brockers said. “On Friday, we watched first take or whatever it was and he said he wanted 15 fantasy points and that wasn’t for us. We wanted to meet the challenge of stopping the run and keeping him in the backfield. I think that’s where we were in motivation.”
Whatever the additional motivation, the Rams defense absolutely answered the bell in shutting down Buffalo’s vaunted rush attack. The Bills finished with 61 yards on 20 carries with nothing longer than a 14-yard burst from Jackson.
Jackson finished with 14 yards on nine carries and Spiller added 37 yards on seven totes.
Kendall Langford said the defensive line put it on itself to slow down Spiller and Jackson.
“Just dominate up front,” Langford said. “Our front had to be better than their front. D line better than their O line and out tough them. I think we did a good job of that.”
INJURY REPORT: For the most part, the Rams made it through Sunday’s game relatively healthy but did have a couple of losses that will have to be monitored this week.
Craig Dahl left the game with a concussion and did not return. Darian Stewart replaced Dahl and posted three tackles. Dahl will have to go through the normal battery of tests before he is cleared to return this week.
Rodger Saffold was in and out of the game with back spasms. Wayne Hunter filled in for him but Saffold was able to make it through. His status will be clearer as the week goes on but coach Jeff Fisher offered a short take on the matter.
“He just had a hard day,” Fisher said, acknowledging that Saffold would be OK.
IN THE HUNT: With three games to go in the season, the Rams remain right in the hunt for a playoff spot but didn’t get much help from their NFC counterparts on Sunday.
Teams still in the mix with them such as Seattle, Washington, Dallas and Minnesota all won but the Rams do play the Vikings, Seahawks and Tampa Bay in the final three games.
While the Rams are pleased with their progress, they know they can only focus on continuing to take care of business to have a legitimate shot when the dust settles.
“It’s a big turnaround from last year from 2-14 to 6-6-1,” Brockers said. “We have beaten some really good teams this year. We are still in the hunt but it’s an every week thing for us to try to win every game. We have to win one game at a time and try to come out next week and feed off this game.”