Monday, December 10, 2012

Gibson Sparks Offense

by Nick Wagoner

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.
Enter receiver 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.
Austin Pettis made big plays, Chris Givens made big plays,Lance Kendricks made big plays and on and on.
“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.
Defensive tackle 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.
Defensive tackle 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.
Safety 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.
Left tackle 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.”

Monday, December 3, 2012

49ers vs. Rams: Janoris Jenkins' Defensive Touchdown Saves St. Louis' Season

From the Bleacher Report

Heading into Week 12, the St. Louis Rams hadn't won a game since Week 5 of the season, and many thought their playoff hopes were dead in the water. Enter the outlook at the end of Week 13 and things have done a complete 180.
St. Louis is now 5-6-1 and in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt. After two wins in a row, the Rams are currently eying the division rival Seattle Seahawks for the No. 6 seed. They are still two games back because of Russell Wilson's late-game heroics at Soldier Field.
However, their four remaining contests are all winnable games from a record and talent standpoint. BuffaloTampa Bay and Seattle on the road with Minnesota at home—honestly, are any of those four teams any better than the Rams by a wide-margin?
Some would say Tampa Bay and Seattle, yet St. Louis is undefeated against the NFC West this season and Tampa Bay has had a hard time deciding whether or not they are pretenders or contenders. Moreover, it's also important the Rams don't lose focus and get ahead of themselves.
Jeff Fisher knows better than anyone that the league is truly a quarter-to-quarter league. Today's game against the 49ers is a perfect example of that analogy. Heading into halftime, Coach Fisher's club looked miserable, yet they never lost hope as they outscored San Francisco 16-6 in the second half.
The second half onslaught all started when the Rams failed to convert on offense deep into 49ers territory. On fourth-and-1 from the four-yard line, quarterback Sam Bradford tried to hit wide receiver Austin Pettis in the corner of the end zone, which would have cut the game to a one-score affair.
Unfortunately for the Rams, San Francisco cornerback Tarell Brown knocked the ball right out of Pettis' hands. A momentum swing appeared to turn in the 49ers favor, except a Colin Kaepernick intentional grounding penalty from the end zone handed St. Louis their first two points of the game, one drive later.
Not to mention the fact momentum was back in its favor. 
Fast forward to the fourth quarter when the Rams were down 10-2 with 3:04 left to play—it was third-and-3 from the 49ers own 17-yard line, and they were looking to run a pitch play to wide receiver Ted Ginn.
The play appeared as if it would have picked up the three yards needed to pick up the first down, yet a poor pitch from Kaepernick allowed Janoris Jenkins to fall on the ball and roll in the end zone from two yards out. The fourth-quarter touchdown marked his third defensive touchdown in the last two weeks.
Undoubtedly, it would be easy to say Greg Zuerlein's 54-yard field goal to win the game in overtime was the biggest play of the game, however he would have never even had the opportunity if it wasn't for Jenkins' scoop and score.
We all know Brian Schottenheimer's offense wasn't scoring a touchdown against Vic Fangio's defense without Danny Amendola.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rookie Jenkins Sets Record

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Janoris Jenkins has been known to make headlines for the wrong reasons. Not this time.

No NFL rookie since 1960 and no Rams rookie ever accomplished what the young St. Louis cornerback did Sunday.

Jenkins, who slipped to the second round of the draft -- the 39th pick overall -- because of off-the-field issues during his college career, returned two interceptions for touchdowns and St. Louis dominated the second half to hand the Arizona Cardinals their seventh loss in a row, 31-17.

Arizona rookie Ryan Lindley was intercepted four times in his first NFL start.
Jenkins' returns of 36 and 39 yards emphatically ended the Rams' streak of five straight games without an opponent turnover.

"A big relief," he said of ending the takeaway drought. "I felt the defense came out and we played together."

The talented defender had slipped to the second round for the Rams after he was booted from the Florida team following a pair of marijuana-related incidents and finished his career at North Alabama. Then there was his acknowledgment that he fathered four children with three women.

Just two weeks ago, he and fellow rookie Chris Givens were inactive for the game against San Francisco for violating team rules.

All that was mere history on this big day.

"What a great game by Janoris," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "I'm really proud of him. I'm happy for him. When you get one turnover for a score, your chances of winning go up exponentially, so if you get two, I don't know what the statistic is, but when you do it two times with the same player, it's pretty awesome."

Sam Bradford had a pair of 37-yard touchdown passes -- to Lance Kendricks and Givens -- for the Rams (4-6-1), who snapped a five-game winless streak and beat Arizona (4-7) for the second time this season.

The Rams' Steven Jackson rushed for 139 yards in 24 carries.

St. Louis outscored Arizona 17-0 in the second half.

Lindley, a sixth-round draft pick out of San Diego State and the third quarterback to start for Arizona this season, completed 31 of 52 for 312 yards and no touchdowns. The interceptions, especially the two returned for scores, outweighed anything else Lindley did.

"I think you just have to understand he's a young player and he's got to understand he can't make a couple of those throws, especially the last one that was returned for a touchdown," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "That was a bad throw because he had Larry (Fitzgerald) down the sidelines. He's just got to step up and put it up."

Beanie Wells, back after missing seven games with a turf toe injury, had TD runs of 1 and 12 yards for the Cardinals.

Arizona led 17-14 at the half on Jay Feely's 32-yard field goal as the second quarter ended.
The third quarter, though, belonged to the Rams.

With St. Louis pinned at its 8-yard line, Jackson ran 46 yards, doubling his previous longest gain of the season. Two plays later, Givens beat rookie Justin Bethel down the left sideline for a 37-yard scoring reception to give the Rams their first lead, 21-17, with 9:58 left in the quarter.

The Rams threatened to extend the lead when Lindley threw right into the hands of linebacker Harvey Dahl, who returned it 38 yards to the Arizona 12. But after a holding penalty, Greg Zuerlein's 35-yard field goal try was wide left.

The Cardinals weren't so fortunate on Lindley's next bad pass. The rookie underthrew Fitzgerald by 10 yards. Jenkins caught it and in a play almost identical to his earlier TD, raced down the right sideline for the score that made it 28-17.

Dahl's interception also came when Lindley missed Fitzgerald.

"Those two where I was going to Larry, the two picks, were just real mental mistakes," Lindley said. "It was things that, it's unexplainable right now, but I made a bad play. Larry is doing the right thing. I'm just off a little bit on something, rushing something, not trusting what I'm seeing out there."

With Lindley throwing short passes over the middle, the Cardinals went 91 yards in 15 plays on their first possession, using up 8:55 of the first quarter, to go up 7-0.

But on the first play of the second quarter, Jenkins stepped in front of intended receiver LaRod Stephens-Howling, intercepted the pass and ran untouched 36 yards to the end zone to tie it at 7-7.
Danny Amendola, who played despite a foot injury that prevented him from practicing all week, made a diving grab of Bradford's 38-yard pass to the Arizona 19 on St. Louis' next possession and two runs by Jackson put the ball on the Arizona 7. But Patrick Peterson picked off Bradford's pass over the middle in the end zone to end the threat.

Lindley's 25-yard pass to Rob Housler and Andre Roberts' 13-yard run set up Wells' 12-yard scoring run that put Arizona back on top 14-7.

The Rams tied it 14-all when Bradford threw over the middle to Kendricks, who rumbled into the end zone on a 37-yard scoring play with 1:53 left in the half.