The Rams, for the first time since 2006, find themselves the owners of a shiny new three-game win streak. Sunday’s win against the Bills also marked the first time since the 2010 season that the team could string together back-to-back road wins. This Rams team is different. It’s no longer as much about individual efforts needed to secure a victory. These wins are a result of the team’s unwavering resiliency, and commitment to 60 minutes.
To be fair, I shouldn’t say that individual efforts aren’t needed to secure a victory, because they’ve certainly played a key role in a few of the Rams wins this season. On Sunday, one particular player [amongst many] that deserved recognition - and certainly wouldn’t have made my Sunday morning bold predictions - was none other than Brandon Gibson.
Gibson, whose name is oftentimes accompanied by the word ‘drop,’ whether it be in-game or offseason, played a critical role in securing a much needed Rams victory in Buffalo, if the Rams were to keep aspirations of a playoff berth alive. With Danny Amendola out of the game, still coping with a foot injury, someone was going to need to step up in order for the Rams to prove successful in the passing game. Eyes - in all likelihood - were on rookie Chris Givens. Givens, however, wouldn’t even finish the game as the Rams second leading receiver.
Sunday would prove to be a milestone for Gibson. For the first time since being drafted [6th round] in the 2009 draft, he was able to haul in 100 yards in a single game. The only other time he was even close to sniffing that figure was in Week 6 at Miami [91 yards on 7 catches]. For the Rams, 100-yard receiving efforts aren’t something seen with regularity. Gibson’s marks only the 4th of the 2012 season.
Finishing the game with six catches on nine targets, Gibson’s first aerial offering didn’t arrive until 2:18 left in the second quarter. His first catch, however, came immediately following the 2-minute warning. The 10-yard catch would get the Rams into Bills territory and moving efficiently into Greg Zuerlein territory. The drive, however, would stall due to a tipped-ball interception that swung the momentum [and three points] in the Bills favor heading into halftime.
If the Bills weren’t familiar with Gibson after a quiet first half, he re-introduced himself relatively quickly at the start of the second. With the Rams having just entered Bills territory, and on 1st and 10, Gibson runs an under route at the line of gain. After hauling in his second [non-nullified] catch of the game, he puts a sweet stutter step move on rookie CB Stephon Gilmore, and adds another 12 yards to the play, taking the Rams to the 25 yard. That play was immediately followed up with a beautiful backdoor fade pass by Sam Bradford. The route, and sure-handedness, that Gibson displayed were laying the foundation for a rapport that would build throughout the second half.
Having scored the lone touchdown at the onset of the second half, expecting the Rams to piece together a 5:11, 75-yard drive seemed…a stretch. The offense, as they say, hadn’t been ‘clicking on all cylinders’ in Buffalo. Enter resiliency. As the Rams slowly and methodically moved their way up the field, I was reminded of my aforementioned admiration for incorrectly speculating about this team.
As shadows of doubt now stood fully engulfed in rays of adrenaline, it was clear that something special was occurring. It was proven on 4th and 1, when Austin Pettis kept the game alive, with less than two minutes remaining. The Rams would continue to chew up clock on that drive, and it wasn’t until there were 55 seconds remaining in the game that Gibson made the biggest catch of the game, and of his young career. Covered by one of the better safeties in the NFL - Jairus Byrd [5th in the league in INT’s] - Gibson took the inside route 8 yards deep into the end zone, and having already beaten Byrd by no more than a step, leaps to make the game-clinching reception on a perfectly thrown, perfectly timed pass from Bradford. Touchdown? Check. 100-yards? You bet.
“We’re never gonna lose faith. We’re gonna fight all the way to the end.” - Brandon Gibson
For Gibson, there’s probably no better way to fathom achieving the 100-yard mark than to do so in game-winning, potentially season-saving fashion. If he drops that pass, and if the Rams don’t win that game, aspirations of the playoffs are no more. Whether the Rams make the postseason is still to be seen, and it appears that they’re still on the outside looking in. One game at a time, though, they’re giving you reasons to believe they can.
Regardless of whether the Rams make it to the playoffs, what the Rams are doing in 2012 is exhilarating. Though there are times where you find yourself missing clumps of hair, [if you’ve still got any left from the past several years] this Rams team continues to surprise, and continues to impress. They’re young. They’re improving. They’re resilient. Brandon Gibson - at least on Sunday - is a prime example of how the team, and it’s components, can step up in a big way and win games when it matters.
For Gibson, who has proven to be a perennial preseason Pro-Bowler, a strong performance at the end of the season certainly keeps him relevant. Sunday’s game probably won’t do much to move Gibson up the depth charts though. But for a player who has shown flashes of greatness - with dashes of D’oh - a strong road game near the end of the season doesn’t hurt his case to be brought back in 2013. This is the final year in Gibson’s four year rookie signing with the Rams. Being backloaded, Gibson will make $1,000,000 this season. [Quick note: Steve Smith is making $2.5mil]
I, for one, am already looking forward to next Sunday. Not only because the Rams are undefeated in the NFC West, and still stand a chance at making the playoffs. And not just because the best wide receiver on the team might potentially make a healthy return. No. I’m excited for next Sunday, because I want to make a ‘bold prediction’ about the game, and I want to be dead wrong about which player(s) chooses to shine. I want another Monday where I can revel in how the Rams were able to achieve victory. Someone’s bound to step up, and the anticipation is gripping.