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Receivers Fill the Void

Posted Oct 14, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – All week leading in to Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, the hot button question for the Rams offense was how they could replace the production of injured receiver Danny Amendola.

The repeated refrain from every one asked that question was that no one player would be able to step in and pick up the slack. Rather, the Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford would have to get the job done by committee.

That idea became reality Sunday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium as Bradford connected with 10 receivers and got into enough of a rhythm to finish with 315 yards on 26-of-39 passing with no touchdowns or interceptions for a rating of 91.3.

It was a strong performance by a group of pass catchers Bradford proclaimed on Wednesday was the deepest he’d been around since he arrived in St. Louis.

“Absolutely,” Bradford said. “I think we had a lot of guys catch passes today. I said all week I was very confident in our group of receivers and I think they showed up today. I think they did a great job. Credit Gibby, I thought he made plays all day, especially with the big catch in the two minute drive at the end.”

Indeed, none of those wideouts stepped up more than Brandon Gibson; perhaps the guy Bradford has the best resume with on the roster aside from Amendola.

Gibson bobbled an early catch that could have kept the chains moving and left the Rams settling for a field goal but he made up for it the rest of the day. He finished with seven catches for 91 yards on nine targets.

None of those grabs was more impressive than the ridiculous leaping, one handed grab he made to pick up 22 yards and keep the Rams’ final drive going.

“Catch the ball, make the play, that’s about it,” Gibson said. “That’s all I really had on my mind. Try to get some yards to get closer for a field goal or a touchdown.”

Gibson wasn’t the only one to answer the call on the outside. Rookie Chris Givens, who started in place of Amendola, struck for 85 yards on three catches, including a career-long 65 yard grab in the first quarter.

That grab gave Givens his third catch of 50-plus yards in as many games and continues to establish him as the team’s top deep threat, though he was frustrated to be caught and not score a touchdown. Givens was pleased with his production as well as the work of his fellow wideouts.

“We are all just working as a group to get better and better,” Givens said. “We knew we had a big task on our hands and we just wanted to come out and play to the best of our abilities.”

Although Gibson and Givens picked up most of the receiving yards, the Rams got major contributions from the tight ends and running backs as well, including four catches for 40 yards by tight end Lance Kendricks.

In fact, of the 10 players making a catch, seven had at least one grab good for 11 yards or more. 

“Without Danny in this offense, it was good for us to go out and be that productive and I think it speaks to our receiver group and the coaches’ confidence in us to go out there and make those plays,” receiver Austin Pettis said. “It’s just frustrating we didn’t make enough to win the game.”

It’s unlikely Amendola will be back next week or right away, meaning the rest of the pass catchers will have a chance to continue to develop with Bradford and get better each week. The next step will be finishing drives with touchdowns.

“We gain confidence and find things to get better at,” Givens said. “We want to take the positives and the negatives away from it and just look forward to getting better and better and playing next week.”

DOMINANT DEFENSE: Not that it should come as much of a surprise considering how the Rams defense has played through the first five weeks but that group was once again outstanding on Sunday in Miami.

Save for a couple of drives that were direct results of field position from Rams special teams miscues, it was another performance that held Miami to minimal production.

Dolphins running back Reggie Bush had just 17 yards on 12 carries with a long of 9. As a team, the Dolphins rushed for just 19 yards on 18 carries, an average of 1.1 per attempt.

The Rams pass defense was almost as good, holding the Dolphins to 185 passing yards and dropping quarterback Ryan Tannehill for a trio of sacks.

Although the numbers greatly favored the Rams defense, linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar was more upset with what they didn’t do – namely, keep the Dolphins out of the end zone – than what they did do.

“Anytime you are on the road playing against a good team, a talented team, you can’t make those little mistakes or they are going to put points on the board,” Dunbar said. “That’s what they did. Turnovers, special plays, that’s how they got points on the board. That’s what we can’t let them do. We can’t afford that.”

STRANGE DAY: To say that Sunday’s game had its share of borderline plays would be a bit of an understatement.

In fact, referee Gene Steratore and his crew repeatedly found themselves trying to make tough judgment calls. Even on plays that were reviewable, there were plenty of times that the television evidence was hard to decipher.

“Gene and his crew did a really good job,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “That’s a good crew. They had a very good handle on everything. There were a lot of real close calls, under the hood calls that aren’t easy, too.”

Among the difficult calls was a disputed potential touchdown for rookie wideout Brian Quick in which he was ruled 1 yard short of the goal line and an apparent Bradford fumble that was overturned based on the old “tuck” rule. 

“Big fan of the tuck rule,” Bradford said, laughing. “Great, great call by the officials.”

BRADFORD’S TOUCHDOWN: On the heels of the aforementioned Quick play, Bradford picked up his second career rushing touchdown on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line.

“We came to the sideline and Schotty told me we were going to quarterback sneak but I want you to put the ball over,” Bradford said. “I was like ‘OK, I think I can do that.’ Sure enough we got it over and I got bent backwards.”

Bradford took a hard shot from Miami linebacker Karlos Dansby as the play came to a close but didn’t let that bug him much. 

“That one didn’t feel great but anytime you score a touchdown you feel a bit better,” Bradford said.

RAM BITS: The Rams came through the game relatively healthy. Only cornerback Bradley Fletcher left the game at any point. His shoulder ailment did not keep him from finishing the game…Inactives for the Rams included Amendola, tackle Rodger Saffold, safety Matt Daniels, quarterback Austin Davis, running back Terrance Ganaway, linebacker Mario Haggan and defensive tackle Matt Conrath…End Chris Long picked up his fourth sack of the season in the first half, the 35th of his career.