Rams' Gibson shows what he can do
By Jim Thomas
When it comes to survival skills, Brandon Gibson is the cockroach of the Rams’ wide receiver corps. You can’t kill him off. Every year, some fans and media members sing a familiar refrain: We need an upgrade there. We can do better at that position.
And every year, Gibson returns and finishes second or third on the team in receptions.
That perseverance has been on display again recently. Against Arizona on Nov. 25 and versus San Francisco a week later, Gibson didn’t catch a pass. In fact, he didn’t even have one thrown his way in nearly five full quarters against the *****.
“Throw him the ball,” fellow wideout Chris Givens said. “You see what he can do with it.”
Last week in Buffalo, Gibson got the ball and showed what he can do with it – after a first half in which the Rams could get absolutely nothing going.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Gibson caught passes of 22 and 16 yards on back-to-back plays to get the Rams from near midfield to the Buffalo 9. Those two receptions alone eclipsed the Rams’ first-half passing total of 37 yards. The Rams scored two plays later to take a 7-6 lead.
“That was a huge jump-start,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “We came in at halftime and knew we needed to make some adjustments. I thought Gibby did a great job of getting open. Creating after the catch, too.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Gibson’s 24-yard reception helped the Rams out of a field-position jam on second and 11 from the St. Louis 4. Nothing came of the series, but Buffalo got the ball back at its 30 after a Johnny Hekker punt instead of at maybe midfield.
Then came that frantic, memorable closing drive. Gibson’s 15-yard catch-and-run down the left sideline took the Rams from a third-and-10 play to a first down at the Buffalo 13 with 58 seconds to play. Two plays later, Gibson scored the game-winning touchdown on a 13-yard catch and tumble in tight coverage.
“He stepped up big time, especially when nobody was catching the ball,” tight end Lance Kendricks said. “Sam trusted in him and he went to him, and he made some big plays.”
So after going 0-for-Arizona and San Francisco, Gibson was the star of the game with six catches for a career-high 100 yards in a 15-12 victory.
“This is huge for Gibby,” running back Steven Jackson said. “This season alone is huge for Gibby. You have a guy that continues to grow each year; I think we’ve seen that. When we traded for him and got him from Philadelphia, we’ve seen Gibby grow. I’m happy for him, and he’s showing up in big times.”
Jackson knows better than most, because he’s one of the few players still around from the 2009 squad, the year the Rams acquired Gibson and a fifth-round draft pick from Philadelphia in a trade deadline deal that sent linebacker Will Witherspoon to the Eagles.
Gibson had a penchant for dropping the routine pass early in his time in St. Louis, prompting Jackson to tell him he needed to catch such passes if he wanted to last long in the NFL.
“It’s a concentration thing,” Gibson said. “A focus. I just want to go out there and make the play. That’s the bottom line. Play with a sense of urgency and consistency.”
Wide receiver coach Ray Sherman, brought in by head coach Jeff Fisher, has helped drive those points home. Although this is Sherman’s first season with the Rams, he was familiar with Gibson because he had studied him before the ’09 draft.
“I thought he had some skills,” Sherman said. “I thought he was a talented player. The main thing was just being consistent, because he would drop easy passes, passes that he should have. Sometimes he just looked like he was trying to run before he had the ball.”
Sherman and Gibson talked about it and worked on it on the practice field. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Gibson has gone from eight drops in 2011 to five this season. And among those five drops, fewer have been on routine throws.
Although usually cooperative with reporters, Gibson isn’t what you’d call a media darling. When approached Wednesday by a reporter needing help on a story, he joked sarcastically, “About Danny (Amendola). Not me – right?”
Even with that two-game drought, Gibson is second on the team in receptions (40) and third in reception yards 537 this season. Scheduled for unrestricted free agency after this season, Gibson has a chance to eclipse his career highs in both categories (53 catches, 620 yards), both set in 2010. His five touchdowns are a career high, and a team high so far this season.
“Gibby’s just a guy who does everything right,” Bradford said. “He’s a guy I’ve got a lot of trust in, too. I know that he’s gonna be in the right spot at the right time. ... But his route-running, his overall football IQ, I think has grown in the past three years, and that’s why you’re seeing him make some of the plays that he’s made.”