Brian Quick lined up wide right on second-and-3 from the San Francisco 36 on the Rams’ first offensive series of the game.
San Francisco’s third cornerback, Chris Culliver, had been playing very well by all accounts this season. He lined up opposite Quick on the play and tried to jam him on the line of scrimmage. Just the opposite happened.
Quick jolted Culliver with a long left stiff-arm, knocking Culliver to the ground. That left Quick wide open. Sam Bradford’s pass found him at about the 15. Dashon Goldson, the 49ers’ Pro Bowl safety, had a chance to tackle Quick or at least knock him out of bounds inside the 10. But Quick outmuscled him into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.
Most players keep the football in such moments and have the equipment manager send it out to be decorated with the time, date, opponent, etc. But not Quick. He was too happy, too excited to remember.
“I just got caught up with the celebrating,” Quick said Monday, flashing a wide grin.
His teammates showed him plenty of love in the end zone and on the sideline after the play. Quick had come close to scoring on a couple of other occasions, most notably in Miami when it looked like he got in but officials ruled him just short of the goal line. But this time, finally, he had reached the end zone as an NFL player.
It was the type of explosive play largely missing in the St. Louis passing game in recent years, and it provided a telling glimpse of Quick’s potential in the NFL. Way back in training camp, former Rams great Torry Holt said Quick needed to use his size (6-3, 220) and strength to his advantage, and the rookie wide receiver did just that on the play.
“That’s what I’m supposed to do,” Quick said. “Get him off me and get the ball, and make an effort to score. I’m a physical player. So it’s going to happen from now on if they continue to feed me.”
And there’s the rub. “Continue to feed me.”
Perhaps typifying the odd start to Quick’s NFL career, that was the only ball thrown to him all day at Candlestick Park. Even on a day when fellow rookie Chris Givens was benched for violating team rules, in theory creating more playing time for Quick, he was in the game for only seven of 83 offensive plays in the Rams’ 24-24 tie with San Francisco.
That compared to 71 plays for Brandon Gibson, 70 for Danny Amendola, 45 for Austin Pettis and 14 for Steve Smith. Even by Quick’s standards it wasn’t a lot of time. Ever since being on the pregame inactive list in Game 3 against Chicago, Quick had averaged 15 plays per game over a five-game stretch entering Sunday’s contest.
So for the umpteenth time, coach Jeff Fisher was asked Monday why Quick wasn’t playing more, or didn’t play more, against the 49ers particularly after such a stellar start in the game. It wasn’t the most expansive of explanations.
“Yeah, we probably should’ve played him more, but he was in the game,” Fisher said. “We got Danny back. We had the other two guys (Gibson and Pettis) going pretty well.”
There’s no doubt digesting an NFL playbook has been tough for Quick coming out of a college program at Appalachian State, in what used to be called the Division I-AA level. Quick concedes that everything about playing in an NFL offense is tougher and more complicated.
“I can’t really explain everything in the playbook, but it’s more difficult,” Quick said. “Everything about it is just different. You’ve got to read a lot of different things and you’ve got to read defenses.”
Then he added with a shrug: “I wish I would’ve known more. But I can’t help where I came from. It’s about where I’m at right now.”
There was a time when Quick said he was thinking rather than just doing. That he was counting out his steps on routes. Not anymore, he says.
“I feel like it took forever,” he said. “But it’s only becoming the second half of the season, and now I have everything down and everything’s become faster.
“I know what to do. I know my splits. I know where I’m supposed to be lined up. I know my responsibilities. So that makes it a lot easier.”
After a good training camp, Quick seemed down about his limited playing time earlier in the season. But perhaps buoyed by his TD catch against the rugged San Francisco defense, Quick seems at peace with where he’s at right now.
“Just because I scored a touchdown that doesn’t mean I’m there. I’m not,” he said. “I’m young, and I have to wait and I have to make sure I understand the game. Make sure I’m out there playing fast instead of thinking. I didn’t want to be out there hurting my team.”
Cameo role notwithstanding, the only team he hurt Sunday was the 49ers.