On Monday, St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo defended Brandon Gibson, despite the wide receiver's lack of awareness of down-and-distance in the fourth quarter against San Francisco.
"That's easy for us all in this room to put the film on or watch it on TV (and be critical)," Spagnuolo said. "Brandon's just trying to make a play. Now, I'm sure as he watches it again, he'd probably say, ‘All I've got to do is fall forward and I've got a first down.' Maybe going forward here, if he's in the same situation, he'll do that."
Going forward -- that's the whole point. With the Rams trying to protect a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, Gibson caught a short pass over the middle on third-and-10. Instead of going forward, he circled back trying for a bigger play and was tackled. The net result? An eight-yard gain, two yards shy of a first down; the Rams had to punt.
On the Rams' next possession, following a San Francisco field goal that cut the Rams' lead to 17-13, it happened again.
On second-and-7, Gibson caught another short pass from Sam Bradford, and once again circled back trying to turn a short gain into a bigger one. He was tackled one-yard short of the first-down marker. Steven Jackson was dropped for a one-yard loss on third down, and so the Rams had to punt with just over 4 minutes to play giving the 49ers possession on the drive that resulted in the go-ahead touchdown.
Gibson was glad to hear that Spagnuolo had his back.
"People may have problems with me trying to get up the field but that's how I play the game," Gibson said. "I play it to make big plays."
But just when you thought Gibson was being defiant about the situation, he quickly showed that he had gotten the message. Namely, that in situations like the two that presented themselves against the 49ers, the idea is to move the chains and keep the clock ticking.
"I learn from situations," Gibson said. "Catch the ball, get up field....I recognize what needs to happen now. In that situation, we're up, we probably should just fall forward and get a yard. I was looking for a little more. I got a little greedy and I paid the price for it."
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said the Rams' staff is always coaching down-and-distance to the team's skill position players.
"They're always aware when they go in the huddle what the down-and-distance is," Shurmur said. "Depending on where they catch the ball, they know where the sticks are. And so the challenge is just to remember that.
"As playmakers, sometimes they feel like they're going to make a guy miss and get more yardage. Obviously, the challenge is to stay consistent and focused on where the sticks are."