Breaking Down Sam Bradford's Game-Winning Drive Against Buffalo Bills
The St. Louis Rams (6-6-1) were able to even out their record against the Buffalo Bulls (5-8) in what was a tough road game in a vicious outdoor setting.
The game ball clearly goes to a St. Louis defense that sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick on four occasions and forced two turnovers while limiting a fierce Buffalo run game to just 61 yards. But the Rams offense stepped up on the final drive and produced when it became absolutely necessary.
This has been the story of the 2012 Rams: When one group slips, another group rises. Whether it be the defense, Sam Bradford and the offense, or even the booming leg of Greg Zuerlein and the special teams unit.
It's been an all-around team effort for the Rams this season, which is the result of unselfish football. The only thing tougher than determining the team MVP for 2012 is determining the "Offensive Player of the Game" last Sunday.
Bradford led his troops downfield and found the end zone, but it would have never happened without several remarkable plays by the receivers. Even though the receivers had a rough game for three quarters, they were able to excel in the end.
With the teamwork theme in mind, let's take another glance at Bradford's game-winning drive from Sunday.
The Winning Drive
The Rams started the drive down 12-7 on their own 16-yard line with just over four minutes remaining, making it realistically their final chance to pick up a victory.
Sam Bradford began with a first-down incompletion, but Steven Jackson bailed them out with 16 rushing yards on the next two plays, securing a first down. The run game played a small role in this drive, but these two carries were extremely vital nonetheless.
After Brandon Gibson dropped a first-down pass by Bradford, the rhythm was beginning to look shaky, but Bradford answered back with a 22-yard strike to Lance Kendricks to put them past midfield.
This was a very positive play for Kendricks, who has struggled with drops in recent weeks (and throughout his career), but it's just another sign of Rams players stepping up when they need to.
Two plays later, Bradford hit Jackson for a nine-yard gain to bring them to Buffalo's 37, which brought on the two-minute warning.
The 37 remaining yards were enough to preserve the doubt within the fans, especially with the way the offense had played up to this point, but at the same time the Rams were close enough to smell the victory.
For a moment, that scent almost vanished when Bradford was nearly picked off by George Wilson on the very first play following the two-minute warning.
It was a very lucky break for the Rams, but they were in need of another, as they suddenly found themselves in a 4th-and-1 situation. Failing to convert would result in a loss.
Bradford dropped back and hit Austin Pettis for a nine-yard completion. Pettis made a spectacular catch on a pass that was well behind him.
The reception brought the Rams to the Buffalo 28 and kept them alive, but back-to-back incompletions put the Rams in another hole.
On 3rd-and-10, Gibson was able to make up for his dropped pass several plays earlier by securing a 15-yard reception, which took the ball to Buffalo's 13-yard line.
But Gibson doesn't get all the credit—Bradford stepped up under clear pressure and made the completions. Despite several incompletions and a near interception, Bradford kept his focus and made a nice throw under duress.
Two plays later, Bradford drops back and again has a defensive lineman in his grill.
Despite the pressure, he airs it out to Gibson, who makes a great leaping catch in the end zone to secure the win.
The Rams went for two points, where Bradford made a nice completion in the end zone to Chris Givens. Bradford was able to spot the ball where only Givens could get to it, and the well-designed play paid off.
The most encouraging part of this game-winning drive is the fact that a variety of players made key contributions.
Whether it was Jackson moving the chains, Kendricks getting over his drops, Bradford making throws under pressure, Pettis securing a bad throw, or Gibson getting open in the end zone, there was never a moment when someone wasn't able to step up.
Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar made an interception following the touchdown to secure the win, which reinforces the idea that defense won this game. And while that's true, the fact that the offense contributed with the game on the line is a very encouraging sign moving forward.
There's a good chance that the Rams will need three consecutive wins to earn a playoff berth, but with this kind of teamwork and clutch play, it would be unwise to count them out.
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