ST. LOUIS — Sam Bradford can't help but be excited about the St. Louis Rams' passing attack.
After two seasons with some of the least impressive receivers in the league, the third-year quarterback sees his options increasing with each week. His latest favorite target is rookie Chris Givens, who had a season-best 11 receptions in a 16-13 overtime victory against San Francisco on Sunday.
“This is the deepest we've ever been at wide receiver and we've added pieces each year that I've been here,” said Bradford, who has seen his completion percentage, yards per catch and quarterback rating reach career-highs with three games left in the season. “This year, with the addition of (Brian) Quick and Givens, I think it gives us the most options we've ever had — which is nice because we have a nice complement of receivers who all do different things and who all do different things well.”
Givens' performance against the 49ers helped ease the loss of Danny Amendola, sidelined with a foot injury. He has missed four games this year and didn't practice Wednesday but still leads the team in receptions (51) and yards (576).
Givens is closing in: He had a high of 115 yards in a win at Arizona two weeks ago and has 559 for the season. Bradford has been looking his way, too: In the three games since he sat out a game for violating undisclosed team rules, Givens has had four, five and 11 receptions, respectively. He hasn't stretched the field as much, though; against San Francisco, his biggest gain was 16 yards.
“Everyone is really playing me for my speed and nobody really wants to get beat on the deep ball,” Givens said. “So, we are using that to our advantage.”
Eight players have double-digit receptions for the Rams. Quick, a rookie, has seen limited action with just eight receptions but leads the team with an average of 17.3 yards per catch.
St. Louis (5-6-1) travels to Buffalo (5-7) on Sunday. Buffalo coach Chan Gailey called Bradford a “gunslinger” during a teleconference, a remark the quarterback smiled at but said was a natural progression for the team.
“I think it was just getting used to some of the personnel we have now,” he said. “But I think it's been really good for our offense that people have seen us throw the ball down the field. It's backed people off.”
Brandon Gibson, who picked up most of the slack when Amendola was out earlier in the season with a shoulder injury, has experienced the depth of receiving options. He hasn't had a reception in the past two games, despite starting both, and Bradford never threw at him against the 49ers.
Of the 26 catches, 11 were by running backs or tight end Lance Kendricks.
“We have a well-rounded group, even with the backs and tight ends and wide receivers, obviously,” Gibson said. “We've got a lot of talent.”
That talent is being demonstrated by Givens, who has emerged as the go-to receiver for Bradford. At least for now.
“I've just tried to come out and watch other guys and learn how to run the intermediate routes as well as the deep routes,” Givens said. “Now, you're starting to see that practice and hard work paying off a little bit.”
Online: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL