celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Colts
. (Darron Cummings/AP)
It took until Week 10 of his rookie season, but Tavon Austin finally broke loose for the St. Louis Rams. During a 12-minute span in the second and third quarters, Austin scored three touchdowns against the Colts. All told, he finished with 314 all-purpose yards -- more than 50 percent of what he'd recorded over the first nine games of the season (531 yards) -- as the Rams handed the Colts a shocking, blowout 38-8 loss.
"This isn't supposed to be easy," Austin said at the start of the month of his early struggles. "Maybe it was a little harder than I thought at first. But all I can do is keep working."
Austin's persistence first paid off in Week 10 on a remarkable 98-yard touchdown. Moments later, Austin followed that up with a 57-yard touchdown grab from Kellen Clemens to help his team to a 28-0 halftime lead. Austin and Clemens piled on after the break, connecting for an 81-yard TD strike. By that point, the Rams led the Colts 35-0.
Austin's heroics aside, the outcome was absolutely stunning. Indianapolis entered the game at 6-2, on top of the AFC South, with wins over Denver, San Francisco and Seattle. St. Louis, meanwhile, had lost its last three games since a Week 6 victory over the Texans.
With Austin's help, the Rams flipped the script Sunday.
Austin had been virtually nonexistent in recent weeks. He entered Sunday off a zero-catch performance against the Titans, and he had averaged fewer than three catches over St. Louis' previous three games. Even though he was a bigger factor on special teams, Austin had not found the end zone since making a pair of TD catches way back in Week 2.
He broke that drought in emphatic fashion during the second quarter Sunday.
His first touchdown caught pretty much everyone on the field by surprise. After letting Pat McAfee's punt bounce at the 10, Austin nabbed it in daring fashion on his shoulder, then took off up the sideline. The Colts, who had to believe Austin was letting the ball head into the end zone for a touchback, never managed to recover as Austin raced for six. (Watch the highlight here.)
On the Rams' next possession, Austin simply streaked down the opposite sideline to haul in a bomb from Clemens. (Watch the highlight.) Austin victimized cornerback Vontae Davis on the play, with Davis slowing up as Austin coasted for the final few yards into the end zone.
Austin capped his spectacular day by reeling in a pass on a short crossing route and simply racing through the Indianapolis defense for an 81-yard score.
Austin had just 207 yards receiving over the Rams' first nine games, to go along with 308 return yards. St. Louis has to hope that Sunday was merely the start of a second-half explosion from its top pick, rather than another Week 2-like tease.