By Cedric Williams
For the second time this season, the St. Louis Rams went on the road to take on one of the top teams from the AFC South, this time trekking some 250 miles east to central Indiana for a matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Rams were reeling coming in, with a 3-6 record and three-game losing streak since it surprised the Housto Texans with a 3-point outburst back on October 13.
The Colts, on the other hand, were coming in with a 6-2 record, which included victories in five of its last six games, culminating with a thrilling 21-point comeback win last week over the rival Texans.
But on Sunday, just as they did to Houston last month, the Rams came out of nowhere with another 38-point outburst to produce one of the most surprising wins for any team in the entire NFL this season.
St. Louis has barely scored that many points total since its win over Houston 28 days ago (actually, the Rams had scored 45 points in the three games they played since that last win), but no one expected the Blue & Gold to go into Lucas Oil Stadium and blow out the Colts.
But the Rams did just that, and thanks to their terrific effort in every phase of the game on Sunday, St. Louis earned honor roll-type grades from us, with every unit receiving some version of an ‘A’ in what was by far the best performance of the season by the Rams.
Offense – A
The Rams gained 372 yards and didn’t turn the ball over once in Indy.
Both a tremendous stats for a club playing without its franchise quarterback Sam Bradford, but it wasn’t so much the final yardage total as it was the two flashes of pass-catching lightning provided by rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin that pushed St. Louis to perhaps its best offensive day of the season.
Austin only had two catches on the day, but they both went for scores.
First, the Rams No. 1 draft pick caught a 57-yarder from QB Kellen Clemens midway through the second quarter to give St. Louis a 28-0 halftime lead.
Then early in the third, when Indianapolis might have still been thinking it might be capable of another dramatic comeback, Austin caught a short third down pass across the middle, then outran the entire Colt defense for an 81-yard touchdown that Rams fans have been waiting for all season.
The subtle move of playing former starting right tackle Rodger Saffold at right guard for the injured Harvey Dahl proved to be genius, as not only did the Rams passing game shine, but rookies Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham combined for 134 yards on 33 carries, and a second quarter touchdown that gave the Rams a 14-0 lead.
Defense – A
The Rams defensive line completed dominated the Colts from the opening snap.
Robert Quinn broke through on an early third down and stripped Indy QB Andrew Luck of the ball, then watched as teammate Chris Long scooped it up and rumbled 45 yards for what he claimed afterward was the first touchdown of his life.
Luck did finish with 353 passing yards, but most of those came after the Rams were way ahead. And while the game was still in the balance, St. Louis did pick off three passes from Indianapolis’ former No. 1 overall draft pick.
The Rams also held Indy to just 18 rushing yards, with all but one of them coming on run-for-his-life scrambles by Luck.
Special Teams – A+
Kicker Greg Zuerlein was one-for-one on field goals and five-for-five on PATS, and punter Johnny Hekker averaged 48.4 yards on five punts, with a long of 61 yards.
But it was the return man demon Austin who was the star here as well, as he faked everyone out by fielding a punt at his own two, then raced untouched up the sideline for a 98-yard touchdown that basically turned this game on its ear.
The second-best part of the day had to be that no one committed a penalty on Austin’s return, so the play actually stood.
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Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at email@example.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.