EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For the better part of the season's first eight weeks, if you were looking for Rams rookie receiver Tavon Austin, you didn't have to look too far from the line of scrimmage to find him.
That's all changed in the past few weeks.
A look at Austin's air yards per target -- a measurement of how far the ball is traveling in the air to reach Austin as the intended target -- from the first eight weeks of the season confirms what eyes already told us: attempts to get Austin the ball were almost unanimously coming at, near or behind the line of scrimmage. During the Rams' first half, Austin's largest average air yards per target was 8.33 yards against Atlanta in Week 2.
Aside from the Week 6 game against Houston when Austin's only target came 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage, that number bottomed out against Jacksonville in Week 5 when the Rams targeted him six times and he averaged 1.5 air yards per target.
Against Indianapolis on Sunday, Austin broke through with two catches for 138 yards. One of those grabs came on a deep ball that went for a 57-yard touchdown and the other came on a shorter pass that he turned into a bigger gain but it's reasonable to think that the long catch helped open some things up underneath for Austin. By day's end, Austin had his largest average air yards per target against the Colts at 20.67.
A week ago against Tennessee, Austin averaged 19.5 air yards per target and narrowly missed a long touchdown catch which was slightly overthrown. While both numbers stand well above his previous season high, Austin would have had an elevated number in Week 7 against Carolina were it not for a tripping penalty that brought back another long touchdown.
Clearly, Austin's targets have begun to expand beyond the boundaries of a few yards of the line of scrimmage.
“Well, go to Carolina -- he got open and it was called back because of tripping and then we had him open last weekend and we missed him, so he’s getting open," coach Jeff Fisher said. "It’s just, obviously, (QB) Kellen (Clemens) made a great throw on the deep ball."
That's not to say the Rams should simply go out and chuck the ball deep to Austin on a 9-route every play, but diversifying his usage on routes paid dividends against Indianapolis and given those results, it's likely we'll continue to see more of it moving forward.
A roundup of Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com on Monday. … We began Monday morning as we do every Monday with this week's Upon Further Review, a closer look at four hot issues coming out of Sunday's win against the Colts. … We usually leave the Ram-blings out of this space but since it's a little later on Mondays, here it is. … From there, we offered the Rams rookie review with playing time and production for the team's rookie class. … Finally, a look at how the Rams hope to get healthy over this week's bye.
Eric Karabell and Cary Chow discuss Austin's big game and how it factors into the fantasy football world.
At stltoday, Bernie Miklasz offers a few takes on the dominance of DE Robert Quinn and more Rams' thoughts in his blog.
Miklasz also provided his thoughts on Austin's day in his morning video.
At 101sports.com, Randy Karraker gives his 10 takeaways from the Rams' win.
In the same corner of cyberspace, Anthony Stalter chimes in with his notes from Sunday's game.
Turf Show Times takes a shot at predicting the rest of the season.
They also offered their weekly look at Clemens' efforts.
KMOX.com recaps the Rams' victory.