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Friday, January 24, 2014
Plays that shaped the Rams' season: No. 6

By Nick Wagoner

ST. LOUIS -- Nine games into his rookie season, St. Louis Rams receiver/returner Tavon Austin hadn't yet provided the electric play making ability many expected when the team moved up to choose him No. 8 overall in last year's draft.

Austin
Plagued by early drops and route-running adjustments as well as the team's inability to get him the ball in space, Austin's first nine games were only memorable for how unmemorable they were. Along the way, penalties had often nullified the few big plays he had made such as a long touchdown catch against Carolina and a punt return against Dallas.

Finally, the floodgates opened in Week 10 against Indianapolis as the Rams stunned the Colts in Austin's coming out party. With 10 minutes, 48 seconds to go in the first half, Indianapolis punter Pat McAfee boomed one 58 yards that looked poised to either go into the end zone for a touchback or fall out of bounds at the Rams' 2.

Austin waved off his teammates, yelling 'Poison,' the code word for stay away as the ball skipped toward the goal line and up the sideline. At the last moment, Austin made the snap decision to grab the ball and attempt a return. Before the Colts could react, Austin was speeding down the sideline with the ball and a cadre of blockers in front.

By the time the play was through, Austin had motored 98 yards for a touchdown and the first big play of his young career. It gave the Rams a commanding 21-0 lead on their way to a convincing 38-8 victory and was the first of a trio of big plays on the day for Austin.

While Austin might have fallen short of the inflated outside expectations that existed for him, the punt return and the ensuing long touchdown catches proved Austin is more than capable of being the type of game changer the Rams thought they were getting when they spent such hefty draft capital on him in April.