ST. LOUIS — Everyone’s still chasing Tavon Austin.
The St. Louis Rams added a little razzle-dazzle to the playbook for their dynamic rookie this week and got immediate results. On the opening possession, Austin took a pitchout, quickly reversed field and got a couple of key downfield blocks on a 65-yard run.
Untouched, as usual.
When Zack Bowman began closing in, Austin simply shifted into a higher gear and sped into the end zone to get things rolling right away in a 42-21 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
“My blockers were good,” Austin said. “I saw a lot of green. I’m glad the coaches believe in me.”
Austin’s first career rushing touchdown came on his lone carry of the day. It was also the fourth TD in a row from beyond midfield for the rookie, who added two receptions for 39 yards.
He’s among three players since 1940 with four 50-plus yard touchdowns in consecutive games, joining Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Gale Sayers.
“I’ve been put in some great situations so far and I’m glad I took advantage of them and I hope they keep coming. Hopefully, I’ll keep taking advantage of them.”
Five reasons why the Rams (5-6) beat the Bears (6-5):
FAST START: The Rams emerged from the bye energized, scoring on their opening possession for the first time all season. They totaled 29 points in the first quarter the first 10 games, then put up 21 against the Bears aided by Matt Forte’s fumble at the 7 that led to a second quick score right after Austin’s breakaway run.
Last year, the Rams had just 3 yards total offense in the first quarter of a 23-6 loss in Chicago.
“We couldn’t have started off better,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “They just played from behind for the rest of the game.” St. Louis has won two straight, both impressively.
SLOW START: Playing catch-up is not really the Bears’ strong suit. The early deficit proved too much in a road contest that had appeared winnable, and with a sold-out Edward Jones Domes about half-full of their fans, too.
The Bears have lost five of eight and missed a chance to take sole possession of first place in the NFC North. They’re tied with Detroit, which also lost, and just a half-game ahead of the Packers.
Coach Marc Trestman believes big plays against the Bears keep the team down too long. “We lost in all three phases,” Trestman said.
GROUND GAME: The Bears entered 31st in the NFL in run defense and were vulnerable all day, surrendering a season-high 258 yards rushing.
Zac Stacy had 87 yards on 12 carries before halftime when he left to be examined for concussion-like symptoms and fellow rookie Benny Cunningham stepped up with his first 100-yard game, totaling 199 yards on 13 carries and a late score that helped the Rams put this one away.
The Bears were held to 80 yards on 26 carries, a 3.1-yard average. They couldn’t bang it in with first-and-goal from the 4 early in the third quarter and one of the keys to the game was on fourth-and-goal from the 1 when Michael Bush was thrown for a 4-yard loss by Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
WHISTLE FACTOR: The Bears piled up 10 penalties for 84 yards, one of them a holding call that nullified a 62-yard punt return for touchdown by Devin Hester early in the fourth quarter that would have cut the gap to six points.
They worked too hard for Bush’s 1-yard run to shave it to 27-21 with 7:15 to go, burning time after Martellus Bennett’s short TD catch called back by a holding call. They perhaps benefited from a roughing the passer penalty on Michael Brockers that appeared to be a clean hit on replay, but that referee Jerome Boger told a pool reporter was the correct call because the player led with a helmet to the body of the quarterback.
“I was a little frustrated with that,” Fisher said. “I didn’t think that was appropriate.”
BAD DEFENSE: The Bears are fourth in the NFL in scoring, averaging 27.5 points, but are giving up an average of 28 per game – only three teams have allowed more points.
Before Sunday, they’d shown some improvement with opponents averaging 20 points the previous three games.
The Rams put up a season-best 425 total yards and their point total was their biggest since beating the Colts in 2001. “We have to clean everything up,” linebacker Jonathan Bostic said.