Keenum, Austin Lead Rams Past Buccaneers

The St. Louis Rams started out strong and then held off a late Tampa Bay Buccaneers rally to record their second straight win.

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Rams brought out new uniforms and a seemingly new high-powered passing attack against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football.

Tavon Austin scored twice and Case Keenum threw two touchdown passes as the Rams beat the visiting Buccaneers 31-23 at the Edward Jones Dome. 

“The game started off fast for us, which was good,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “We haven’t had that experience in recent weeks. Give credit to Case. Case made a lot of great plays and great throws early and got us some points.”

The Rams (6-8) racked up 319 yards of total offense, with Keenum completing 14 of 17 passes for 234 yards, with two touchdowns and a QB rating of 158.0.

“The O-line was giving him time and he was just slinging it,” said Rams tight end Jared Cook, who had four catches for 64 yards. “He caught fire early. He got the ball out of his hands fast, which is what you need to build rhythm. We just kept pushing the ball down the field.”

The Rams’ rushing attack gained 98 yards on 33 carries. Rookie running back Todd Gurley accounted for 48 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries. 

“Obviously Tampa Bay does a great job stopping the run,” Keenum said. “They really do. They loaded the box. Traditionally they’re a Tampa team playing two safeties high but they rolled down and brought another safety into the box quite a bit and that opened up the guys outside. We’ve got some playmakers outside that can do some special things with the ball in their hands. Our offensive line did a great job tonight.”

The Buccaneers (6-8), who got three field goals from Connor Barth, gained 509 yards of offense. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick, completed 29 of 50 passes for 363 yards, two touchdown passes, one interception and an 85.7 QB rating. 

Austin capped off the Rams’ first series with a 17-yard touchdown reception after taking a quick screen from Keenum and picking up some key blocks downfield.

“You can’t script a better opening drive,” Keenum said. “It was pretty incredible. I think you have to give a lot of credit to our coaches, Coach (Rob) Boras and all those offensive coaches for really putting us in a great position there early. Getting the momentum like that and defense making a couple big stops and forcing them to make field goals was huge.”

Barth kicked a 53-yard field goal with 4:57 remaining in the first quarter, but then the Rams answered with a 60-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Kenny Britt down the left sideline. 

“Hats off to our offensive coordinator (Rob Boras),” Britt said. “Great play call at a great time … and Case let it go, he let it rip and he put the ball on the money. My job was easy.”

Gurley scored on a 3-yard run late in the second quarter to make it 21-3 at halftime. 

“We’re feeding off each other,” Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “From special teams to offense to defense, we just feed off each other. When they score, we’re trying to get the ball back to them while they’re hot.”

Barth cut into the deficit with a 32-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. 

St. Louis answered with another Austin touchdown, this time on an end-around sweep he turned into a 21-yard touchdown run, his 10th score of the season. 

Winston led the Buccaneers on a scoring drive early in the fourth quarter, capping it with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Luke Stocker to make it 28-13. 

The Rams answered with a 102-yard kickoff return by Benny Cunningham that set up a 19-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein

Barth kicked a 24-yard field goal with 7:31 remaining. Then Winston connected with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 1:34 left to make it 31-23. 

The Buccaneers tried to get the ball back one more time with an onside kick, but Rams reserve linebacker Bryce Hager recovered it and St. Louis ran out the clock for its second straight victory.

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com


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