What we learned: Rams dash Bucs' playoff hopes

Tavon Austin scored a pair of touchdowns to lead the St. Louis Rams (6-8) to a 31-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) on Thursday night. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Austin became the first player since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965 with five receiving touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns and a return touchdown in the same season. This has been a rare case of the offseason hype paying off, as Austin is enjoying a true breakout campaign as a consistent playmaker. He specializes in using his extraordinary speed and quickness to slip through the smallest creases in a defense.
  1. The much-hyped Offensive Rookie of the Year battle between Jameis Winston and Todd Gurley was a bit of letdown. Against a penetrating Rams defensive front, Winston was off the mark prior to an impressive four-play, 98-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter. Although he set a rookie franchise record with 363 yards while playing from behind, his interception with five minutes remaining dashed the Bucs' faint comeback hopes.

Gurley powered in for one touchdown, but was stonewalled on three straight goal-line carries after Winston's scoring drive. Unlike like last week's effort, the holes simply weren't there for Gurley to exploit. On a positive note, he joined Hall of Famers Jerome Bettis and Eric Dickerson as the only Rams rookies to reach 1,000 rushing yards.

  1. Aaron Donald bolstered his case for Defensive Player of the Year, throwing six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins around and dominating the line of scrimmage. His combination of strength, leverage and off-the-snap explosiveness is unparalleled among defensive tackles.
  1. Case Keenum played the best game of any Rams quarterback this season, generating a career-high 158.0 passer rating on 17 efficient attempts against an injury-riddled Bucs defense. He made beautiful throws on a 60-yard touchdown to Kenny Britt and a 25-yard gain to Jared Cook down the sideline. Through two games, Rob Boras appears to be a play-calling and scheming upgrade on recently deposed offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti.
  1. No running back has been harder to tackle than the hard-charging Doug Martin, who bypassed Adrian Peterson for the NFL lead with 1,305 rushing yards. He and change-of-pace option Charles Sims have been the league's most effective complementary backfield tandem this season. Martin should be one of the two choices at running back for the All-Pro team.
  1. Mike Evans is fighting himself at the catch point when he's wide open. He dropped one pass to tie Amari Cooper for the NFL lead and bobbled another. At this point, it seems to be more of a mental issue than a physical one.
  1. At 6-8, the Buccaneers will be eliminated from playoff contention if the Seahawks and Vikings win this weekend. As promising as the future is with Winston and Evans leading the show, Tampa Bay has played just one team with a winning record.
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