The window of time separating pregame and postgame tailgating proved minimal Sunday. Credit the St. Louis Rams. Or, if the mood strikes, blame them.
Either way, by humiliating Indianapolis by a surprisingly lopsided 38-8 score, coach Jeff Fisher’s team wound up inspiring Colts fans to direct themselves toward any number of Lucas Oil Stadium’s exits early.
St. Louis started the scoring with a defensive touchdown and added three more by way of its offense. Sprinkle in rookie Tavon Austin’s 98-yard punt return for a score early in the second quarter, and the Rams sledge-hammered Indy’s collective psyche from virtually every angle.
“I take full responsibility as the head football coach. I did not have this team ready to play,” said Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano, whose 6-3 squad still maintains a two-game lead over second-place Tennessee in the AFC South.
“I thought we practiced well. It was nothing during the course of the week, but obviously I didn’t have them ready to play.”
Not three minutes into the game the Rams exerted their will when defensive end Chris Long scooped up a fumble by Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and rumbled 45 yards for the game’s first points.
Zac Stacy’s 1-yard plunge at 14:30 of the second period pushed the lead to 14-0.
Then the excitement really began in the form of Austin, the Rams’ 5-foot-8, 176-pound blur of a receiver/return specialist who was taken by St. Louis with the eighth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
After another former West Virginia Mountaineer, Colts’ punter Pat McAfee, delivered a kick deep inside St. Louis territory, one of his teammates instinctively batted the ball back into the field of play before it could enter the end zone.
It landed in the hands of Austin, who proceeded to use his 4.34 speed to tightrope the visitor’s sideline en route to a 21-0 advantage.
Austin followed up with 57- and 81-yard touchdown receptions from quarterback Kellen Clemens, making it 35-0 only 65 seconds into the third quarter. The Rams eventually led 38-0 before Indianapolis finally mustered a pulse with Luck’s 13-yard touchdown pass to tailback Donald Brown.
The fact Luck wound up as his team’s leading rusher with 17 yards demonstrates how ineffective the Colts were in trying to get a ground attack established. Trent Richardson’s final stat line of five carries for two yards also speaks volumes.
“It’s tough when you can’t run the ball. Credit to them for forcing us into a one-dimensional attack,” said Luck, who finished 29 of 47 for 353 yards and three interceptions. “(St. Louis) did a great job up front. Good football team and they beat us. Not much else to really say about it. They beat us fair and square in every which way they probably could.”
Indianapolis travels to Tennessee to face the Titans on Thursday night. Pagano, for one, plans to have a short memory and insists his players must, too.
“We’ve got to move on. We didn’t play well. It’s a tough business. It’s not for the meek. It’s for grown men,” Pagano said. “It is what it is. We got our butts kicked, and we’ve got to move on.”