ST. LOUIS -- After reviewing the film from last week's loss to the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams quarterback Austin Davis acknowledged he didn't do a good enough job of taking what the defense gives him.
Heading into Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, Davis vowed to force the ball down the field less and take advantage of whatever the Seahawks were willing to cede. Late in the Rams' surprising 28-26 victory, Davis had done just that, almost to a fault.
In the first three quarters, Davis completed 13-of-14 for 77 yards, an average of just 5.9 yards per completion. But as Seattle mounted a late comeback and put itself in position to win the game, Davis suddenly needed to come up big. He hadn't been able to in the past three weeks after leading a late victory in his first start against Tampa Bay. But he found a way to lead an impressive 80-yard drive to give the Rams the winning points.
On that drive, Davis completed 4-of-5 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown to tight end Lance Kendricks. None of those throws were bigger than a 30-yarder to receiver Chris Givens on third-and-6 at Seattle's 44.
"We thought we'd get man-to-man coverage," Davis said. "When they need a play, they trust their guys to cover man-to-man. Chris, with his speed, just ran across the field. I trusted it and obviously, we worked the play all week, and when we needed it, he made a big play. That's how you win games. You've got to make big plays when the game is on the line. You're going to have a chance to go down and win the game at the end or not. Today, we did it.”
Minutes later, Davis offered another big play when he evaded Seattle's pass rush on second-and-12 and somehow shoveled a pass to tight end Jared Cook for a 9-yard gain to put the Rams in position for the fake punt that helped seal the victory.
For the day, Davis was 18-of-21 for 152 yards and two touchdowns for a rating of 128.6. That completion percentage plus punter Johnny Hekker's completion on one attempt left the Rams converting 86.3 percent of their pass attempts, the highest allowed by the Seahawks in franchise history. The quarterback rating is the highest of Davis' young career.
The key to that success? Effectively using the middle of the field. Davis majored in risk management Sunday, throwing his 21 passes an average of just 5.5 yards down the field with 18 of those attempts coming in the middle of the field. That was a logical move considering Seattle is 20th in the league in completion percentage allowed over the middle the past two seasons and star cornerback Richard Sherman usually lurks on the outside.
It also allowed Davis to come up with big plays such as the ones to Givens. He attempted just four passes more than 10 yards down the field Sunday but he completed all of them.
Most important, Davis had no turnovers, eliminating the costly plays that have helped beat the Rams in recent weeks.
"You can't ask for more out of a guy who went from third string to now starting quarterback and playing great ball," defensive end Robert Quinn said. "We've got to be consistent week in and week out and prepare for teams and finish games."