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Tavon Austin breaks through against Redskins

LANDOVER, Md. -- St. Louis Rams multipurpose weapon Tavon Austin grew up in Baltimore and estimated he had about 32 friends and family at Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins.

With so much support in the stands, Austin made sure to put on a show, racking up 203 all-purpose yards on just 11 touches, including a 78-yard punt return for a score in the third quarter. With the Rams defense acting as the steak in the Rams' 24-0 victory, it was Austin who provided the sizzle.

"I think you saw him today, how special he is," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "The touchdown (run) he had last week was pretty impressive. Unfortunately early in his career he’s had a number of returns called back. It wasn’t until the last punt that they rugby-styled, end-over-end it with some hang time and that’s what he has been getting up until today so we were hoping we’d get some decent punts and we did."

Austin torched the Redskins with four punt returns for a total of 143 yards, an average of 35.8 yards per attempt. He also forced the Redskins to worry about him on defense, taking five handoffs for 46 yards, mostly on jet sweeps and quick end arounds that forced Washington's defense to extend sideline to sideline. More often than not, an Austin run led directly to success on runs up the middle for the running backs.

In the second quarter, Austin took a handoff around right end for a gain of 8 to midfield. On the next play, the seas parted for Benny Cunningham to gain 20. In the third quarter, Austin carried twice in a row for gains of 8 and 14 yards. On the next play, running back Tre Mason gained 15 yards.

The simple threat of having Austin allowed the Rams to be more diverse in their play calling and led to big things not only for him but the offense at large. After some early-season struggles, Austin has looked decidedly more at home recently as he's scored a touchdown in each of the past three weeks.

"I definitely feel more comfortable," Austin said. "I’m just glad with the plays I get. They believe in me. I’m just glad my blockers always set up the right way. I’m just thankful God blessed me with the speed and everything and I can make a play."

Making that play had been in the works for a while and, after returns of 37 and 28 yards earlier in the game, Austin's touchdown had a feeling of inevitability. That doesn't even account for the many near misses he's had this season on punt returns.

"It definitely felt good," Austin said. "It’s been a couple times now, the punt team I feel like we have one of the best punt returns in the league. It’s all about just being patient. Our coach is always saying to us and that’s what we did. I’m just glad I was able to make a play for us and come out with the win."