ST. LOUIS — For Rams receiver Stedman Bailey, his first NFL touchdown couldn’t have come at a better time.
With St. Louis star receiver Tavon Austin inactive Sunday because of an ankle injury, Bailey took advantage of a rare opportunity, taking a double reverse 27 yards for a touchdown that jump-started the Rams’ 23-13 victory.
The trick play came on the first snap after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned the ball over in the second quarter.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher acknowledged that right after a turnover was the perfect time for a play the Rams had never run before.
Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy reluctantly agreed.
“That was smart,” McCoy said. “Coach Fisher, he’ll try anything. They have nothing to lose, so they’re going for it all. After a sudden change, you’ve got to expect either a shot to the end zone or a trick play.
“We’ve been trained on that since we got in the league.”
The Bucs got off a to a good start when running back Bobby Rainey capped an 85-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead with 6:31 left in the first quarter. The Rams tied the game on running back Zac Stacy’s 1-yard run early in the second quarter.
But the game turned quickly in the Rams’ favor four plays later when Rainey fumbled after being hit behind the line of scrimmage by Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree. St. Louis defensive end William Hayes recovered at the Tampa Bay 27-yard line.
On first down, quarterback Kellen Clemens handed the ball to wide receiver Chris Givens, who was moving from left to right. Givens pitched the ball to Bailey, who was moving from right to left. Bailey caught the ball at the 37-yard line, turned the corner 2 yards later and dashed into the end zone.
The touchdown gave the Rams a 14-7 lead they never relinquished.
“My eyes lit up like a Christmas tree knowing that was going to be my first touchdown,” Bailey said. “It was so wide open, I was kind of jogging. I felt I could have walked in. The defense never knew what was happening. It was executed very well. It was a great call in a perfect situation.”
Clemens was part of the convoy of blockers that included left tackle Rodger Saffold, right tackle Joe Barksdale and tight end Cory Harkey.
“I would like to take credit as the guy that sprung him,” Clemens said. “But it was such a great call and schemed up so well there was nobody there. The coaching point for me when we installed it on Wednesday was maybe get in someone’s way other than Stedman. I just had to get out of the way.”
Even though the trick play came at an obvious time, the Bucs failed to stop it.
“We made a mistake on that,” Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano said. “We had a breakdown. It is a good play, but it shouldn’t be a touchdown because someone should be on that guy. We busted it.”