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Injury leaves Rams' standout cornerback in crutches

Injury leaves Rams' standout cornerback in crutches
Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson is carted off the field after suffering an ankle injury in the second half. (Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

A 30-19 defeat to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at the Coliseum was not the only loss suffered by the Rams.

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson left the game because of an ankle injury. He was on crutches and his right foot was in a large protective boot as he exited the locker room.

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Johnson, who is earning nearly $14 million this season as a franchise-tagged player, has been one of the Rams' biggest play-makers.

He caused an interception against Tampa Bay by crashing into a receiver. He intercepted a pass against Arizona and almost had another.

He entered Sunday's game with eight passes knocked down. Against the Bills, he made two tackles and broke up a pass before he was injured.

"That's one of our best defenders over there," cornerback E.J. Gaines said in the locker room after the game. "Hopefully, he can get back right for next week and get that leg healthy and come back and keep making plays.

Rams offensive lineman Cody Wichmann suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and did not return.

Surprise but no surprise

Rams receiver Bradley Marquez said he was not surprised when Coach Jeff Fisher called for a fake punt with the Rams at their 23 yard-line and trailing by four points with less than four minutes left.

"As special teams, we pride ourselves on being able to execute whenever our number is called," Marquez said.

With Johnny Hekker back to receive the snap, the ball instead went to Marquez. He ran to his right but was tackled short of the first down by cornerback Ronald Darby.

"He sniffed it out and was able to set the edge," Marquez said.

Fisher said the Rams had executed the play in practice.

"I thought, 'If that thing works, it's good stuff, really good stuff," Fisher said. "But it didn't. They don't always work, but that type of approach in special teams has taken us a long way."

Debut performance

Rookie receiver Pharoh Cooper made his debut after sitting out the final exhibition and first four games because of a shoulder injury.

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"It felt good to be back on the field competing with the boys again," said Cooper, a fourth-round draft pick from South Carolina.

Cooper returned a kickoff 23 yards.

He was targeted once, on a third-quarter play when Nickell Robey-Coleman stepped in front of him, intercepted a Case Keenum pass and ran 41 yards for a touchdown.

Austin involved

The Rams are always working the ball to running back Todd Gurley, but their opening drive made another directive clear: Tavon Austin was going to touch the ball, one way or another.

Keenum targeted Austin four times, and three of the passes were completed. He also ran the ball once, lining up in the backfield and bursting through the line for an eight-yard gain. Austin's seven catches were a season-high, as were his three rushes and 26 yards. He was targeted 10 times, while no other Rams receiver was targeted more than six.

But Austin didn't find the end zone — the Rams' only touchdown was a two-yard run by Gurley — and chose to critique that shortcoming instead of his contributions.

"We got to score in that red zone," Austin said. "We keep getting down there, but not scoring in the red zone."

Austin helped push the Rams' closer to the end zone on a few occasions, leading to Greg Zuerlein field goals. Austin caught a 31-yard pass in the second quarter before Zuerlein hit his second of four field goals. In the fourth, Austin ran nine yards to the Buffalo 10-yard line before Zuerlein knocked through another.

It was not enough to beat the Bills, but it was an encouraging performance from a play-maker the Rams will need as the season progresses.

"You want to put the ball in the play-makers' hands," Keenum said. "We want to do that every week."

Times correspondent Jesse Dougherty contributed to this report.

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