Someone please grab the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, polish it up nicely, and hand it to Puka Nacua. Or better yet, throw it him – because there’s no doubt he’ll catch it.
With apologies to Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, who’s had an unbelievable record-setting season, Puka Nacua came out and stole the award from Stroud on Thursday with a masterful game in the Los Angeles Rams’ 30-22 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
With nine dazzling receptions for 164 yards and a touchdown, Nacua came up big in a critical game on a national stage for the Los Angeles Rams (8-7), who moved up to the NFC’s No. 6 seed and now have a 74-percent chance of making the playoffs.
Making sliding catches and running through tackles, Nacua’s performance Thursday was a continuation of his breakout rookie season, and it has put the fifth-round draft pick within reach of some all-time records with two weeks to go.
Puka Nacua Joining Elite Company
Puka Nacua, who was the NFL’s sixth-leading receiver in receptions through Week 15, is on pace to have the greatest rookie season for a wide receiver in NFL history.
His 96 receptions put him only eight behind Jaylen Waddle’s record of 104 set in 2021. And Nacua’s 1,327 yards have him within 146 yards of Ja’Marr Chase’s rookie record of 1,455 yards, set the same year.
On Thursday night alone, Nacua passed such players as Randy Moss and Odell Beckham Jr. in receiving yards. He now just has Chase (1,455), Justin Jefferson (1,400), and Anquan Boldin (1,377) ahead of him.
In receptions, the names he passed were Jefferson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Terry Glenn, Eddie Royal, Beckham, and Michael Thomas, with only Waddle (104) and Boldin (101) left to catch.
Rams Needed All Puka Nacua Could Give
The Rams, who’ve now won five of their past six games, needed every bit of Puka Nacua’s superhuman effort to turn back the New Orleans Saints (7-8), who came into the game without allowing a touchdown in their previous two games.
Matthew Stafford continued his red-hot play with 328 yards and two touchdowns, and Kyren Williams — another out-of-nowhere star — carried for 104 yards and a touchdown as the Rams rolled to a 27-7 after three quarters.
But the Saints fought back to within 30-22 and tried an onside kick that — who else? — Nacua fell on with 3:53 left, as the Rams then ran out the clock to secure the victory.
Stroud has been the favorite for the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award for several weeks, and he’s set several rookie records while quarterbacking the Houston Texans. But unfortunately, Stroud is about to miss his second straight game Sunday while in concussion protocol.
Puka Nacua caught everything thrown his way Thursday night. It looks like he’s caught Stroud as well.