It looks like Puka Nacua, the Los Angeles Rams’ budding star rookie, was down on his luck in Week 1 after all.
Nacua, a fifth-round pick of the BYU Rams last April, shocked the NFL world last week when he had 10 catches for 119 yards in Los Angeles’ victory over the Seattle Seahawks. But Nacua followed up with an even better performance that was tied to NFL history.
Nacua accounted for 15 of Stafford’s 20 targets against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, totaling 147 yards. Those 15 receptions represent the most receptions by a rookie in a single game in NFL history.
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The record, held jointly by Washington’s Roy Helu, New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley and Pittsburgh’s Najee Harris, was broken when Nacua had a 17-yard catch late in the fourth quarter.
Nacua is also the first rookie to have double-digit receptions in each of his first two NFL games.
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And that’s not all. Nacua’s 25 receptions this year are a new league record for a rookie in his first two games. 49ers legend Earl Cooper held the record at age 19 in 1980.
The Rams were unable to secure another victory, however, despite Nacua’s offensive efforts. The 49ers were able to force crucial turnovers to ultimately earn a 30-23 victory to move to 2-0, while the Rams fell to 1-1 to start the season.
Nacua’s emergence as Stafford’s top option comes as Cooper Kupp, the 2021 Offensive Player of the Year as the Rams’ top receiver, is on injured reserve with a hamstring injury . Kupp’s absence left many questions about how the Rams would start the season.
Nacua does not just fill this absence: he thrives because of it.
Head coach Sean McVay clearly likes what Nacua has brought to his receiving corps. And knowing his offensive mind, he’ll be sure to involve Nacua and Kupp when the latter returns to the fold.
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We’ll see what Nacua can do in his third NFL game next week when the Rams travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals on “Monday Night Football.”