The Los Angeles Rams did more than silence the “12th man” inside arguably the loudest venue west of the Rocky Mountains on Sunday, September 10. Wide receivers not named Cooper Kupp silenced the doubt that the Rams would struggle immensely without the prized wideout.
Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell — the former earning early trust as a rookie and the latter given the greenlight to be more involved with the offense in year three — became 100-yard wide receivers as the underdog Rams snatched the soul out of the Seattle Seahawks 30-13. Both upstart wideouts did that against a Seahawks defense featuring two Pro Bowlers in the secondary (Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs) and a top 2022 rookie ballhawk (Tariq Woolen) from a year ago.
And both sent out some strong messages about their explosive afternoon in the Pacific Northwest.
Atwell Makes Early Prediction
Beginning with Atwell, he entered Lumen Field with just 18 receptions in his first two seasons.
He snatched six passes for 119 yards — and brought the deep ball element the Rams originally drafted him for in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Atwell’s day came at a needed time. In season three, he’s had a slow start to his career as he’s battled an injured shoulder and a fight for playing time.
As most of the NFL world wrote off the Rams as they trekked to Seattle with Kupp on injured reserve, Atwell took advantage of Kupp’s absence as the leading veteran wideout.
In his first two seasons, he’s had to share the WR room with Robert Woods, Allen Robinson and then this summer, Super Bowl winners Tyler Johnson and Demarcus Robinson. But now, Atwell shared to the L.A. media what’s different for him this season.
“Just more opportunities, man,” Atwell said after the win (h/t Rams team website).
But then came his big prediction and message after his first-career 100-yard game after making his fifth career start.
“More chances coming my way, and I’m just going to make the most of them,” Atwell said.
Nacua Reveals he Never Lost Confidence After Drops
Nacua’s breakout afternoon nearly didn’t happen.
For his first first catch attempt, Nacua tried to stretch his hands but dropped his first potential NFL grab. He also had another drop while in traffic during the first half.
The Rams and quarterback Matthew Stafford, though, kept throwing to him to see what kind of rhythm he can get into. Sure enough, he was able to make a Kupp-like toe drag sideline grab:
But, when did he believe he started to finally settle?
“Shoot, probably after my first drop, the under route,” Nacua said. “It was like, ‘holy cow,’ he’s coming to be and I gotta be more – not that I wasn’t prepared, but I was like, ‘okay, now I’m on my p’s and q’s because I feel like I gotta be my biggest critic. I let the first one go.”
Nacua added “I was so excited, like, the first one, I gotta be ready, I gotta snag it, and of course the first one goes, we have a miscommunication.”
There was no sign of a frustrated QB1, though. He instead shared this to the rookie.
“But Stafford, as I dropped it, he was the first one to come up and be like, ‘hey, you’re good, that was on me,'” Nacua said. “It helps me to keep the confidence going, so a big help from him.”
And the end result was Nacua landing in the franchise record books — including shattering a mark once held by Kupp.