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Rams' Sean McVay on Puka Nacua's record-setting night in loss to Lions: He's a 'freaking warrior' 

The Rams might have fallen on Sunday, but rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua's star continued its rise.

Los Angeles' stud rookie was transcendent, collecting 181 yards and a touchdown on nine catches to help the Rams to the precipice of a wild-card upset, only to come up short, 24-23.

"He's a freaking stud," McVay said about Nacua. "I think the same things that you can see. He's a great competitor. He shows up big, makes plays, he's tough to tackle. He can work edges and win and separate. He can finish. This guy's a freaking warrior. He is a stud. I love the mindset and mentality that he has. If he just continues to stay humble and keep working, this guy's gonna be a problem for a long time."

Although the sting of L.A.'s defeat is still fresh, this was a season of a rapid growth for a young team that turned a rebuilding campaign into a retooling one in a hurry by winning seven of eight games down the stretch to crash the playoff party.

Principle among the new arsenal of playmakers is Nacua, who by all appearances is already one of the best fifth-round gems in NFL history.

After scoring six times in the regular season and setting new rookie records for receptions (105) and receiving yards (1,486), Nacua saved the finest performance of career thus far for last.

Not done with setting records, his 181 yards broke the rookie mark for a postseason game.

He was everything for the Rams, accounting for 49.3% of Matthew Stafford's 367 passing yards and picking up six of the offense's 22 first downs either with a catch or by drawing pass interference.

And as he has all year, Nacua made near-reckless catches in traffic look easy. He showed not just willingness but excitement to fight for extra ground. The 22-year-old gained 59 receiving yards after contact, per Next Gen Stats, the fourth-most in a game this season. That's on top of his 297 after contact during the regular season, second-most in the NFL.

Nacua's most momentous contributions came at the start of the second quarter, trailing, 14-3, and in the fourth quarter during the Rams' final drive.

Following the second of what would prove to be three straight TDs by Detroit to start the contest, the Rams desperately needed a score to keep pace when Nacua took over.

He accounted for Los Angeles' final 60 yards of a 72-yard scoring drive, first plucking a 10-yard dart from Stafford out of the air in a crowd of three defenders. On the next snap, the rookie came in motion on third-and-1 to the left of the formation, froze Cam Sutton with a hesitation move and collected a long heave before knifing between Sutton and C.J. Gardner-Johnson to find the end zone.

Later, with the Rams backed up on their own 10 and facing a 1-point deficit with 6:36 remaining, he caught a crosser near the sticks, broke a tackle and streaked 35 yards in total to set Los Angeles up with the ball near midfield at the 45.

Like most of the offense's drives all night, though, this one eventually stalled in Lions' territory.

Stafford went to Nacua again on a crucial third-and-14, but he was unable to collect a catch after some contact from Sutton at the top of his route.

The Rams punted, never to see the ball again.

That was partly the story for McVay's offense, which benefitted from Nacua's stellar play and a vintage performance from Stafford, but had to settle for field goals on the Lions' 11-yard line or closer three separate times.

It'll be a lesson learned for the Rams as they return next year -- to the chagrin of 31 other teams -- with Nacua benefitting from a full season of exemplary play under his belt.

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