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Rams WR Puka Nacua creates noise in offensive rookie of the year race during Thursday's win over Saints 

With an ever-present grin, a sticky set of hands and some historically gaudy statistics, Puka Nacua has introduced himself to the NFL world in phenomenal fashion.

His masterful showing Thursday might well have been the best performance of an all-star rookie season -- and created some noise that the offensive rookie of the year race isn't in the bag for a quarterback in Houston.

The Brigham Young product hauled in nine receptions for a season-high 164 yards and a touchdown before coming up clutch on special teams and in the run game to help the Los Angeles Rams to a 30-22 win over the New Orleans Saints.

"He's such a talented kid," Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said after the game on Prime Video. "He's a great guy to be around, and to be honest with you, it's one of the more impressive rookie campaigns I've ever seen from any player at any position. Just what he's going through week in and week out. What he puts his body through, and he just shows up on Sundays or Thursdays, or whatever it is and just, he plays his ass off. It's great for us. We got all those guys rolling. We're tough to deal with."

The Rams (8-7) have rolled to wins in five of their last six, scored 28 points or more in five straight and sit inside the playoff bubble as the NFC’s No. 6 seed.

Nacua has played a major role from Week 1 through Thursday, offering up statistical evidence that Stafford lauding how impressive his wideout's season has been is hardly hyperbole.

For the easy-going 22-year-old, it's just fun -- super fun.

"So excited. Super fun," Nacua told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche when asked about moving the Rams closer to the postseason. "I feel like we're playing our best football right now, and everybody is just enjoying the moment. We go out there, and just the confidence we have in each other is making playing football so much fun."

Following Thursday's triumph and dazzling showing, Nacua has 96 receptions, 1,327 yards and five touchdown catches. He's currently fifth all-time for the most rookie receiving yards, trailing the Houston Oilers' Bill Groman (1,473 yards, 1960) for the top spot, and he's third in receptions, looking to surpass the Arizona Cardinals' Anquan Boldin (101, 2003) and the Miami Dolphins' Jaylen Waddle (104, 2021).

As the weeks go by and the statistical splendor becomes commonplace, Nacua's name is bandied about with legends. On Thursday, he recorded his fourth game with 150-plus scrimmage yards, the most for a rookie in the Super Bowl era, having broken a previous stalemate with Hall of Famer Randy Moss and current Cincinnati Bengals standout Ja’Marr Chase at three, per NFL Research.

Nacua began the night with a 2-yard touchdown catch to culminate a Rams opening drive that went a season-long 95 yards. He ended the evening very much as the team's closer.

After the Saints had drawn to within the final score, they attempted an onside kick. It was the sure hands of Nacua that recovered Blake Grupe's best intentions. Two plays later, head coach Sean McVay put the ball in Nacua's hands, and the rookie responded with a 9-yard run off a jet sweep for a first down that allowed L.A. to run out the clock.

"He's outstanding, you know?" McVay said. "I couldn't be more grateful for the contributions. What a freaking run on the jet sweep. Has a bunch of plays through the pass game. You guys have seen it week in and week out. You talk about that balance. You can't have the balance if you don't have receivers that are willing to dig out support and do some of the things that he does. You see around the league (C.J.) Stroud's had a great year, but this guy is -- he would get my vote. He's really special, but the best part about him is he doesn't worry about those things. He worries about just being a great teammate, continuing to improve his game and sure love this team. He's just one of those guys that you really love."

Stroud has been sensational in leading the Houston Texans into the playoff picture, and in the eyes of most, has been the OROTY frontrunner. However, he missed last week and could miss this one. If his numbers wane and the Texans falter, the history being written by Nacua could garner some more votes.

He still has two more games to state his case and make voters believe he deserves to be in the running with Stroud.

Nonetheless, the Rams are very much in the running for the postseason, and Nacua is a major reason why.

With Cooper Kupp out for the first four games of the season, it was a rookie fifth-rounder who stepped up for Stafford and the Rams. He's continued to produce since Kupp's returned. He's continued to produce one of the greatest rookie seasons for a receiver in NFL history.

And he's done it was a smile.

"I would say very hard," Nacua said when asked by Wyche how hard the Rams are to stop when the offense is clicking. "When we are able to execute and perfect the game plan that coach McVay has dialed up for us, it makes everything super fun. You know (Stafford) is never going to miss out there. He makes the job as a wide receiver super easy, and then when (Kyren Williams) is running the way he does, it makes blocking so much more fun. I got to do a better job of blocking. There were some ones left out there, but when we are able to get the dub, it makes everything feel better."

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