INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Rookie receiver Puka Nacua has outplayed all expectations of a fifth-round draft pick this season, but the Los Angeles Rams had a scary moment with their young star in the second quarter when he left the game with injuries to his ribs and shoulder.
After making a 20-yard catch on the Cleveland Browns sideline, Nacua said he landed on the ball as he fell to the ground, causing the injuries. Nacua stayed down on the sideline and was checked out by the Rams' medical staff before slowly walking off the field.
"What an unbelievable catch he makes on the sideline," head coach Sean McVay said after the Rams' 36-19 win. "I thought he was dead. And then he comes back to life. ... But he is such a tough competitor. I mean the way that he battles through things, the physicality at which he plays this game, he brings an energy to our team that I think you guys can all feel when you watch. It's why he's so fun as a competitor, whether he's got the ball or whether he doesn't have the ball."
Nacua was asked if he felt dead after that play, and he said, "A little bit."
"I wasn't breathing and my shoulder didn't feel like it was in the right place," Nacua said. "But I was good though."
Nacua went into the locker room in the second quarter for scans and some mobility and strength testing to see if he would be able to return to the game. Nacua came back into the game to start the second half, throwing a block on his first play back in.
"He's a tough dude," wide receiver Cooper Kupp said. "What he did was pretty impressive. Super impressive ... For him to play through that is a big deal."
Nacua's 20-yard catch was his fourth and final one of the day, although he had a 31-yard run down the Rams' sideline to set up Los Angeles' game-winning touchdown in the third quarter. The rookie had four catches for 105 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown, before his injury. The win pushed the Rams to 6-6 on the season and into firm contention for one of the NFC wild card spots.
Nacua now has 77 catches for 1,029 yards, setting the franchise record for a rookie in receiving yards. His yardage total is also the fourth-most through a player's first 12 games since the 1970 merger, trailing Odell Beckham Jr. (1,305), Justin Jefferson (1,039) and Anquan Boldin (1,032), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"He's a grown man," McVay said. "For a rookie, the way he plays this game, even when you look at the way that we were operating where it's pretty obvious that the run concept that we're running, the type of play where the point of attack is, and he was right there and did a great job against as good a defense as there is in this league. And I thought our guys really answered the bell. We've got tremendous respect for this league, knowing that every single week there's so many different challenges that you have to navigate through, but I'm really loving working with this group.
"Puka definitely embodies a lot of the things that are right about this team."