LA came out roaring with a 14-point first quarter, but they only managed nine points over the remainder of regulation as rookie QB Anthony Richardson and the Colts scored 23 unanswered point to force overtime. The Rams had several moments where they could have re-seized momentum and shift the game in their favor; however, it took rookie WR Puka Nacua’s first career touchdown in overtime to finally seal victory. The final score was 29 Rams, 23 Colts.
It’s a win that doesn’t necessarily feel great for the Rams, but they were in need of a victory after dropping two straight. These are the individual performances that helped keep LA on the right side of the final score in this outing.
Puka Nacua, WR
The rookie phenom finished Sunday’s game with nine receptions for 163 yards and his first career touchdown. The box score could have been even more impressive for him if it weren’t for two chunk yardage plays that were called back due to penalty.
What Nacua has accomplished through four games defies any realistic expectations for any rookie, let alone one who was drafted late into the fifth round. He has accumulated 39 catches for 501 yards already in 2023.
But stats are stats. When the Rams’ lead was bleeding and the Colts had all the momentum behind them, Nacua hauled in a 22-yard catch and run from Matthew Stafford on third-and-long to walk-off Indianapolis. As far as first touchdown moments go, it doesn’t get any better or any more special.
THE LEGEND OF PUKA NACUA GROWS!— PFF (@PFF) October 1, 2023
WALK-OFF GAME-WINNER pic.twitter.com/WYRXJxx9vc
Matthew Stafford, QB
Stafford also deserves his share of credit for leading the game-winning drive in overtime. Late in the game there were unfortunate drops or missed opportunities by Tutu Atwell and Tyler Higbee (two), but the veteran kept a level demeanor and never seemed phased. All-in-all he finished 27 of 40 for 319 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
LA’s signal caller had 133 yards in the opening quarter alone, which is the highest mark reached by a passer over the 2023 season so far. But that statistic also shows how LA’s offense slowed over the remaining three quarters.
It wasn’t all pretty for Stafford, who had a brutal interception that started the Colts’ rally—but he gutted through injury to help stop the bleeding and was a major part in keeping LA in the win column Sunday.
Nacua has 6 catches (7 targets) for 115 yards (of Matthew Stafford's 223 passing yards) as the Rams lead Indy, 23-8 early in the fourth quarter.pic.twitter.com/533lCj9A29— Sean Walker (@ActuallyDSW) October 1, 2023
Derion Kendrick, CB
Ahkello Witherspoon had been the Rams’ best and most consistent corner entering this game, but Derion Kendrick has strung together two encouraging performances over the last couple of weeks. While Witherspoon had a couple of big completions allowed on his side of the field, including a long bomb to Michael Pittman where the corner was also called with defensive pass interference, it didn’t seem like there was much to be had on Kendrick’s side.
The second-year corner also had a tackle for loss.
Kyren Williams, RB
100-yard rushers are far from a common occurrence for Stafford-led offenses, but Williams crossed the century mark in only his fourth start with the veteran quarterback. The second-year back finished with 25 carries for 103 yards (4.1 average) and two touchdowns on the ground. He also added three receptions for 24 yards, including two catch and runs on the game-winning drive to stay ahead of the chains. The two overtime catches were probably the most impressive aspect of the RB’s performance on Sunday.
Williams has six total touchdowns in four games.
Kyren Williams has his second touchdown of the day and his third multi-TD game in the first four weeks of the season.— Tyler Horka (@tbhorka) October 1, 2023
Holy moly. The Notre Dame product is on an absolute heater. pic.twitter.com/6fvKsnBCw7
Michael Hoecht, OLB
Anthony Richardson is an athletic speciman unlike any other we’ve seen in the NFL. Hoecht is an outside linebacker that entered the NFL as an interior defensive lineman, but he has incredible straight-line speed for someone his size.
While Hoecht has struggled to contain the edges of the defense in the run game in recent weeks, his athleticism played an important role in bottling up Richardson—and the OLB cornered the rookie in the backfield on several occasions.
Michael Hoecht chased down Richardson from behind.— SeattleRams (@seattlerams_nfl) October 1, 2023
Ernest Jones, MLB
Jones had a team-leading 10 tackles and had a very active afternoon. Similar to Hoecht, he played an important role in bottling up the athletic quarterback and finished with a sack as well.
The third-year linebacker had some lapses in coverage, but nothing egregious enough to mention here.
Joe Noteboom, LT
Kevin Dotson, RG
The Rams seemed optimistic that LT Alaric Jackson would play this weekend despite missing most of practice. Instead, Jackson was inactive along with the reserve who filled in for him last week, Zack Thomas.
Noteboom slid from RG over to left tackle—his natural position—and mostly played well. At one point he was called for holding to bring back an intermediate catch by Atwell. Kevin Dotson, who Los Angeles acquired prior to Week 1 in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, slid in at RG and proved effective. Dotson has a reputation as a reliable pass protector but doesn’t create much space in the run game, but that wasn’t an issue with Williams over the 100-yard mark and Ronnie Rivers adding another 47 as well.
Brett Maher, K
While we’ll never know for sure this would be the case, veteran kicker Brett Maher missed two field goals that reasonably could have stopped the bleeding and helped the Rams secure a victory in regulation—making overtime unnecessary. One of the misses came just before the half after Williams had multiple long carries to position LA into scoring position. Maher finished three of five on the day on field goal attempts and made both point after tries. He had a long of 54-yards.
It’s not a good day when you have to try five field goals, but when you do your veteran kicker needs to be more reliable.
Maher currently calculating how many steps it is to walk back to Los Angeles.— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) October 1, 2023