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Winners & Losers: Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell step up with Cooper Kupp injured

Can the Rams’ offense sustain all three receivers?

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The margin was razor thin, but the Los Angeles Rams eked out a NFC West victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. A Lucas Havrisik field goal late in the fourth quarter gave LA their first lead in the game, and the defense forced Geno Smith and company to settle for a long field goal attempt. Jason Myers’ kick seemed short and ended up just outside of the upright. The final score was 17-16, and the Rams move to 4-6 and the season.

There’s a lot to chew on from this performance. The offense was anemic for most of the first half before Matthew Stafford connected with rookie Puka Nacua just before the end of the second quarter. Seattle led 7-16 until the fourth quarter where the Rams scored 10 unanswered to edge out a win.

Who stood out on an individual level? Let’s dive in.


Aaron Donald, DE

This was one of Donald’s best individual performances on the season, but then again he just always seems to show up against the Seahawks. While he didn’t officially record a sack, he lived in the backfield and applied consistent pressure on Geno Smith—including the hit that knocked Smith out of the game for multiple drives. Drew Lock replaced Smith and missed an open throw deep down the field and then threw an interception to CB Derion Kendrick.

Lucas Havrisik, K

The Rams have certainly had their fair share of kicking struggles this year after releasing Tanner Brown at the completion of training camp and then signing Brett Maher. While Havrisik has had up and down moments over his time in Los Angeles already, he faced immense pressure on his game-winning attempt and came through.

It remains to be seen whether Havrisik can stabilize the position for the Rams and be the long term answer for LA, but he’ll always remember his big moment to take down the Seahawks.

Puka Nacua, WR

Tutu Atwell, WR

The box score doesn’t do Atwell’s contribution in this game justice, as he officially recorded a single reception for 17 yards. He drew two downfield pass interference penalties at a time where not much else was working for the Los Angeles offense. Atwell did have a drop on the game-winning drive before the Rams got bailed out on a third-and-a-mile scenario with a coverage penalty by Seattle.

Nacua was one of the only consistently productive aspects of the Rams offense on Sunday, and he finished with five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown score. It somewhat raises eyebrows that this is one of Nacua’s most productive games of late and Cooper Kupp missed most of this outing with an early ankle injury. Can all of Kupp, Atwell, and Nacua truly co-exist in this offense?

Ernest Jones, MLB

Jones missed the last game against the Green Bay Packers due to injury and made his presence felt in this one. He played sideline to sideline and notched 12 total tackles with a half sack.

Michael Hoecht, OLB

Hoecht was also active. There were a few positive plays he had while covering the flat. He also seemed to create consistent pressure from a pass rush perspective. It took some time for Hoecht to adjust to his new position on the edge of the defense, but over the last three to four games he’s starting to hit a stride.

Royce Freeman, RB

The Rams opened with a pass heavy approach, and they started to build momentum once they got the running game going. Freeman was the best running back for LA in this one, and he accumulated 73 yards on 17 carries (4.3 average). It’s clear he is a more physical and productive back than Darrell Henderson, who should either be low on the depth chart or outright released when Kyren Williams returns next week.


Cooper Kupp, WR

Kupp suffered his ankle injury fairly early in the game. He finished with a single catch for 11 yards, but it’s the plays that he didn’t make that stand out the most. For example, on a free play by the defense jumping offsides, Stafford heaved a ball downfield to a wide-open Kupp who was expecting the pass to his outside shoulder. Kupp attempted to readjust. It was a touch catch and he couldn’t hold on. At the end of the day, this was a strange play between two players who are seemingly always on the same wavelength. Kupp also was called for offensive pass interference on a quick-hitting out route.

How much does Kupp have left in the tank? Should we be concerned with the frequent rash of injuries? It’s fair to wonder if the Rams should find a way to make room for Nacua and Atwell moving forward.

Matthew Stafford, QB

LA’s franchise QB had another sub-par day and finished 17/31 (55%) for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception—good for a passer rating of 70.6.

Sure, Stafford did enough for LA to come out with a victory but you expect more from a quarterback with a four-year, $160M contract—that could force the team to stick with Stafford in 2024 and 2025 instead of fully embracing their rebuild—to perform better. It’s difficult to feel optimistic about Stafford moving forward based on his performance over the last month or so.

Darrell Henderson, RB

Henderson was ineffective in this game but Sean McVay seemed intent on getting him the ball—including on the final offensive drive in the red zone on third down. Henderson rushed six times for one yard (0.2 average) and was targeted seven times for four receptions and 28 yards. The veteran back always seems to go down on first contact. He should not be on an NFL roster and the Rams should clearly be playing Zach Evans over Henderson.

Ahkello Witherspoon, CB

I am going to excuse Derion Kendrick for his mostly rough day—including an inexcusable unnecessary roughness penalty incurred on the opening drive—because he came up with a key turnover. Still, Witherspoon had one of his worst outings of the season and allowed multiple completions downfield.