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Rams stock up, stock down: Is Puka Nacua taking over rookie of the year race?

Rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua showed up in a big way on Thursday Night

New Orleans Saints v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams got a crucial win on Thursday Night, beating the New Orleans Saints 30-22. It was a game with huge playoff implications, meaning that the Rams stars needed to show up in a big moment. They certainly did just that as players like Matthew Stafford, Kyren Williams, Puka Nacua, Aaron Donald, and Ernest Jones all had big games. Here’s stock up, stock down following the Rams win.

Stock Up: WR Puka Nacua

Just when you thought Puka Nacua couldn’t get any better, he does what he did on Thursday Night. Nacua had nine receptions for 164 yards and a touchdown. Whenever the Rams needed a play, he made one. On 4th-and-goal on the opening drive, he caught the touchdown. Closing the game out, it was Nacua that got the game-clinching first down while fighting for extra yards along the sideline and staying in-bounds.

Nacua is now just 129 yards away from the rookie receiving record. At this point, it seems inevitable that he’ll break it. If he does, he should absolutely win the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Thursday was a must-win game and Nacua showed up in a big way.

Stock Down: Fourth Quarter Defense

Over the past two weeks, the Rams defense has dominated for 3.5 quarters and then given up a few late scores to make the game closer than it needs to be. Now, the blocked punt didn’t help, but you can also go back to the week before against the Baltimore Ravens.

Games are won and lost in the fourth quarter. This Rams defense showed up in big moments on Thursday Night. However, they still tend to give up the big play at inopportune times. Ahkello Witherspoon has good recovery speed, but tends to get beat deep. Cobie Durant got beat over the top as well. The secondary will be a problem that gets solved in the offseason. With that said, they made Thursday much closer that it should have been.

Stock Up: Rams Offensive Line

The offensive line deserves a lot of credit. They only gave up nine pressures and a sack on Thursday Night and continue to win that battle at the line of scrimmage. Rob Havenstein made his presence felt in his return which also helped Kevin Dotson on the right side. Alaric Jackson has been steady at left tackle over the last few weeks as well.

This does not mean that the Rams shouldn’t look to upgrade at a spot or two this offseason. However, this group is playing well and playing as a cohesive unit. Stafford and Williams are both playing well and that’s a testament to the guys up front.

Stock Down: Special Teams

I’m not sure there’s been a week this season where the special teams has ‘gone up’, but the stock just continues to plummet. Lucas Havrisik remains not being the answer at kicker. He missed a 47-yard field goal and is just 2-for-6 in the 40-49 range this season. Havrisik’s missed field goal turned into a Saints touchdown.

Later in the game, the Rams had a punt blocked that once again turned into a Saints touchdown and two-point conversion. The Rams are lucky Thursday Night wasn’t close or those special teams mistakes could have been the difference in winning or losing a big game.

Stock Up: LB Ernest Jones

Big time players show up in big time games and Ernest Jones certainly showed up on Thursday Night. He remains the best blitzing linebacker in the NFL and added five pressures against the Saints which led the team. His pass breakup and sack on the opening drive took New Orleans out of field goal range.

Jones is becoming one of the biggest leaders on the defense next to Aaron Donald. Raheem Morris uses him as a bit of a swiss-army knife on the defense which allows for a lot of creativity and this is a defense that has to win with creativity. Jones is an important piece of the defense and has been one of the best players on the field down the stretch.