Originally published by RamsNewswire.com
There wasn’t much for either team to play for in the Week 18 matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers had already clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed and the Rams were going to be in the Playoffs as either a No. 6 or No. 7 seed. With that, nearly every star from both teams rested, with the notable exception of Puka Nacua.
Nacua was on the verge of making NFL history by breaking both the rookie receptions and receiving yards record. He was four catches and 29 yards away from securing both heading into the Rams’ final game. And perhaps no one was more aware of this than 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Shanahan knew that Nacua needed to play in some portion of Week 18 to make history, and it gave the head coach some motivation in a game that was otherwise meaningless for him. His mission was to extend Nacua’s game as much as possible.
“No, we talked. We both knew what this game was for both of us,” Shanahan said of his pregame conversations with Sean McVay. “But we both know we want to win, but first thing is trying to keep our players safe. We were just trying our butts off to keep them from getting one more yard and one more completion to Puka so he could play him the whole game.”
Shanahan was by no means rooting for an injury to Nacua but he was hoping to fatigue him for the Rams’ postseason game next week by requiring him to play the full game. Of course, that didn’t work. Nacua set the records at the 11:59 mark of the third quarter and was promptly removed from the game.
“Oh yeah. Our goal was to just keep him going the whole game. But we knew it was going to be tough. We knew he only needed one more catch and one more yard, but we tried our hardest,” Shanahan admitted.
Shanahan said the motivation to do this came from the knowledge that he’s not the only head coach with this type of mindset.
“No, I’d expect it,” Shanahan said when asked if the situation was reversed. “That’s why we’d throw to someone else open. I was hoping they were going to do that, but I think they wanted to get him out pretty fast. I’m just glad he had to come in the third. It was a small victory.”
The Rams would go on to win the game behind Carson Wentz’s three touchdowns to secure the No. 6 seed in the NFC and a Wild Card Weekend matchup with the Detroit Lions.
Carson Wentz had a lot of fun starting for Rams
Getting the win may not have been hugely important for the Rams, but it was a big moment for Wentz in his first start in over a year.
“It was fun. It was a lot of fun,” Wentz said. “It’s been over a year for me since I got game action and it’s been a weird year and season for me, but I had a lot of fun out there. It was fun to get to win, especially. But just playing with these guys, some of the guys I’ve been taking practice reps with on scout team, different faces out there. We all had a lot of fun and getting the win was even nicer.”
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