INDIANAPOLIS – Puka Nacua torched the Indianapolis Colts with nine receptions for 163 receiving yards and scored the game-winning touchdown to lead the Los Angeles Rams to a 29-23 overtime victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Rams fifth round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft ignited the offense with a one-handed grab for 26 yards on the first play from scrimmage and was tackled at the midfield horseshoe logo. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with Nacua on a slant to convert the first third down opportunity, allowing the chain gang to drop the sticks. The Rams rookie sensation made a catch to lead the offense inside Colts territory on four of the Rams’ first six drives.
Los Angeles took advantage of critical unforced errors and penalties committed by the Colts, including an out of bounds late-hit on Stafford by linebacker E.J. Speed and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Kenny Moore II after a helmet-to-helmet collision with Nacua during the Rams’ next drive.
Rams running back Kyren Williams scored a pair of 3-yard touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and finished with 103 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Trailing by two scores, Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson settled in. He kept the option and dashed right behind lead blocker Drew Ogletree for a 23-yard gain. The promising drive was killed two plays later once Richardson fumbled the football and Rams cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon recovered to regain possession for the Rams.
“We needed to make a big play,” Colts head coach Shane Steichen said. “Obviously, we were going there pretty good on that second drive and they got the turnover, we fumbled there. Who knows what could have happened there. We just weren’t clicking. I got to do a better job putting our guys in position in the first half to make those plays.”
Stafford ran play action out of shotgun and found a wide open Tyler Higbee down the seam for a 33-yard gain to drive inside the red zone. Rams kicker Brett Maher made a 40-yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-0 two minutes into the second quarter. Rams head coach Sean McVay designed constant motion during pre-snap and the Colts perpetually bit on play action, allowing Stafford and Nacua to sync up for a 32-yard play on the next drive.
Maher added a 54-yard field goal to give the Rams a 20-0 cushion before halftime and drilled a 51-yarder to increase the lead to 23-0 on the first possession of the second half.
Inside the Colts locker room, Steichen implored his players to fight for 30 more minutes to discover the veritable size of the fight in the dog. The Colts offense woke up midway through the third quarter as it took Richardson just four plays and 1:51 to lead a 75-yard touchdown drive. Richardson rolled right and threw his second career touchdown pass to TE Mo Alie-Cox, who trucked Rams defensive back Russ Yeast at the goal line for a 35-yard score. Richardson escaped the pressure and lofted a floater to Moss near the front left pylon to convert the 2-point conversion and resuscitate the crowd.
Two plays and nine seconds later, Moore jumped Tutu Atwell’s route and dove to scoop an interception inches from the turf and regain possession inside Rams territory.
Compared to the opposing Rams who did not punt once through three quarters, the Colts could get nothing going on offense with Richardson completing 5-of-14 passes for 82 yards in the same span.
“We shot ourselves in the foot multiple times,” Ogletree said. “After halftime you could really look into (Richardson’s) eyes and see he’s got that fire in him, he was ready to go. You can tell he’s going to be something special in this league for sure.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Colts receiver Alec Pierce snagged a contested catch for the longest play of the game. A roughing the passer penalty added onto the 38-yard gain to place the football inside the redzone. On third-&-goal, Richardson ran a designed QB draw with an empty backfield for a 1-yard TD to cut the deficit to 23-15. The Colts first round pick is the first rookie QB in NFL history with four rushing TDs in his first three games and became the first QB in franchise history to score a rushing TD in three consecutive games. The Colts first two scoring drives combined for ten total plays.
“I just try to focus on each and every play,” Richardson said. “Whenever we were in the huddle, I was telling the guys, ‘Let’s just move the ball and focus on each and every play and try not to rush into it.’ I did feel like I was clicking a little bit but I was just trying to trust it every play.”
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Once Indianapolis took over midway through the fourth quarter from its own 17-yard line, Richardson escaped the blitz, rolled left and found Ogletree on consecutive drop backs to push the drive to the 27-yard line. With 3:08 left in regulation, Richardson connected with TE Kylen Granson wide open on a crosser to convert fourth-&-4 to electrify the crowd before facing goal to go. On third-&-goal, Richardson found Ogletree open in the flat for his first career TD in the most opportune time.
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Steichen gave McVay a taste of his own motion medicine by sending WR Michael Pittman Jr. right, before reversing left, then back right on a sprint and Richardson found Pittman uncovered in the flat and delivered a dart to complete the two-point conversion and tie the game 23-23 with 1:56 left in regulation.
The Colts scored 23 unanswered points and had a chance to win the game in regulation following another clutch defensive stop, but the offense went three and out on its final possession of the battle.
Rams WR Ben Skowronek successfully called tails to give the offense possession to begin overtime. Los Angeles ran play action on the first play, allowing Nacua to continue creating separation against the Colts secondary and Stafford delivered a 20-yard completion for an explosive play as the crowd became silent. Two completions to Williams for first down were followed by consecutive runs by RB Ronnie Rivers. Stafford found Nacua wide open on third down for a 22-yard touchdown to secure the walk-off victory on the road.
It was the first time since 2003 that the Colts played consecutive games that needed OT to determine a winner. With all AFC South teams currently posting 2-2 records, Indianapolis hosts the divisional rival Tennessee Titans in Week 5.