Deommodore Lenoir

Lenoir ‘sad' Rams' Nacua earned NFL rookie receiving records vs. 49ers

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Deommodore Lenoir was disappointed that Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua broke the NFL rookie record for receiving yards and the record for most receptions by a rookie against the 49ers on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

After the 49ers' 21-20 loss, Lenoir made it clear that he and the rest of the 49ers' defense were aware that Nacua was going for the records, as the Rams wideout entered the game only needing 29 yards and four receptions. 

“Yeah, I was sad. That first half was -- speaking for myself right now -- my whole mindset was, ‘He’s not going to break the record on me.’ That’s just how I feel," Lenoir told reporters. “We knew he needed 28, 29 yards to get the record. So, we [were] zeroed in, we didn’t want him to break it. If he did break it, he [was going to] have to play all four quarters.”

Considering that both teams had already clinched NFL playoff berths, Nacua’s record chase was a significant storyline heading into the matchup between the NFC West rivals. While the Rams rested starting QB Matthew Stafford, backup QB Carson Wentz targeted Nacua multiple times on Los Angeles’ opening drive, intent on breaking the record.

Despite the focus on preventing Nacua from making NFL history, the rookie WR had already tied the record by the end of the first quarter via a 19-yard TD catch.

As coach Kyle Shanahan pointed out during a postgame interview, the 49ers did not want to make it easy for Nacua to get the record even when he was so close to getting it after the first quarter.

“Our goal was to just keep him going the whole game," Shanahan told reporters after the 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.”

However, it only took a few more receptions for Nacua to establish the new marks, much to the chagrin of Lenoir and the rest of the 49ers' defense.  

The NFL rookie record for receiving yards had stood for 63 years, with Bill Groman setting the mark in 1960 for the Houston Oilers, while the record for rookie receptions of 104 was set by Miami Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle in 2021. And now Nacua owns both of them.

While the 49ers got solid performances out of backups Sam Darnold and Elijah Mitchell, they ultimately suffered a one-point loss to the Rams as Jake Moody missed a field goal in addition to an extra point.

The 49ers will have a first-round bye in the playoffs before facing the lowest remaining seed in the divisional round on either Saturday, Jan 20. or Sunday, Jan 21.

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