Rams-Browns matchup reminds us football is a kids’ game – Orange County Register

INGLEWOOD – Bet it was hard to get Puka Nacua to come in for dinner as a kid.

Can you imagine? Cramping couldn’t keep the Rams’ record-breaking rookie receiver off the field in their 36-19 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, nor even could a collision with the ground so fierce it left him without breath and feeling like his shoulder wasn’t where it’s supposed to be.

There’s just no way “Dinnertime!” worked.

Wonder whether Joe Flacco was quicker to answer the dinner bell two weeks ago when he was in the backyard passing the football to his kids and not to Browns receivers Elijah Moore and Harrison Bryant and Jerome Ford, like he was Sunday?

Flacco – the fourth-string quarterback signed onto the Browns’ practice squad on Nov. 20 – came out and treated his first NFL game since Jan. 8 like he was out in the yard, slinging the ball around to his children.

It was that kind of game Sunday at SoFi Stadium, which is to say it was a game that felt like a game. Grown men competing with major stakes at child’s play. And for that, you can credit Sunday’s 22-year-old and a 38-year-old protagonists – unlikely leading men five months or three weeks ago – for setting the tone in the best way.

Nacua brought his typical impossible-not-to-enjoy joy and rode that right into the Rams’ record books.

Within the first few minutes, the fifth-round draft pick set the franchise’s rookie single-season receiving yards standard and became the first rookie in team history to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season – and then got props for it on social media from an athletic hero of his, LeBron James, who was in the Rams’ house Sunday to see Nacua’s handiwork in person: “Congrats Puka on breaking the team rookie record for receiving yards!”

Nacua brightened another thousand watts when he learned about it from reporters postgame: “I’m a huge LeBron stan, so I can’t wait to see that one.”

But football, a young man’s sport, isn’t only for young men. That’s what Flacco seemed to be saying when he stepped on the field Sunday, filling in for former UCLA star rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson (concussion), and becoming the oldest player in Browns history to throw a touchdown pass – he threw two, actually, and completed 23 of 44 pass attempts for 254 yards – at 38 years and 321 days old.