Someone on the Los Angeles Rams needed to take the reins of being the deep threat in the absence of Cooper Kupp on Sunday, November 20. And someone needed to provide whatever spark of fireworks was left in an offense that’s been more ash than explosive in 2022.
The 5-foot-9 wide receiver once described as “rail thin” but equipped with “electric speed” by nfl.com draft expert Lance Zierlein, plus having a lengthy history of similar dynamic plays in his Louisville days, ended up with the longest play from scrimmage — but the Rams still fell 27-20 for their fourth straight loss.
Atwell, once the Rams’ top draft pick at No. 25 of the second round in 2021, had been dealing with being on the inactive list [often for non-injuries due to game plan implemented by Sean McVay] and not being inserted fully into the Rams offense. Yet, the 62-yarder added a rare accolade Atwell has accomplished in his brief time with the Rams.
Atwell is the Only Ram to Hold This Distinction
On that first quarter deep lob that became the first touchdown of the game for the Rams, Atwell operated as the motion man before turning on the afterburners.
And that’s where Next Gen Stats comes in: Atwell hit an uncanny speed of 21.07 miles per hour. But there’s more — Atwell, per NGS, holds this rare honor on the Rams.
“Atwell is the only Rams ball carrier to reach 21+ mph over the last four seasons,” the end sentence of the tweet read.
That NGS statistic continues to solidify Atwell as the fastest Rams player. And it means not even the 2021 leader of all three major receiving categories Kupp has hit that kind of speed mark.
Atwell Beat 2 Highly-Established DBs & Encouraged Stafford to Trust Him
Atwell even drew two Super Bowl defenders and perennial Pro Bowlers on that play: Four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl 50 champ Chris Harris Jr. as the slot cornerback picking up the motion and three-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl 54 champ Tyrann Mathieu as the deep safety.
Even facing two defensive backs with a combined seven Pro Bowls between them and being seldom used on the Rams offense, Atwell still knew who was coming down with the ball.
“Soon as the play call came in,” Atwell mentioned to reporters in the locker room post game when asked when he knew his time was coming. “I already knew I was getting the ball. It was man coverage.”
He also encouraged his quarterback to trust him on plays of that magnitude before heading to the Big Easy.
“Throughout the week, I mentioned to [Matthew] Stafford, ‘Throw it in there and I am going to go get it.’…Which means everything,” Atwell said.
The play also comes as a confidence spark for Atwell who waited nearly 20 games to deliver the flair of explosion.
“It means a lot,” Atwell said. “At the end of the day, I’m used to things like that. I’m used to going deep. That’s what I do. Came out of college and it’s just another touchdown and another catch.”
Fans Demand More Action for Atwell
Atwell’s long ball was one of the few highlights for the Rams’ road defeat, now dropping them to 3-7 this season.
Afterwards, fans either defended Atwell’s slow start or demanded he plays more moving forward.
“Tutu Atwell is mad underatted. Crazy how people switch up on us? @tutuatwell they like you now?” asked Rams fan Chase Oscar on Twitter.
Another fan sent this suggestion to the Rams with seven games left.
“Only damn bright spot of the game @RamsNFL we want to see more of @tutuatwell let him play out the rest of the year,” the fan said.
JB Scott of Turf Show Times on SB Nation wrote down how he believes Atwell can impact the Rams offense.
“Simply speaking, Atwell changes the dynamic and the way defenses approach this offense when he’s on the field. It’s on film now that he can outrun everyone on the defense, and just having him involved as a decoy should in theory open things up for everyone else,” Scott wrote.