Rams’ Cooper Kupp closing in on triple crown of receiving

Sports

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, left, runs with the ball after making a catch against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Baltimore. On the play, Kupp broke the Rams’ franchise single season record for most receiving yards after surpassing Isaac Bruce’s 1,781 yards set in 1995. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cooper Kupp only knows he’s finishing up one of the greatest seasons by a receiver in NFL history because people won’t stop telling him about it.

The Los Angeles Rams’ star wideout insists he doesn’t watch any sports television heralding his achievements, and he refuses to read up on himself online. His fleeting time outside the Rams’ training complex and stadiums during the season is reserved for his wife and kids.

“I’m pretty much away from football when I’m away from football,” he said with a grin.

Yet Kupp is well aware he’s leading the NFL in receptions (138), yards receiving (1,829) and touchdown catches (15) as the Rams (12-4) attempt to clinch the NFC West title in their 17th game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium.

If Kupp stays on top in all three categories, he will be just the fourth receiver in NFL history to lead the league in every category of the so-called receiving triple crown, joining Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992) and Steve Smith (2005).

“It would be a pretty incredible thing,” Kupp said. “There’s a lot of good players in this league, a lot of receivers I’ve got a ton of respect for, so it would be very cool. The most important thing is that we win the game, lock down the division title and be ready to move into the playoffs here, but it would be a very cool thing because of the respect I have for the players in this league and the talent that there is. It’s a tough thing to do.”

Even more prolific achievements are possible for Kupp: He is 12 receptions and 136 yards away from setting the single-season NFL records in both categories. He has a shot to break the marks set respectively by New Orleans’ Michael Thomas (149 in 2019) and Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (1,964 in 2012), although Randy Moss’ record of 23 TD catches looks safe even from Kupp.

Yet when asked about his chance to topple two historic marks, Kupp says he would be the first to attach a Roger Maris-style asterisk to those achievements.

“We’re in the longest football season ever played,” Kupp said. “What the guys did that set those records … in 16 games, it wouldn’t seem right for those to be broken in 17 games. It wouldn’t hold the same weight to me as it does for guys that have done that in a 16-game season, and the accomplishments those guys had, the seasons those guys put together. Those are incredible things, incredible accomplishments. You kind of have to separate the two.

“We’re in a new age of football here where we’re playing 17 games a year. A lot of stuff that happened before that, those records hold a different weight.”

Winning a triple crown is an achievement that isn’t made easier by the extra game, and Kupp is in a strong position to join that club.

Kupp leads Green Bay’s Davante Adams, who probably won’t play much Sunday, by a whopping 21 receptions. He is a comfortable 320 yards in front of Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson atop the yards receiving table. Kupp is only two touchdown catches ahead of Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase and three clear of both Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans and Seattle’s DK Metcalf.

Kupp’s production has been steadier than a metronome: He has at least 90 yards receiving in an NFL-record 12 consecutive games and 15 overall. He has at least seven catches in 14 games, and he has scored in 10 different games.

“We’ve got so much confidence in him in everything we do, from a standpoint of the run and the pass and his impact on the game,” offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said. “But what’s remarkable is that his catches and his targets and those things, there really hasn’t been a time where you look back on it and you feel like you’ve forced anything to him. It’s come in the rhythm of the offense and the rhythm of progressions.”

Despite the immediate, deep connection with new quarterback Matthew Stafford that has taken him to the brink of NFL history, Kupp still sees himself as a team-first receiver who relishes blocking a defender to spring a teammate as much as catching a touchdown pass.

His teammates and coaches are aware of the history Kupp could make Sunday. They insist it won’t alter their game plan — since any winning game plan for these Rams involves getting the ball to Kupp early and often anyway.

“That’s not something you get the chance to do every day — or every season, really,” Stafford said. “So (I’m) just happy for him and his success, and sharing a little small part in that is pretty cool.”

NOTES: DB Jalen Ramsey said his altercation with S Taylor Rapp in the first quarter of last weekend’s win at Baltimore was a momentary flare-up between friends: “We’re fine now, but during the heat of the game, and both of us being super-passionate, wanting to make the right call, put ourselves in the right position for the team, we had a disagreement. That’s my dog.” … The Rams chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America gave its annual Good Guy award to Ramsey for his professionalism and courtesy in dealing with the media.

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