Not that the missed opportunities were all Cooks’s fault, particularly the first one, in which Rams quarterback Jared Goff took too long to spot the wide receiver in the end zone. The ball hit Cooks in the hands, but only as Patriots defensive back Jason McCourty was able to sprint over and make his own hit on the receiver.
The Rams were able to get a field goal on that third-quarter drive and tie the game at 3, but as it turned out, those would be all the points they scored. Los Angeles was in position to score again late in the fourth quarter, but a sequence that heavily involved Cooks proved disastrous.
With 4:28 left and the Rams at the Patriots’ 27-yard line, Goff appeared for a moment to connect with Cooks on a touchdown pass that, with an extra point, would have tied the game at 10. However, the receiver was unable to hold on to the pass, and while he had to contend with New England’s Stephon Gilmore grabbing an arm, Cooks was positioned to make a game-altering play.
“You’ve got to make that catch,” CBS announcer Jim Nantz said, to analyst Tony Romo’s agreement.
“It was one of those bang-bang plays,” Cooks said of the incompletion, claiming that while Patriots safety Duron Harmon “came over the top” to make a jarring hit, “I’m great enough to make that play, and I still got to make it no matter what situation it was, to be honest.”
On the next play, Goff again looked downfield for Cooks, but under duress from a heavy pass rush, the quarterback underthrew the ball and it was picked off easily by Gilmore. Thus the Rams were not able to try a field goal that might have cut the deficit to 10-6, and the Patriots essentially put the game away by driving for a field goal with 1:12 left that provided the final margin.
“Lord, I love you beyond words!” Cooks wrote on Twitter after the game. “I hope someone was saved tonight through all circumstances. May you shine bright through it all. For your honor your glory and your praise. Show me the way for I cannot find it without you.”
Apart from the two near-misses, Cooks actually had a nice game. He led his team with eight receptions for 120 yards — all the other Rams combined for 109 yards on 11 catches — and accounted for six of Los Angeles’s 15 first downs.
However, it may take a while for Cooks to feel good about that, particularly given that he played for New England last year and was knocked out early in the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the Eagles. Cooks took a huge hit from Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins in the second quarter and was unable to return to the game. He was traded to the Rams in the offseason.
Cooks, 25, was playing Sunday for his third team in as many years, after coming to the Patriots from the Saints in a 2017 trade, and he had thrived in all his stops, accounting for at least 65 receptions, 1,082 yards and four touchdowns in each of his past five seasons. It will be the touchdowns he didn’t score Sunday, though, that could well haunt him for months, if not years, to come.
“It’s disappointing,” Cooks said. “All the hard work that you put in, you get here, you don’t capitalize and now it’s like all over again you got to put that hard work in again, and hopefully we continue to build and can be able to get back here again.”
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