FOXBORO, Mass. — The Brandin Cooks Show officially premiered Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
After turning in solid-but-not-spectacular performances in his first two games as a New England Patriots wide receiver, Cooks was electric in his third, catching five passes on seven targets for 131 yards and two touchdowns (plus a late-game two-point conversion) in a dramatic 36-33 victory over the Houston Texans.
Cooks, a constant big-play threat during his time with the New Orleans Saints, was responsible for three of the Patriots’ five longest gains in the win. He caught a 44-yard pass on the Patriots’ first possession, got open for a 42-yard touchdown on the opening series of the second half and hauled in what proved to be the game-winning 25-yard scoring strike from Tom Brady with 23 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
On his last-minute touchdown grab, Cooks found a hole in the Texans’ Cover 2 just beyond the goal line, and Brady located him, lofting a pass over cornerback Kareem Jackson and out of the reach of safety Corey Moore.
“(I saw) Tom Brady making a special throw and just me sitting there catching the ball,” Cooks said after the game. “That’s all I could see. Those are the throws where it’s just like, ‘C’mon, hurry up and get to me.’ But it was a perfect throw, perfect timing, and I expect nothing less from Tom.”
Brady added: “Cookie got behind Kareem, and I tried to put it out there. It’s a game of inches, so it was a great play.”
The officials reviewed the catch to make sure both feet touched down in bounds and the ball remained in Cooks’ possession, but he said he had no doubt the initial ruling was correct.
“Not at all,” Cooks said with a smile. “No question.”
Brady looked Cooks’ way three times on the game-winning drive and again on the successful two-point conversion, connecting with the 23-year-old wideout for an 18-yard gain on first-and-10 and targeting him on a deep ball that nearly was intercepted. He also targeted Cooks on a play that was wiped away by an offensive holding call on center David Andrews.
All told, that’s five unofficial targets for Cooks on the most important drive of the Patriots’ season thus far. On that same drive, Brady threw two passes each to Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski and did not target Chris Hogan, who caught two touchdown passes earlier in the game.
“I think it helps in a big way,” Cooks said of his late-game rhythm with his quarterback. “You can practice it so much but game-time situation is when you really want to see it. The more plays like that being made, I feel like the more that we’ll get on the same page.”
Cooks played well in the Patriots’ Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and their Week 2 win over the Saints, but he did not put up the video-game numbers some fans might have expected after the Patriots traded a first-round pick to the Saints to acquire him. Sunday’s performance should silence those doubters.
Following his 131-yard performance, Cooks now is on pace for 1,365 receiving yards this season.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images