As if Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper didn’t already have enough to overcome before catching a 5-yard game-winning touchdown pass from Cooper Rush in Sunday night’s 20-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, try this — he also had a teammate try to snag his moment by suggesting the play was to be called for him.
The known elements Cooper was dealing with was a hamstring injury and Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler. And then add in fellow receiver CeeDee Lamb, who attempted to con Rush into calling the play for him.
“We were double left. That means I line up to the left, on the short side of the field,” Cooper recalled in the postgame locker room. “CeeDee wanted the ball really bad. He told Cooper [Rush], ‘it’s double right, right?’
“That would put me on the right side and him on the left.” And I was like ‘Nah, it’s double left bro.’”
Lamb didn’t stop with Rush. He made his appeal to Cooper himself.
“He was like, ‘Coop, you gonna let me get this?’ I was like ‘Hell naw,’” Cooper said. “That’s how much pride I take in wanting that ball in those pivotal moments. I know I can go up and make a play. For sure, he tried to steal my touchdown.”
The touchdown came with 55 seconds left in the game and it lifted the Cowboys to their sixth straight win.
That it came with Rush making his first career start in place of the the injured Dak Prescott made the victory all the more special.
Cooper doesn’t blame Lamb. He said that’s just how much confidence they both have in those situations in knowing they can win the game for the team.
And Cooper said he told Rush throughout the game that the Vikings cornerbacks could not cover either he or Lamb on the outside.
Lamb had his moment against the New England Patriots with a 33-yard yard, walk-off touchdown catch in a 35-29 overtime victory on Oct. 17. And he had a good game against the Vikings, catching six passes for 112 yards.
But Sunday night was Cooper’s turn to star. He finished with eight catches for 122 yards, but the highlights came on the Cowboys’ final possession of the game.
Down 16-13, Rush began a drive that will not soon be forgotten by Cowboys fans. It began with a 33-yard reception by Cooper, who made a juggling catch after the ball hit the defender. Rush called it a bad ball. Cooper called it a bad route. The officials called it a completed catch.
“There was so much going on on that drive. It was all a blur,” Cooper said. “I tweaked my hamstring. That was so frustrating on a drive like that.
“The bobbled catch wasn’t a great route for me, but I needed to catch the ball. I fought and tracked the ball, concentrated and I was able to come up with the catch.”
He followed up with an 18-yard catch and run on the next play.
Cooper would then leave the field for several plays because of his hamstring. At one point, he was lying down the sideline getting tended to by the trainers.
“I can’t say I was going back in,” Cooper said. “But I was trying to do everything possible to alleviate it a little bit. Once I got up, the clock was moving fast, I was like I got to go back in. They need me. I got up and started running a little bit. I was like, ‘This is all I need to do, run a little bit, I will take care of the rest.’”
Cooper was not on the field when on the 3rd-and-11, Rush dumped a short pass off to running back Ezekiel Elliott who turned in into a 15-yard gain by evading at least four Vikings defenders. The result of the play was 1st-and-goal from the Vikings’ 5-yard-line with 55 seconds left.
The Vikings called a timeout and Cooper took that opportunity to run back on the field even though he was still not ready. ‘I couldn’t get the release I really wanted,” Cooper said. “I could have killed [Dantzler] on the release and made the catch easier. I didn’t want to risk hurting it even more. I said to myself ‘if he throws it to me I will have to go up’ and get it and that’s what I did.”
And despite Lamb’s lobbying, Rush was only going to Cooper on that play.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said a run-pass option was called and the run was wide open, but Rush had already made his mind up to throw, no matter what.
“Yeah, I saw a single high [safety] with one-on-one [coverage] on Cooper. I was throwing it,” Rush said. “Cooper did the rest.”
That Cooper did. But it was only after he fended off the slick advances of Lamb, a hamstring injury and then rising up over Dantzler.