One of the biggest questions for the Raiders this season has been: What happened to Amari Cooper?
Over the first six games of the 2017 season, the third-year wide receiver had almost disappeared from the Oakland offense. As the Raiders prepared for Game No. 7 Thursday night vs. the Chiefs, Cooper had just 18 catches for 146 yards and one touchdown and was the NFL’s leader in drops.
But on Thursday night, Cooper showed everyone he’s still a top-flight pass catcher. Cooper was a part of the Oakland offensive game plan from the start on one of the biggest nights of his career. He had two TD catches in the first quarter, of 38 and 45 yards, and was a constant target of quarterback Derek Carr. Cooper finished with 11 catches on 19 targets for 210 yards and an average of more than 19 yards per reception. His yards receiving were the second-most in a single game in Raiders history. He also drew a 47-yard pass-interference call.
Cooper said he approached Thursday night’s game, a 31-30 victory over the division-leading Chiefs, as he did every other game this season. He changed nothing.
“I just went out there like I do every game,” he told reporters. “I expect to have a big game every game, and I’m happy tonight it turned out that way.”
But, obviously, something was different. Carr used more play-action early to help Cooper get free, and Carr looked downfield often, ignoring the short routes. Head coach Jack Del Rio told his quarterback to go into attack mode, and he did.
Plus, as NFL.com’s NextGen Stats noted after Thursday’s game, Cooper was getting almost 3 yards of separation on his coverage, allowing him to not only get open and make catches but gain big yards after getting the ball.
“We went into this week saying that we wanted to take more shots, more explosive plays,” Cooper told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It was huge for me, it was huge for the team. Any time that anyone can create some explosive plays, get first downs, we’re going to have more plays on offense. And eventually we’ll keep scoring.”
Fellow wideout Michael Crabtree says there’s nothing wrong with Cooper, and Thursday showed that.
“Coop always open,” Crabtree told the Bay Area News Group. “It’s just about everything coming together. Coop a fighter, man. Coop got skills. I don’t worry about Coop.”
With the win, the Raiders broke a four-game losing streak and improved to 3-4. The Raiders will get an extra few days off before resuming play Sunday, Oct. 29, at Buffalo against the Bills.