NEW ORLEANS – Yes, Brandin Cooks admitted, he did look up at one of those giant new video boards in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during his 98-yard touchdown catch from Drew Brees on Sunday -- the longest offensive play in New Orleans Saints history.
But it wasn’t to admire himself.
“As soon as I caught it, I had to look at the screen, just to see where guys were,” Cooks said. “But other than that, I kept my head down just as if I was in a track meet.”
The answer: The Oakland Raiders defenders were all in his dust.
But it’s funny that Cooks used the track-meet description, since that’s the exact same metaphor that Brees and fellow QB Luke McCown went with on the sideline.
“I mean, he looked like Usain Bolt rolling down the sideline there,” Brees said. “When I got to the sideline, Luke McCown said, ‘Hey, that took him 11 seconds to go 100.’ And I said, ‘In full pads.’ I said, ‘Let’s put full pads on some of those 100-meter sprint champs in the Olympics and see if they can roll out 11-second 100s.’ That was pretty impressive.”
I hand-timed Cooks at closer to 10.9 seconds on the replay. Technically, it was only a 98-yard dash -- but he had to start off with a little stutter-step to shake Raiders cornerback Sean Smith off the line.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for a win. Though it gave the Saints a 24-10 lead in the third quarter, they wound up falling 35-34 in the final minute.
“It’s one of those things, you just hear the crowd and you just hear nothing else. It’s almost like you’re in a tunnel. So that was a pretty sweet moment,” Cooks said. “But I’d rather have that W than anything else.”
Cooks has dynamic speed (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the NFL scouting combine). And he and Brees have turned the deep ball into a routine throw for the Saints’ offense -- he had touchdown catches of 71, 60, 54, 38 and 26 yards during the final nine games last season.
Cooks said this summer that he wants to expand his repertoire and get better at gaining yards after the catch on shorter throws instead of just being pigeonholed as a deep-ball specialist.
But he also doesn’t mind perfecting that art, too
“I can’t knock that, that’s part of my game,” Cooks said with a smile. “I just want to continue to add more to my tool shed.”
Cooks finished with six catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. But believe it or not, he didn’t even lead the Saints in receiving yards since fellow third-year pro Willie Snead had nine catches for 172 yards and a TD.
Rookie receiver Michael Thomas added six catches for 58 yards, while Brees threw for a total of 423.
“You know, this group can be special,” Cooks said of the Saints’ young receiving corps. “From the top down, we’ve got so much chemistry there with Drew already. And Mike, it’s as if he was already here, he’s been here for a while. So the sky’s the limit with this group, and that’s what we expect.
“You gotta watch all of us (if you’re an opposing defense). I think we’ve got something special. The sky’s the limit, like I said. And we’re just starting.”