With a 25-yard reception in the dying moments of the first half Sunday, the Rams’ Brandin Cooks became the first player in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards in three consecutive seasons for three different teams.
As records go, it’s not the most glamorous. And it probably won’t ease Cooks’ path into the Hall of Fame. But it’s his only NFL record, so if you approach him about the feat, better get the numbers right.
“A 1,000 yards four years in a row,” Cooks corrected as he glared at a questioner in the Rams’ locker room after the team’s 30-16 win over the Detroit Lions.
Then he broke into a wide smile.
“But no honestly, it’s just such a blessing.”
Also a blessing to be on the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season … to be on the team with the league’s best record and the conference’s highest-scoring offense ... to be on a team so deep and so well-rounded its quarterback can have one of his worst games of the season and its best receiver can be shut out in the second half and it can still win the game.
“All the hard work that’s being put in, this is the time of the year that you start to see it really pay off,” said Cooks, who also topped 1,000 yards receiving twice in three seasons with the New Orleans Saints and with the New England Patriots last season before coming to the Rams in a trade last April.
And while he joined a noisy postgame celebration Sunday after the 30-16 victory over Detroit — stuffing a gray NFL West Champions hat into his locker as teammates posed for selfies in blue T-shirts that sported the words “Reppin’ the West” above a large Rams logo — Cooks warned whoever was listening that winning the division is just the first step of the team’s journey, not the last.
“That’s just one check in the first check box,” he said. “It means you’ve got to keep going. Just go and get back to work.”
Last year Cooks played on a New England team that won the AFC East and reached the Super Bowl. But once there, the Patriots lost to the Philadelphia Eagles and Cooks was knocked out of the game in the second quarter because of a concussion. Getting back to the championship game with the Rams (11-1) is going to take a team effort.
“Everywhere I’ve been it’s always been a unit,” Cooks said. “When you have that, an offense is so much more successful. To have so many No. 1 receivers on this team, it goes to show the weapons that we have.
“But it’s definitely about the team overall.”
With 63 catches for 1,026 yards and four games still to play, Cooks is on pace to better career highs for receptions (84) and yards (1,173). Yet he may not lead the team in either category. Through 12 games Robert Woods has one more catch and just 55 fewer yards.
And running back Todd Gurley has outgained them both on the ground, running for 132 yards Sunday to give him 1,175 for the season.
“We talk about being a balanced team. And we proved that every single week,” said Woods, who had a team-high five catches for 67 yards a second-quarter touchdown. “Two 1,000-yard receivers, a 1,000-yard running back who’s still pounding.
“Just being a complete offense, being a complete group, having a unit that can do everything. Run, pass and block.”
That allowed the Rams to overcome a shaky day from quarterback Jared Goff, who completed just 17 of 33 passes for 207 yards, his second-lowest totals of the season.
“They played well. They had a good game plan to come after the quarterback,” Woods said of the Lions. “But we still managed to get a win, find ways to still connect with our receivers, still get Todd going.”
As Woods carefully picked his way through the piles of sweaty shoulder pads, dirty jerseys and equipment bags littering the floor of the Rams’ cramped dressing room, Josh Reynolds, the youngest of the Rams’ receivers, made his way to an adjoining locker.
Reynolds is playing in place of Cooper Kupp, who might have topped 1,000 yards himself if not for injuries that limited him to eight games this season. And Reynolds, the second-year receiver who has as many receptions, 26, in his NFL career as Cooks had in September, acknowledges he’s in awe of his teammate.
“Three different teams with three different quarterbacks,” Reynolds said. “That just goes to show what kind of player Brandin is.”
So Reynolds said he tries to watch and learn from both he and Woods.
“Coming in, there’s different kinds of circumstances you’re looking for,” he said. “Some guys, they’re looking for a clutch receiver that they can kind of just get under their wings. I’ve got the best of all worlds.
“It’s more about just how locked in they are. Just seeing how they carry themselves. Something like that can definitely help me along.”
And definitely wreck opposing defenses.
“You can’t pick anybody. They try double-teaming somebody, they’re leaving somebody else open,” Reynolds said. “It’s a nightmare for defenses. It’s awesome being part of an offense like this.