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Rams report: Brandin Cooks emerges as deep-ball threat Rams envisioned

Rams report: Brandin Cooks emerges as deep-ball threat Rams envisioned
Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks (12) heads upfield trying to avoid the tackle of Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tre Boston (33) in the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The deep-ball threat that Rams coach Sean McVay envisioned when the Rams traded for receiver Brandin Cooks came to fruition Sunday.

Cooks and quarterback Jared Goff connected on a 57-yard pass — one of a team-best seven receptions for 159 yards by Cooks — in a 34-0 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at the Coliseum.

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“Always in attack mode,” Cooks said of McVay’s play calling.

Cooks, 24, was acquired from the New England Patriots in a deal that cost the Rams a first-round draft pick. He signed an $80-million extension before the season.

In the Rams’ season-opening victory over the Oakland Raiders, Cooks caught five passes for 87 yards. He also forced Raiders defensive backs into committing two pass-interference penalties for 87 yards.

Goff just missed on several long passes to Cooks and Robert Woods against the Raiders.

But against the Cardinals, Cooks broke free down the middle of the field in the third quarter and Goff found him.

“I wish I had thrown it a little bit more out in front where he would have ran into the end zone,” Goff said.

Cooks was “aggressive with his hands” on a variety of plays, McVay said.

“Made plays down the field, made plays over the middle, had a big play in the screen game,” he said.

Goff completed 24 of 32 passes for 354 yards.

Robert Woods caught six passes for 81 yards, and Cooper Kupp caught six passes for 63 yards.

Goff missed a wide-open Woods in the fourth quarter for what would have been an easy touchdown.

“He was open, wasn’t he?” Goff said, laughing. “We can laugh about it when we win, but you’d hate to have that happen in a close game. Yeah, I just got excited and just overthrew it.”

Fantasyland

Running back Todd Gurley rushed for touchdowns of 11, one and two yards. He also ran for two two-point conversions.

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He is the first NFL player to convert two two-point conversions in a game since 2007.

Gurley finished with only 42 yards in 19 carries after leaving the game because of cramps.

But as one of the most valuable players in fantasy football leagues, he knew he made people happy.

“Hey man, my fantasy players better be happy,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t want to come back in. I’m like fantasy people are good. We got three touchdowns. We good.”

Shields steps up

On a defense filled with recent Pro Bowl players such as Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, cornerback Sam Shields stepped up in the fourth quarter and picked off Sam Bradford’s long pass down the middle.

It was Shields’ first interception in a regular season game since Dec. 13, 2015, against the Dallas Cowboys. Shields sat out nearly all of the 2016 and 2017 seasons as he recovered from concussions.

Shields intercepted a pass against the Houston Texans during the preseason. The NFL does not recognize the preseason in official statistics.

But Shields does.

“It was the second [interception],” he said, laughing. “I got one in preseason. I count those.”

Tight fit

After not being targeted against the Raiders, tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee finally made their mark.

Goff targeted each player twice. Everett caught a pass and turned it into a 17-yard gain. Higbee caught a three-yard touchdown pass.

The level of involvement was a refreshing change after the season opener.

“It felt pretty good, just knowing your role in this offense,” Everett said. “You see, we have so many guys that can change the game at any point, but it feels good to be ready when my number’s called.”

On the line

Austin Blythe started again at right guard. Jamon Brown will return Monday from two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The question is whether McVay will reinstall the fourth-year pro as a starter.

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