Not since former Lakers guard Michael Cooper was draining three-point shots and shutting down opponents at the nearby Forum have so many thunderous chants of “Coop!” filled a Los Angeles sporting venue.
The chorus echoed throughout the cavernous Coliseum on Thursday night, a crowd of 72,027 showing its appreciation for Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, the versatile second-year pro out of Eastern Washington who had the best game of his NFL career in a track meet of a 38-31 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
Kupp caught a career-high nine passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns, leading a trio of Rams receivers who passed the 100-yard mark.
Brandin Cooks hauled in seven passes for 116 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown from Jared Goff in the second quarter, and Robert Woods caught five passes for 101 yards, including a 31-yard scoring strike from Goff late in the third quarter.
“It gets you fired up, no doubt, hearing the ‘Coop’ chants — you love it,” Kupp said after the Rams improved to 4-0. “The atmosphere in the Coliseum tonight was incredible. Those fans, it’s electric when you have these home games on Thursday night. It’s so much fun to play in that environment.”
Kupp is considered more of a “possession” receiver compared to the speedy Cooks and Woods, but he was also a deep threat Thursday night, turning a perfectly thrown teardrop of a pass from Goff into a 70-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Kupp, starting on the left side and making a long diagonal run toward the right sideline, caught Goff’s pass in stride at about the Vikings’ 40-yard line and out-raced linebacker Anthony Barr to the end zone for a 14-10 Rams lead with 9 minutes 28 seconds left in the first half.
“Jared put that ball out there perfectly,” Kupp said. “If I have to slow down, Barr is probably making that tackle, but the way he put the ball out there kept me in stride … he was doing it all night, putting balls exactly where he wanted, and he made it easy for us receivers.”
Later in the quarter, Goff, from the Minnesota 19-yard line, rolled right and extended the play long enough for Kupp, who was making another left-to-right diagonal run, to streak toward the back right corner of the end zone.
Goff lofted a pass that Kupp made a superb catch of between cornerbacks Mike Hughes and Trae Waynes for a touchdown that gave the Rams a 21-17 lead with 3:47 left before halftime.
“I was kind of taking a little bit of a chance there and got away with it, but that’s what happens when you’ve got good players,” Goff said. “Trust Cooper, and he ran right through it. It just shows kind of my trust in him.”
Kupp said he thought the quarterback was going to throw the ball away.
“But where he put it,” Kupp said, “it was an incredible throw by Jared.”
Kupp had 15 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the first three games. He had six catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the first half Thursday night.
“He was amazing,” Woods said.” A lot of people say he’s not a vertical receiver. You see him down the field making these big-time plays. He’s a burner.”
Asked whether Kupp showed him another gear Thursday night, Cooks said, “Absolutely. I can’t say too much about that, though. We don’t want anyone playing us any differently.”
Is Kupp becoming a vertical threat?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t keep up with Woods and Cooks, but I’m never gonna limit myself to being just an underneath guy.”
Aaron Donald picked a good time to register his first sack of the season, blowing past Vikings guard Tom Compton on the first play of the fourth quarter and dropping Kirk Cousins for a 10-yard loss.
The sack pushed Minnesota into a third-and-18 from its 31-yard line. Cousins threw the ball away on third down after being flushed out of the pocket by Donald, and the Vikings were forced to punt.
Donald also dropped Cousins for an eight-yard loss with two minutes left in the game, preventing Minnesota from mounting a final drive.
“The sacks felt good,” Donald said. “Got them in the fourth quarter, when we needed them.”
The Rams sacrificed field position for an attempt at a big scoring play early in the third quarter when punter Johnny Hekker, from the Vikings’ 36-yard line, fired a bomb — with a nice, tight spiral, it should be added — to Josh Reynolds down the right sideline.
If regular kicker Greg Zuerlein wasn’t sidelined by a groin injury, the Rams would have attempted a field goal. Hekker’s pass fell incomplete, just behind Reynolds, but Minnesota punted on its next possession.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t blown away with the Rams’ creativity on offense, even though his team surrendered 38 points.
“I’m not going to take anything away from their scheme,” he said. “But it’s the same scheme we played last year and they had seven points. We made some mistakes, we left a bunch of guys open, and they have a good scheme.
“They don’t give you too many drop-back passes where you can rush the quarterback. There’s a lot of play-actions where they’re blocking eight or nine guys, and it makes it difficult to get [the quarterback].”