But before the next play Sunday, quarterback Jared Goff looked to his left and saw receiver Brandin Cooks lined up against cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Goff took the snap in the shotgun formation, dropped back, and then stepped forward as he lofted a high pass that traveled more than 60 yards.
“You don’t get too many opportunities like that,” Cooks said. “So when that ball was up there, it was one of those things in my mind, like ‘Whatever you got to tap into … go get it.’ ”
The speedy Cooks tracked the ball as it descended. He appeared to find an extra gear in order to catch up to it, and then clutched the football and fell to the turf for a 57-yard gain.
“You could just see it was that acceleration,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “I was glad because the first two plays didn’t go so well.”
Cooks’ catch set up a field goal. He also caught a short touchdown pass in tight coverage as the Rams defeated the Saints 27-9 to improve their record to 2-0.
Cooks, 25, is one of several play-making receivers who will be on the field Sunday night when the Rams play the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Odell Beckham Jr. flashed his talent Monday night, making a spectacular one-handed catch and later scoring a touchdown on an 89-yard catch-and-run play in a 23-3 victory over the New York Jets. Receiver Jarvis Landry also is a high-profile target for quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Asked whether he got amped more than usual when playing in a game with an opposing receiver such as Beckham, Cooks said no.
“I’m not guarding him,” Cooks said. “We’re not playing against one another. We trust our defense … to be able to handle that, and we just focus on the task at hand and not get caught up in all that other hype.”
Cooks and teammates Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp form one of the NFL’s most productive pass-catching triumvirates. Cooks and Woods each eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving last season, and Kupp might have done the same had he not suffered a season-ending knee injury.
All three have made difference-making plays in the first two games, Woods catching a team-best eight passes in the opener against the Carolina Panthers, and Kupp breaking five tackles en route to a 66-yard reception against the Saints that set up a touchdown.
“It is rare, very rare to have three guys that, not only work that hard, but are of their talent level and are as selfless as they are,” Goff said.
Woods and Kupp already were in place in April 2018 when the Rams traded a first-round pick to the New England Patriots for Cooks. Three months later, before he played a down for them, the Rams signed Cooks to a five-year, $81-million extension that included more than $50 million in guarantees, according to overthecap.com.
Last season, Cooks caught 80 passes for 1,204 yards and scored six touchdowns. It was the fourth time in five NFL seasons that Cooks eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving. He had one catch for 57 yards and three others that covered more than 40 yards, according to profootballreference.com.
This season, Cooks had two receptions against the Panthers and three against the Saints, who selected Cooks with the 20th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Cooks’ two-yard touchdown catch against the Saints came on a slant route into the end zone. It was not as dazzling as his 57-yard reception, but it also had a high degree of difficulty.
“You’ve got to find a way — you’re focusing on the ball and nothing else,” he said. “You know there’s a lot of bodies down in there. You know you might get hit.
“But as long as you come up with that ball in your hands, that’s all that matters.”
Cooks made similar plays throughout his career, McVay said. He appears poised to make more for a Rams team aspiring for a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
“We probably should have given him some more opportunities to do that,” McVay said. “Those are things that he’s done consistently in practice, and it was good to be able to see him do that in a game.”