Raise your hand if you thought Jared Cook would follow up his 151-yard, two touchdown performance with another solid outing for the St. Louis Rams. I raised my hand. Did anyone else?
I can't see a show of hands thanks to the limits of technology, but I know most of us were shocked when Cook finished this week's loss to the Atlanta Falcons with just one catch for 10 yards. Bradford tried throwing to Cook six times.
So what happened? Simple. The Falcons tightened up their coverage on the Rams' top skill position player. Atlanta had a safety helping cover Cook throughout the game, including Mizzou product William Moore, helping rookie corner Desmond Trufant.
A bigger concern is that Cook rarely got off the line without getting jammed. For his size, speed and hands, the knock on Cook has always been the physicality of his play, or lack thereof. Tennessee got faulted for not knowing how to use him in their offense, but they would often line him out wide, in part to prevent him from getting jammed.
Prior to yesterday's game, I posted the audio of Doug Farrar's SI Audibles podcast with NFL Films' Greg Cosell. They talked about Cook for much of their time devoted to previewing this game. Cosell pointed out the importance of using Cook in multiple receiver formations, specifically the distribution of how he lined up on the field, as the key to getting the right matchups.
That didn't happen. Whatever offensive game plan Brian Schottenheimer started the game with, didn't do much to keep Cook from getting jammed at the line. Cook was targeted four times in the first half, which is when he caught his only pass of the day. Even when Mike Smith eased back with his defense, they still kept Cook under wraps, not letting him take advantage of the prevent zones.
It was a smart game plan by the Falcons. And it worked.
Atlanta's first half lead was helped by keeping Cook out of the picture. They also limited Tavon Austin. He caught one pass for five yards on three first half targets. He caught another five passes on nine targets in garbage time, but had just 42 yards in a dink and dunk passing game. (For some reason, Atlanta left Austin uncovered on one of his touchdowns, and the other was just a nice catch with some fancy footwork).
Another week, another long list of questions about the readiness of the Rams offense.