Tight End Jared Cook
Jared Cook is a playmaker, and he came up with the biggest play of his young Oakland Raiders career on Thursday night.
On third and 10, with 23 seconds left in the game, from the Chiefs' 28-yard line, Cook stood out wide, and upon the snap took off as he streaked towards the end zone. Carr rolled left, firing a dart through the air intended for his tight end. As the ball grew closer to Cook, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum held its breath. Somehow, some way, with multiple defenders in coverage, No. 87 hauled in the pass, and Raider Nation let out a roar for the ages. While his then-touchdown-catch would be reversed and ruled down at the one-yard line, it ultimately set up the Raiders' game-winning touchdown.
"I thought I got it in," Cook said postgame. "Even after the replay I saw I thought I got it in. At least that's what it looked like on the jumbotron. He [Chiefs defender] didn't touch me. It was a great ball by Derek [Carr]. It was a play that boosted us and helped us get the win."
Flashback to the offseason, and the Silver and Black knew they needed to seek out a dynamic tight end who could open the offense, and add another dimension to the passing game. Enter the former University of South Carolina Gamecock.
From the moment he signed, Cook vocalized his connection with quarterback Derek Carr, saying No. 4 played an instrumental role in his decision to join the Raiders, and continuing to build a rapport with him since that day.
When the two got to work at training camp, the chemistry between the duo clicked right away, as the former Fresno State Bulldog targeted his new tight end frequently. Now seven weeks into the season, Cook has 27 receptions – three shy of his total last year with the Green Bay Packers – to go along with 316 receiving yards. Those might not by eye-popping numbers, but it's the way Cook earns his yardage, and his ability to come up in the defining moments of games that makes him an important piece of the offense, and his quarterback knows it.
"Huge, huge, huge," Carr's initial reaction when asked about Cook's catch. "This is going back to when he had his free-agent visits. We sat there, and this was tape that we pulled up. We said, 'Look man, we need you. We need you. We need your help against the Chiefs. We need another weapon. We need you, and here's how we can use you.' We actually used that today, which is kind of cool. To tell a man, 'Hey, this is the kind of things we need you to do, and if you can do them, man, it's going to help our team win. It's not necessarily going to give you the ball every time, but if you can do this certain thing for us, it's going to help our team win.' For him to do those things even when he didn't get the ball, it helped our team win tonight."
Cook's catch on Thursday night will definitely go down as one of his greatest receptions, and this is a man who's made some significant plays in some crucial moments. During the 2016 NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, the former third-round pick of the 2009 draft kept the Packers' season alive against the Dallas Cowboys, as he caught a pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers down the sideline with an impressive toe drag to set up the game-winning field goal.
Cook has made a habit of performing when it matters most, and as Carr said, whether he goes without a catch until the final moments of the game, he's ready to battle for his team. The game on Thursday night will go down as a classic, and when people look back on that incredible evening they should remember the Raiders' resiliency.
"That's what this game is about," Cook said. "The hard work that these coaches and the guys in this room put in. It's about resiliency. No matter if your back is against the wall, no matter how bad you get down you have to keep fighting. That speaks volumes about this team that we were able to keep fighting through tough situations. That should propel us forward into our future games. We know how this feels."
The Silver and Black will get back to work in 10 days when they travel to Buffalo to play the Bills.