ARLINGTON, Texas – It's starting to become routine at this point.
Amari Cooper makes the near-impossible look relatively easy.
Officially listed as questionable to play because of a knee injury, Cooper didn't show any noticeable restrictions in Sunday's 28-24 loss to the Vikings. He tied a season high with 11 catches and finished with 147 yards and a third-quarter touchdown that temporarily gave the Cowboys their only lead of the game.
Most impressive were Cooper's three sideline circus catches, tip-toeing just inside the field of play, that either extended drives or produced points:
- In the second quarter, a 20-yard catch on third-and-12 that set up a Dak Prescott touchdown pass to Michael Gallup two plays later.
- In the third quarter, a 13-yard catch on the right sideline that set up the offense just outside the red zone trailing 20-14.
- Two plays later, same sideline, a 12-yard touchdown catch with both feet down maybe an inch from the boundary.
Each time, Cooper showed almost a sixth sense to establish himself in bounds amid coverage.
"It's just awareness," he said. "You have to know where you are on the field. As far as the difficulty level, you just have to keep your feet down. A lot of times I've been in the situation before and my feet would come up and then they would not call it a completion. Try to keep the feet down.
"There probably is a specific technique, but to me it's more of a feel thing. I feel where I am on the field. I obviously try not to get my feet out of bounds. I'm going to try to get my feet as close as I can to the sideline and just reach for the ball."
Cooper told reporters during the week that his knee contusion would be "manageable" against Minnesota. Still, he acknowledged after the game that "it was kind of hurting" earlier in the day. A productive pre-game workout with the athletic training staff helped him loosen up.
"I just tried everything I could do to be as healthy as I could be for the game," he said.
Through nine games, Cooper has four 100-yard receiving performances and seven touchdowns, already tying career bests set in 2017 and 2018.
"You're seeing him take that next step of not only being a really good route runner and having a good feel and being on the same page with the quarterback, then making tough plays at critical times," tight end Jason Witten said. "Those are not easy catches.
"There's always times for a receiver when you kind of feel like you take this step where, 'I don't feel like I can be guarded.' I don't want to speak for him, but as a teammate and somebody that's studied a lot of route runners for a long time, he's at that place."