ARLINGTON, Texas – The narrative is obvious, but following his best game to date as a Cowboy, Amari Cooper flipped it around completely.
"I don't want to prove the Raiders wrong, I just want to prove the Cowboys right -- that they traded for me and I'm going to be a good player for them," he said.
Both things can be true. One month after trading him to Dallas for a first-round pick, the Oakland Raiders couldn't have been thrilled to see Cooper sprinting through Washington's defense for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
No one has to guess how the Cowboys feel. They were confident when they made the trade that they'd made the right call – and it was clearly satisfying to see it working out on the biggest stage of all.
"I can't tell you what a celebration I had in my mind when we got it done," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. "We needed him, we sure needed a receiver of his stature and my hat's off to the coaches for getting him in position to make that kind of contribution."
In all honesty, Cooper has been solid throughout the first month that he's been here. He scored in his first game as a Cowboy, and he had compiled 14 receptions for 169 yards prior to Thursday night's game.
To say this was another level is an understatement, though. Cooper started his day against Washington with two huge third-down conversions on the Cowboys' game-opening touchdown drive.
He saved the real fireworks for the second half, though, as he put the Cowboys up, 17-13, in the third quarter by breaking away from would-be tacklers for a 40-yard touchdown score.
"He is a premier receiver," said Dak Prescott. "He does it all – his route-running, his creating space, his strength as we see him making contested catches. Not only that, but breaking tackles. As you saw tonight, his speed in the open field to run away from people, it makes him dangerous."
Cooper really hammered that point home just six minutes later. A favorable Washington punt backed the Cowboys up to their own 10-yard line, and based on prior possessions they seemed to be headed for a three-and-out.
Facing 2nd-and-9, Prescott stepped up in the pocket and fired the ball to Cooper on a post. The ball was perfectly placed between three defenders and would have been a 23-yard gain – except for the fact that Cooper reversed field, shrugged off a tackle and raced 90-yards to the end zone.
It was the type of play you see so rarely in pro football that Cooper said he felt awkward on his 60-yard run to pay dirt.
"I need to go back to the lab and work on my form, because I didn't really like the way I was running," he said.
On top of that, the throw technically wasn't even supposed to happen. Cole Beasley and Ezekiel Elliott were available options on shorter throws, and Cooper said it's not often he sees the ball on that particular play.
"We were talking about that, and I get that ball one out of 10 times," he said. "It's not really a first read. It's basically just a clear out route, but the look of it was perfect for me to get it."
It just goes to show what Cooper can bring to this offense – and why the Cowboys would pay such a steep price to bring him here. Not that it needs to be said, but it's clearly a decision they're happy with at the moment.
"I think tonight speaks on how I've been saying that he makes this whole transition easy," Prescott said. "The elite player he is, he gets space and he creates space himself with the route-running that he has."
As for Cooper, he's well on his way to rewarding the Cowboys' faith. And as they keep their focus on a possible playoff berth, he'll have plenty more opportunities to do so.
"They say if you want to be a good team, you have to start rolling in November," Cooper said. "We've just been focused, man – standing tall with our backs against the wall. Relentless. Hopefully we can keep this up."