MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The fact that Amari Cooper might not be fully healthy all season only emphasizes how impressive his contributions to this team have been.
Not that the Pro Bowl receiver is going to make excuses. This is a physical game, and Cooper is paid handsomely to play it. But as much as he might try to downplay it, the camera shots of Cooper rolling his injured hamstring with a softball during crunch time of this win against the Vikings told the whole story.
"I can't say I knew I was going back in, but I was trying to do everything possible to alleviate it a little bit," Cooper said.
Officially, this was Cooper's second 100-yard game of the season, as he caught eight balls to lead all receivers with 122 yards.
But it's his heroics on the offense's final possession of the night that will be remembered.
They started early, as his first catch of the series will be one of the best highlights of this entire season. Trailing, 17-13, with 2:46 to play, Cooper Rush heaved a prayer down the far sideline toward Cooper – who saw the pass carom off a Bashaud Breeland's chest, then pop off his arm and into the air, where Cooper was able to corral it for a 33-yard gain.
"Kind of got lucky Coop made a tipped catch on a bad ball, got lucky to get it going, but we took advantage of it once we were down there," Rush said.
That's where the heroics come in, because Cooper did aggravate the hamstring on the very next play, and it was a grand total of six more snaps before the fateful fade that gave Dallas the lead.
"That's why I was rushing back in when I knew we were five yards away from the end zone. I kind of figured we would be throwing some type of fade," Cooper said. "So I was rushing back in there, because I know the thing about Coop is he's going to throw it."
That's exactly what happened, as Rush faced a 1st-and-Goal from the Minnesota 5-yard line and noticed the Vikings playing with just one high safety and a lone cornerback accounting for Cooper.
"I saw single-high with one-on-one on Coop, I'm throwing," Rush said.
The rest is what you've come to expect in the three-plus years Cooper has worn a Cowboys uniform. Bad hamstring and all, he went up in the back of the end zone and came down with the go-ahead score.
To hear it from him, it almost didn't happen – not so much because of any injury or opposing coverage, but perhaps some friendly competition. Sitting on six catches for 112 yards of his own, CeeDee Lamb petitioned to switch the alignment to favor his side of the field, only for Rush to shoot him down. That didn't quite stop the younger receiver, though.
"Then CeeDee was like 'Coop, you want to let me get this?' I said 'Hell nah,'" Cooper joked. "So that's how much pride I take in wanting that ball in those pivotal moments. Because I know I can go up and make a play."
It's evident through six-straight wins – and honestly, even during the season-opening loss – that the Cowboys have no shortage of options to deliver those types of pivotal plays.
On Sunday, Cooper reminded once again that he just may be the best of them.