Josh McDaniels on Cooks’ absence: ‘It made an impact’

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
Read full post on NFL.com

On their way to Super Bowl LII, the New England Patriots had to deal with a little adversity.

New England lost key pass-catcher Rob Gronkowski before halftime of the AFC Championship Game and endured, edging the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Patriots weren’t as fortunate Sunday in Minneapolis.

Facing a 9-3 deficit early in the second quarter, Tom Brady dropped to pass and found Brandin Cooksover the middle for a gain of 23, putting New England in Philadelphia territory. It would be the receiver’s last play after he was hit by Malcolm Jenkins.

Cooks left Super Bowl LII with 13:11 in the second quarter after suffering a head injury on the play and did not return in the 41-33 loss to the Eagles. New England was again forced to adjust, this time without its top deep threat.

Cooks’ departure didn’t keep Brady from posting gaudy passing numbers, but it did give Philadelphia one less weapon about which to worry.

“Obviously it made an impact, somewhat,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said after the game. “I thought Phillip [Dorsett] and Chris [Hogan] really stepped up and really made a lot of big plays.

“Look, that’s what a football team does, you have to go through that every single week. You’ve got adversities whether you come into the game with injuries or you incur one in the middle of the game. Our guys are practiced and prepared and ready to do that, and I thought they did a good job. I’m more upset for [Brandin Cooks]. He has an opportunity to play in his first Super Bowl and then to get it cut short there that was disappointing for him individually.”

Disappointing indeed. Cooks exited less than three minutes into the second quarter with just that lone reception for 23 yards on two targets.

As McDaniels said, despite not getting the same credit for his speed — surprisingly, Hogan posted a season-high top speed of 21.35, nearly a full mile-per-hour faster than Cooks’ 20.48, per Next Gen Stats — Hogan stepped up in Cooks’ absence, catching six of eight targets for 128 yards and a touchdown. Gronkowski also did his part, catching nine passes for 116 yards and two scores.

In the end, though, it wasn’t enough. When facing a five-point deficit with a little over two minutes left, Brady needed an additional deep threat. His best option was sidelined. We know how the rest played out.

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