For Foles and Cooper, it's about time

Posted: November 06, 2013

In the dim, narrow hallway outside the visiting locker room in Oakland, Riley Cooper leaned against the cinder-block wall and tried to explain his three-touchdown day against the Raiders. Equipment carts rumbled out of the locker room toward the waiting bus and Cooper had to sidestep down the hall to allow them to pass.

"I feel like I'm in the way here," he said.

For much of this season, Cooper might have had the same feeling on the field, and somewhat earlier, he might have had it in the locker room as well. It hasn't been a smooth stretch for Cooper, who has been accused at different times of being somewhat slow both above the neck and below it.

Everyone got well on Sunday against the Raiders, however, in what used to be known as Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, but is now tagged as O.co Coliseum, which might make sense to someone but doesn't quite conjure up the same images of Daryle Lamonica and Fred Biletnikoff.

The Mad Bomber wasn't a very accurate passer, but he had a big arm and he often used it to find the scraggly haired Biletnikoff - who was more shifty than speedy - far down the field, and that would set off silver-and-black celebrations back in the day when there was more to celebrate in Oakland, both football-related and otherwise.

On the same field, Nick Foles and Cooper did a visiting reprise of that act Sunday in the Eagles' 49-20 win, proving an axiom of football and life that says almost anything can happen if given enough time. Foles had time to find receivers, who, in turn, had time to get open and all that was needed was some pitch and catch of the sort that you might see every day in practice.

"We still have a lot of football to play. It was a good day for me, but with that being said, it wasn't redemption or anything like that," Cooper said. "I did the same thing I do every week."

It just doesn't come out quite the same every week. Forget the three touchdown receptions - Cooper was the first Eagles receiver to have that many in a game since Kevin Curtis in 2007 - his 139 yards were a career high and his five catches have only been bettered once in his 71-game professional career (6, vs. Dallas this season).

"All I'm doing is running routes and he's putting the ball where it needs to be," Cooper said.

It really is that simple, particularly once you factor in the contributions of D.J. Hayden, Oakland's third cornerback, a 5-foot-11 pipe-cleaner whose matchup with the taller Cooper ended badly every time.

"When he's covered one-on-one against a smaller defensive back, he's going to muscle up and not get knocked off the ball," coach Chip Kelly said.

Not only did he stay on the ball, but he left the flailing Hayden on the ground much of the time, as was the case on Cooper's first two touchdowns.

If it seems odd to read the phrase "Cooper's first two touchdowns," well, it was an odd day concerning touchdowns. Foles, as has been thoroughly documented, threw seven of them, tying an NFL record held mostly by guys who played the game back when things were a little sloppier. Only Foles and Peyton Manning (earlier this season) managed the feat against modern defenses that have the advantage of better athletes and superior groundskeeping.

Maybe Manning was supposed to get seven someday, but that wasn't predicted for Foles, whose ability to heave the ball downfield has been questioned. And to complete seven touchdown passes in his first 26 attempts on Sunday (he had a total of six touchdowns in 90 attempts entering the game) was truly day-of-the-blue-snow stuff.

Someone asked Oakland free safety Charles Woodson - who has been around for 16 seasons and knows a few things - whether he saw anything on film that would indicate Nick Foles might throw seven touchdowns. Woodson considered this.

"I don't think Nick Foles had seen anything on film that would give him any indication that he'd throw for seven touchdowns," Woodson said. "But in this league, it doesn't matter who the quarterback is, if he's able to sit back and make throws and we give him some throws downfield, then he's going to make those plays."

Kelly said they didn't change much for the Oakland game, that it was just a matter of execution, but the fact is they went to far more two-tight end sets to aid with the pass protection. If the receivers weren't getting open quickly enough before - and they weren't - Kelly tweaked things to give them enough time to match their abilities.

Foles is an accurate passer, but it was the luxury of standing in clean, well-spaced pockets with big passing lanes that helped make the difference on Sunday. It is the difference between shooting baskets alone in the driveway and attempting to do so in the company of large people putting their hands in your face. If it didn't work that way, Steve Alford would have been an NBA star.

"Nick's got a very strong arm. He proved today he can throw the deep ball," center Jason Kelce said. "And we've seen a lot on film of Riley running past guys and Nick throwing good balls. Maybe there's one play here or there, but I think both have the ability."

They did against the Raiders, in a game in which Foles was able to set up and step into every pass, and a game in which Cooper was able to break free of the jam-up that usually finds him near the line of scrimmage. Once on his way, like those equipment carts rolling toward the bus, he picked up some momentum . . . and three touchdown catches, nearly half of his previous career total of seven.

"Whatever Nick was doing, he needs to keep doing," Cooper said.

That's the trick, of course. But if it happened once, it can happen again. Everything does given enough time.


bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports


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