Cowboys WR Amari Cooper rotated out on crucial down

Print

On fourth down with the game and the division title on the line Sunday, Amari Cooper was on the sideline.

That's how the Dallas Cowboys lost their division lead to the Philadelphia Eagles. Trailing 17-9 and facing fourth-and-8, Cooper went to the sideline for what was ultimately Dallas' final offensive play of the night. In came diminutive speedster Tavon Austin, who ran a streak down the right side after the ball was snapped.

Dak Prescott never seriously looked in his direction, instead heaving a prayer to Michael Gallup in the end zone. Sidney Jones broke up the pass, forcing a turnover on downs.

Cooper's absence was understandably a notable topic of discussion after the game, but Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he didn't pull the wideout, he simply sent in his teammate.

"He was rotating with Tavon Austin, so Tavon was in," Garrett explained.

NFL Network's Jane Slater reported a Cowboys source disputed the notion Cooper was benched, instead saying Dallas sent in Austin because he was succeeding with his smaller size and speed. That's at least somewhat true, as Austin had won an earlier streak down the sideline, but Prescott overthrew him.

Prescott put it on Gallup this time around, but Jones and the Eagles proved to be the winners thanks to his timely pass defense.

Cooper's absence remains notable, though, because of his importance to this team's passing game, something that didn't prove valuable Sunday evening. His lack of involvement on that fourth down capped a frustrating day for Cooper, who caught just four of 12 targets for 24 yards while playing on a troublesome knee.

"I know I didn't play my best game at all," Cooper said afterward, via The Athletic's Jon Machota. "It was terrible. When you play important games like this, everybody has to bring their A-game if we really want to win, and I don't think we did that tonight."

He and the Cowboys will get at least one more shot to produce a victory next week against Washington, but they'll need help from the Giants, who face the Eagles, in order to win the NFC East. We'll see how involved Cooper is in the regular-season finale.

Print