For all the plays he has made over the last three weeks, rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper says he didn’t know he would start against the Raiders until he arrived at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday morning.
That was when he found out starting cornerback Brandon Flowers, who was questionable after tweaking his left knee in practice Friday, wouldn’t be able to play after all.
Cooper, however, was no worse for wear. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Rutgers product stepped in and put forth his third straight strong performance, finishing with an interception and five pass deflections in his quest to show what San Francisco missed out on when they released him at the 53-man roster deadline before the season.
“What a big pickup for us,” said nickel cornerback Dunta Robinson. “We want to thank San Francisco for releasing him and allowing us to pick that guy up. He added depth to an already deep secondary.”
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Cooper got a chance to show what he’s really made of against the Raiders, too. He got burned badly for the first time in his career in the first half, when Denarius Moore beat him at the line of scrimmage in press coverage for a 39-yard touchdown.
However, teammates said Cooper, a seventh-round pick in April’s NFL Draft, was completely unfazed.
“He’s got the eye of a tiger man, he’s a brick wall,” said Flowers, who spoke to Cooper on the sideline. “I let him know that’s going to happen. There’s not a corner in this league that hasn’t given up a catch or get beaten. But it says something the way he fought back. He was on every route from then on.”
Indeed. The Raiders were unafraid of Cooper after that, but repeatedly rose to the challenge, swatting several away balls thrown his way and even recording the second interception of his career on a pass intended for Moore the second half.
“It was a play they had some success on earlier in the game,” Cooper said. “I saw the same formation, the same splits. So through film study and things like that, you start to pick up on stuff. They showed that play and formation so I just (took advantage of) the opportunity.”
Cooper wasn’t the only defensive back to do so Sunday with Flowers out. With Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s ability to scramble, the Chiefs often used six or seven defensive backs, which gave Robinson and reserve safeties Quintin Demps and Husain Abdullah — who each recorded interceptions — a chance to shine.
“We needed to put speed on the field for Pryor,” said Robinson, who saw plenty of playing time Sunday after he didn’t record a snap against Tennessee a week before. “We knew he was a guy that could get in and out of trouble, and does a great job — probably the best job — of all the quarterbacks we faced this year (at doing that).”
The 31-year old Robinson, who finished with a tackle and a pass deflection, said Chiefs coach Andy Reid kept him out of the Tennessee game so he could give his weary body a rest.
“One thing Andy has done is done a great job of taking care of me,” said Robinson, a 10-year veteran. “I’ve been in this league for a long time and sometimes the body feels terrible, man. So I felt great today, and that’s because I’ve been rested. It allowed me to go out there and make plays, man.”
But the star of the show (again) was Cooper, who was grateful for another strong outing Sunday and everything that came with it, even the touchdown he allowed.
“I’m glad I got beat, you know? It’s always a learning experience for me,” Cooper said. “You have to experience some type of adversity to get better, to put your best foot forward. That’s just something I want to go back and study and see how I can improve my game from that standpoint.”