Cowboys QB Cooper Rush pulls off clutch performance after years of preparation

MINNEAPOLIS — On one hand, Cooper Rush wasn’t fazed.

The Cowboys backup quarterback had actually studied this offending system considering that 2017, biking through representatives of the playbook in practice and training school and preseason video games. He didn’t anticipate the speed of the NFL video game to assail him like it may a novice; after all, Rush has actually gotten a check from NFL groups for the much better part of 5 years now.

Still, the chance that Hurry gotten Sunday night was the conclusion of a dream he both never ever offered him up on and likewise couldn’t ensure.

Due to the fact that last October, Rush viewed most NFL video games from his sofa.

“It’s pretty special,” he stated

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Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush (10) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Minneapolis.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush (10) tosses a pass throughout the 2nd half of an NFL football video game versus the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Minneapolis.

Given that the Cowboys signed Enter 2017 as an undrafted totally free representative, the Central Michigan item kept tabs: The number of video games, as the second-string to resilient Dak Prescott, did Rush prepare physically and psychologically for yet never ever play? The count hovers around 50, Rush’s profession statistics totaling up to 1 conclusion, 3 pass efforts and 6 contests in which he saw garbage-time chances considering that 2017. The Cowboys have actually brought him the majority of that stretch, launching him for simply a couple of months in 2020 when seasoned Andy Dalton signed a team-friendly offer. Rush went back to the Cowboys after Prescott and Dalton were both not available in late October 2020, however he never ever took the field.

So today was significant for Rush’s household. Prescott’s capability to play through a calf stress stayed a game-time choice, however indications pointed towards Rush’s chance.

First-team practice representatives today developed “more sense of ‘this is real’ than usual,” Rush stated. Rush’s moms and dads, siblings, spouse and 6-month-old child (left with sitter throughout the nighttime contest) took a trip to Minneapolis throughout the event.

The Rush household took a trip house commemorating their child, other half and daddy’s 325-yard, two-touchdown efficiency in a 20-16 win over the Vikings. The Cowboys win streak reached 6.

“It wasn’t crazy,” stated Rush, whom colleagues admire as characterizing the neutral frame of mind the group typically stresses. “I felt like I belonged out there. You’re in the huddle, breaking the O-line, going through your processes. It didn’t feel overwhelming at all.

“It never felt too big in terms of the speed. I just felt in command. Playing with those guys I get to play out there – just go down the list. O-line, running back, receiver. It just makes my job a lot easier.”

Rush’s relationship with those colleagues appeared.

His launching start was by no methods best, Rush finishing 24 of 40 passes and blending in an interception and a sack-fumble with his effective strikes. His accuracy was irregular, decision-making riskier than chosen, specifically when tossing over the middle. Rush took an expensive sack, for a loss of 10 lawns, that pinned Dallas at its own 8 and left the group to punt midway through the 3rd quarter with the video game connected.

However Rush nevertheless finished passes to 7 various colleagues, linking on more than 100 lawns’ worth of targets to receiver Amari Cooper (8-of-13 targets, 122 lawns) and CeeDee Lamb (6-of-8, 112) in the middle of a flourishing purple U.S. Bank Arena crowd. And his very first NFL profession goal, a 73-yard goal to open the 2nd half, was one to bear in mind.

“I can’t say enough about Cooper being ready to jump in there,” head coach Mike McCarthy stated. “Productive, did an excellent job, commanded the offense.”

The very first half was unstable, Rush finishing 10 of 17 pass efforts however stopping working to bring the Cowboys inside the 20. Vikings securities collaborated to obstruct among Rush’s first-half passes; and another prospective interception was dropped. The Cowboys extended drives to the tune of 7 more minutes’ ownership than the Vikings had. However those 4 first-half belongings integrated to notch simply 3 points. Could the 2nd half be more powerful?

A 2-yard Ezekiel Elliott run and a too-low incompletion to tight end Dalton Schultz didn’t reproduce optimism. However then, on the Cowboys’ 3rd play of the series, Rush hung back and saw receiver Cedrick Wilson divided the securities in the Vikings’ Cover-2 defense. This was a play the Cowboys had actually practiced all week, versus a protective appearance similar to that which they prepared for. Rush ended up and muscled the ball up the middle, believing to himself: “Get in there, Ced. Get in there.” Wilson captured the pass in stride 23 lawns downfield then raced the staying 50 lawns after the catch.

The Cowboys sideline went nuts.

“That’s what the very first goal does,” said Prescott, who celebrated enthusiastically. “Big third down, being able to catch the defense the position we wanted them to be in and the play. Coop just dialed up a perfect ball to Ced, and Ced did the rest.

“It was a great momentum for us.”

Dallas would need that.

Even as the Cowboys defense allowed the Vikings to convert merely 1 of 13 third-down attempts, Dallas’ offense struggled to find home again. Former Cowboys defensive end Everson Griffen’s sack of Rush forced a three-and-out on the next drive; incompletions and bit plays would limit the next to a punt and a field goal. The fourth quarter seemed more promising, Rush finding Lamb, Cooper and receiver Noah Brown for double-digit gains on three of the first four snaps of a drive. But another ex-Cowboys player, safety Xavier Woods, apparently wasn’t content with just an interception. Woods blitzed from the left and knocked the ball loose from Rush. Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr recovered.

The Cowboys defense promptly forced a three-and-out.

It was in the game’s final three minutes, when the Cowboys received the ball back trailing by 3, that Rush demonstrated his command. Again, the precision and chemistry weren’t Prescott-caliber: Rush missed Lamb on a short pass in tight coverage near the left sideline and then threw a slightly ill-timed pass to Cooper down the right sideline. The ball eluded Cooper’s initial grasp, bouncing off cornerback Harrison Hand’s frame. But Cooper locked in to swipe it from the air, ultimately completing a 33-yard play.

Cooper had assured Rush of such outcomes, imploring the quarterback to trust his matchups outside. Cooper said he told Rush on repeat: “These guys can’t guard us.” As the two-minute warning sounded, Cooper was determined to keep proving it.

The Cowboys lined up for just their second red-zone snap of the day with 1:51 to play, Rush’s family now standing in their seats as nerves made the more-passive sitting unbearable. A penalty and a tackle for loss put the Cowboys behind the chains until on third-and-11, 1:04 to play, Rush stayed calm in the face of swarming defenders to nail Elliott, who barreled for the first down.

Rush then called a play with Cooper in mind, the veteran receiver confident even as he returned to the field from a sideline visit to massage his injured hamstring. Second-year Lamb lobbied for his own touchdown opportunity, but Cooper demurred.

“I said, ‘Hell, nah,’” Cooper said.

Rush says he didn’t fathom a handoff on the run-pass option play.

“I saw single high, one-on-one with Coop(er),” Rush said. “We’re throwing it in that situation.”

The Cowboys were also winning it.

The Cowboys have not ruled out Prescott for next week’s game at home against the Broncos, his calf strain close enough to workable that he went through a full 38-minute warmup Sunday afternoon before the final decision was called. But the Cowboys – whose 6-1 record bests every NFL team but the Packers, Cardinals and Rams – now know better both what their backup quarterback can provide and how resilient their team is when faced with injuries, a trailing record and a raucous road environment in prime time.

“This is definitely a gut-check win for us,” McCarthy said. “It just confirmed (our) ability to fight through adversity. This bunch has a lot of character. They’re tight. They enjoy one another.

“They just don’t blink.”

Count Rush atop the list of players who never flinched in the contest, the play not always clean but the result ultimately what he hoped for in years of preparing for this opportunity.

“You wait a long time,” Rush said. “You definitely dream about (this). It’s just as good as the dreams.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dallas Cowboys: How Cooper Rush went from couch to clutch at QB

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.