Brandin Cooks' Patriots debut was one of the more highly anticipated debuts for an offseason acquisition in the Belichick era.
Cooks's speed and game-breaking ability drew immediate comparisons to Randy Moss, which were always unfair to Cooks.
Moss was a generational talent. A first-ballot Hall of Famer. And one of the best wide receivers of all-time.
Cooks is a useful weapon, that impacted the game plenty against the Chiefs, but he isn't Moss, and he isn't the type of receiver Patriots fans have grown accustomed to.
The Patriots offense has been built around pass catchers like Julian Edelman. Possession receivers that move the sticks with high percentage throws.
That has become Tom Brady's bread and butter, and is a huge reason why it's so rare to see Brady's completion percentage where it was against the Chiefs.
However, Cooks still had a huge influence on the Patriots offense against Kansas City, and showed off that game-breaking speed both by catching passes, and drawing penalties.
Below, I will go through everything there's to know about Cooks' debut.
On the stat sheet, Cooks finished with three catches for 88 yards on seven targets. Not exactly a big performance, but still notable.
All three completions had things to like about them, but two in particular stood out.
First, the 54-yard bomb everyone was waiting for. Cooks puts a great inside stutter-step move to get around the jam at the line of scrimmage, and then just out-runs the coverage. Brady drops a dime right over the shoulder, and before the safety in the middle of the field can get there. Sweet looking throw and catch.
The second catch shown stands out as a really good play design for Cooks in this offense.
The Patriots offense got more vertical a year ago due to the emergence of Chris Hogan, but has typically relied on yards after the catch, and horizontal spacing to create yards.
This is a really nice play design by Josh McDaniels. All 11 players on the field sell the play action, as Cooks pauses to give the illusion that he's blocking, and then releases across the field.
It turns into a foot race between Cooks and a linebacker, which will always be a favorable matchup for the Patriots.
You'd like to see Cooks utilized more on crossing routes over the middle where he can beat coverage with this speed, and create easy completions for Tom Brady, rather than the deep-vertical routes we saw late in the game.
There were definitely a few instances where the Patriots lost out on big plays to Cooks due to breakdowns in pass protection.
As we know from the Moss days, with deep-threats like Cooks the offensive line has to give Brady the time, and space, to step up and make big throws downfield.
The first play shown, Cooks gets behind the defense off of play action, and has a chance to score a touchdown if Brady can get the throw there.
Brady sees Cooks running free, but the protection breaks down, and he's forced to pull it down to elude the rush.
On the flea flicker, Cooks cuts his route off into the middle of the field, and is open for an easy completion, but Brady is pressured immediately once he gets the ball back from James White, which forces the throwaway.
That's life with a receiver like Cooks. You may only get a few opportunities a game to hit a big play, and you need everything to break right to complete the pass.
One area that cannot be overlooked is the four penalties that Cooks drew against the Chiefs.
Cooks drew two pass interference calls, which went for 38 yards, and one of which set the Patriots up on the goal line. He also drew two holding calls, another of which set up an easy touchdown.
You can see how difficult he is to cover on the long pass that drew the 26-yard pass interference call. Cooks runs right by Chiefs CB Terrance Mitchell off the line, and Mitchell makes contact before the ball arrives trying to recover.
In all, the four penalties cost the Chiefs 46 yards, which can basically be added to Cooks' receiving totals for the game.
Still Work To Do
With Julian Edelman out for the season, Brandin Cooks needs to be the Patriots' top receiving option, and if he's going to be they have to make these two plays. I say they because Tom Brady shoulders some of the blame.
This is a difficult catch, but one that Cooks has to make if he wants to take his game to the next level.
He runs a good route to get inside positioning, and has a clean attempt at making the catch.
Yes, the corner is all over Cooks' back, and hits Cooks as soon as the ball arrives, but he has to fight through that contact, and make the catch.
On this play, Brady could have made this an easier catch. The throw is a bit high, and despite getting good separation, Cooks is forced to make a toe-tapping catch.
However, this is on third down, and although Cooks runs a nice route to create separation, he cuts it off before the first down marker. He has to know where the line to gain is, and get beyond the sticks to give the Patriots a chance at the first down.
Tom Brady spoke about missing this throw in his post-game press conference, as it would have been a huge completion at a time when the Pats desperately needed a spark.
In fairness, this is a fantastic play by Terrance Mitchell, who recovers, and makes a tremendous play on the football.
It's also easy to say that Brady should have thrown this further, as Cooks does have to slow down for the pass. But Brady throws it over 55 yards in the air, and you can't ask much more than that from a 40-year-old quarterback.
What you'd like to see Cooks do here is go get the football in the air. He knows it's not going to have enough air under it to lead him, and that Mitchell is going to at least attempt to make a play on the ball.
You can't sit back and wait for that throw to fall into your arms. If Cooks goes back to the ball maybe he catches it over the diving Mitchell, or maybe he draws another pass interference penalty with Mitchell in all-out recovery mode.
After reviewing the film, it's clear that Brandin Cooks' performance should give Patriots fans hope.
Brady and Cooks are already hitting bombs, and came close to having multiple big passing plays in this one.
It felt like Cooks took a quarter or so to get going, but as the game went on his speed became a major factor.
Having said that, there is still plenty of room to grow for the Patriots' new weapon.
If Cooks is going to be a consistent threat, he needs to get stronger at the catch point, and the Patriots need him to elevate his game on third down.
The Patriots badly miss Julian Edelman on third down, as the shifty Edelman was a machine at picking up third and mediums that led to long, sustained drives.
Cooks showed off that he can be a deep threat, but can he be a go-to receiver for Tom Brady when it counts?
That remains to be seen.