By: Will Burchfield
Jim Bob Cooter liked nothing about it. He may have even said so on the sideline.
By then, there was nothing he could do.
Matthew Stafford had already taken the snap, Kenny Golladay had already set off downfield and the Cardinals defense had already begun to adjust.
“Quite frankly, that schematic pass play versus that defense is not very good. I was sort of thinking, ‘We might not have a great play going here.’ I may have actually said that out loud,” Cooter said with a smile on Friday.
His grin told the rest of the story.
Stafford opened up Golladay’s post route by looking off the safety and uncorked a 45-yard bomb downfield. The rookie take care of the rest.
“Heck of a throw and catch,” Cooter said. “I mean, (Golladay) really, really extended to get there.”
It was likely Stafford’s deception that saved the play.
As he stepped up in the pocket after a play-action fake to Ameer Abdullah, he turned his head and body toward Marvin Jones, who was running an intermediate out-route down the left sideline. Cardinals’ safety Antoine Bethea read Stafford’s body language and drifted toward that side of the field.
When Stafford opened his hips and threw instead to Golladay, streaking down the middle of the field, it was too late for Bethea to recover.
“I’m sure that affected the safety. That particular safety is a veteran guy, really intelligent guy. He’s going to read quarterbacks’ eyes, he’s going to move a little bit when the quarterback looks one direction or the other,” Cooter said. “It was a really good pocket, which allowed Stafford to sort of do some of those things. An aggressive shot by the quarterback and Kenny Golladay made it pay off.”
Golladay helped himself on the route, too, blowing past cornerback Justin Bethel at the line of scrimmage. Asked how he got so open, Golladay said, “Just ran with speed. Put my head down, ran. Looked up, the ball was coming.”
His instincts took over from there.
“I may have been full extension, to be honest,” Golladay said. “I thought I was going to be able to make a catch on it because I didn’t think it was that far ahead.”
The rookie showed the full extent of his skill set in his NFL debut.
“I mean, the guy’s going to make plays, and that’s a really good thing. If you look at our big plays in that game and even getting some first downs on some third downs, a lot of that was just our guys making plays,” Cooter said. “Really good to see those guys go out and make plays, and Kenny’s was as good as you’ll see.”
It was clear when the Lions drafted him that Golladay would be a target in the red zone. But he proved versus the Cardinals he can be a deep threat too.
The expectations have risen accordingly, although Cooter is doing his best to keep things in check.
“I don’t know what the outside expectations are,” he said. “Sometimes you get a couple balls in the air maybe way down the field or maybe in the red zone, and you go make those plays. I doubt the guy gets two (touchdowns) every week, so if fans are expecting that, that’d be a little bit of a tall order.
“But he’s doing better, he’s getting better. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, he’s going about things the right way working real hard. We’re excited to have him.”