In the third quarter — and with the score tied at 20 — Jets running back Breece Hall burst through the Chiefs’ defense for a 43-yard gain. But without Cook’s amazing open-field tackle, Hall would have had an 85-yard touchdown run.
The Jets would eventually punt from the Kansas City 43-yard line — and would not score again.
Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was still high over the play when he started preparations to face the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5.
“That was the first clip I showed on Tuesday when we met with them — because I thought that was huge,” Spagnuolo told reporters before practice on Thursday. “Usually you’re saying, ‘Okay, that saved four points.’ It really saved seven, because we ended up stopping them on that drive.”
Cook also spoke to the media on Thursday, taking pride in his teammates’ ability to get New York off the field.
“The ball popped through,” recalled Cook, “and I’m the last line of defense — so my objective was just to get him on the ground and give the defense a chance to go out there and make plays. I think for the biggest part, [I’ll] shout-out to my teammates that were hustling to the ball from the back end.
“If you go back to the film, you see [linebacker] Willie Gay. You see [cornerback] Trent McDuffie. You see guys getting off blocks [and] running to the ball... But I was able to get him down — and we were able [to] get off the field with a punt. It was a beautiful series.”
Cook and Spagnuolo explained how watching film of Hall’s big plays in the Jets’ Week 1 win over the Buffalo Bills helped Kansas City’s defense to be ready for the moment.
“We had watched a clip of No. 20 [Hall] run that same play against Buffalo,” Spagnuolo observed, “down and backed up — [and then] he was gone. They caught him at the 10-yard line, but that deep safety didn’t make that same play. We just said, ‘If we get in that situation, somebody’s got to get him on the ground.’”
Cook had thought for days about having to make the play — which may turn out to be the defining moment of his young career.
“Probably for two days straight, I was looking [at] that play,” said Cook. “I think it was [Bills safety] Jordan Poyer. I was looking at how if I was in his shoes, how I could have made the play — just trying to find different ways. I definitely watch other guys from the league, Jordan Poyer is definitely a great safety on defense.
“So I just try to see how different guys might have missed a play — or made a play. How can I emulate that?
“Moving forward to our game when it popped through, I was trying to figure [it] out. It was a little different, honestly, [because] I had a lead blocker. I was just trying to find a way to get in front of the ball carrier and slow him down for my teammates to race to the ball.”
Had Cook not succeeded, Spagnuolo believes Gay could have at least prevented a touchdown.
“On that play — if you guys go back and look at it — Willie was involved in coming off the edge,” noted the coach. “If you watch the whole play — had Bryan gotten him to stumble a little bit and missed him — Willie was going to run all the way down there and maybe make it.
“I just thought the effort by Willie Gay on that play was huge. He didn’t come [into] the play because Bryan got him on the ground. Thank God he made it.”
Prior to the game, Gay had (likely inadvertently) caused controversy by describing the Jets as “a team that wants to run the ball.” If that was the Jet’s game plan, the Chiefs came ready. Other than the 43 yards on Hall’s trip to the house that wasn’t, the Jets gained only 65 yards on the ground. But according to Cook, the defense focuses on the run for every game.
“How the league is nowadays,” he explained, “you want to stop the run first — so that way, you force them to throw passes and get [defensive tackle] Chris Jones [and the] guys up front a chance to get to the quarterback.
“A lot of teams — obviously — want to get the ball and establish the running first; that opens their passing abilities. For us, though, the main thing is [to] stop the run — then our deep shots.
“That’s what Coach Spags kind of preaches week-to-week, day-in and day-out. So that was our goal; that was our objective. [It] definitely was a powerful team to come and run the ball — as you’ve seen weeks ago. We were able to do our job to the best of our ability.”
Through four games this season, Cook has only been off the field for 11 defensive snaps. Spagnuolo is happy that the safety’s big moment on Sunday helped show the player he is becoming.
“I think each game,” Spagnuolo expressed, “he’s gotten better and better. It was kind of evident by that one play. It was pretty indicative of his improvement.”