Riley Cooper on Sunday caught four passes for 120 yards -- more yards than he had in the rest of his career combined. (USA Today Images)
TAMPA, Fla. -- He had more yards than he had in all his other games combined.
He made more big plays than in all his other games combined.
After a nightmarish few months on the field and off, Riley Cooper finally had something to celebrate.
Cooper broke out of his season-long slump Sunday, and he did it in a big way, with a career-high 120 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ 31-20 win over the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium (see Instant Replay).
“It’s a big boost,” Cooper said. “For sure. It’s a big boost. It definitely is.”
Cooper entered the weekend ranked dead last among NFL wide receivers who had started all their team’s games, with eight catches for 93 yards.
But playing just a few miles from his hometown of Clearwater, he contributed Sunday from start to finish.
He had a 12-yard catch on Nick Foles’ first pass of the game to get a touchdown drive going and then had a 17-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter.
Early in the third quarter, Foles and Cooper connected again, with Foles floating a career-long 47-yard TD to Cooper down the left sideline. Then early in the fourth, Cooper turned a short pass from Foles into a 44-yard gain with a nifty move to elude Johnthan Banks.
“He’s an X-factor,” LeSean McCoy said. “I don’t think anybody pays any attention to Riley, and the thing is the guys in the locker room know how good he really is. I think he surprised a lot of guys around the league today, but he didn’t surprise us.”
Cooper, who became a starter when the Eagles lost Jeremy Maclin for the year, said he wasn’t frustrated by the start to his season.
Until Sunday, Cooper hadn’t had more than two catches in a game and hadn’t even had 30 yards in a game.
“Everything’s so new, and we’re still all getting on the same page and getting the same timing,” Cooper said. “Everyone’s time is going to come. I didn’t really get a lot of looks the first however many games and then today I did. It’s just a new system. Everyone’s getting used to it. It’ll come around.
“I knew it was just going to take a little bit, and today I finally get a few looks and it felt good from a personal aspect, but we won the game and that’s really at the end what really matters.”
It’s been a rocky season for Cooper off the field as well, but for the first time in a long time, the former fifth-round pick from Florida was making headlines for something positive, not something negative.
“I’m very proud of him,” Foles said. “I love Riley to death, and I thought he played tremendous. I’m really, really proud of him. I really think his character has grown, for sure.”