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‘I got a funny story’: Inside Cowboys WRs’ huddle exchange just before Amari Cooper's game-winning TD

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MINNEAPOLIS — Seconds earlier, Amari Cooper had retreated to the sideline aiming to loosen his hamstring with a massage gun and tennis ball.

But as the final minute of the Cowboys-Vikings game arrived, the Cowboys receiver didn’t care where he had just come from or how tight his lower-body muscles were. Cooper cared instead about where he was going and, better yet, what was coming to him: a touchdown pass attempt.

So when the Cowboys offense huddled ahead of first-and-goal from the 5-yard line, trailing by 3 points with 55 seconds to play, CeeDee Lamb really had no chance in the case he attempted to state. Lamb lobbied admirably nonetheless: Could the end-zone attempt target him?

“I said, ‘Hell nah,’” Cooper recalled after the Cowboys’ 20-16 win.

Allow Cooper to elaborate.

“I got a funny story for you,” the sixth-year receiver told Cowboys reporters after his eight-catch, 122-yard game. “I might as well go ahead and tell it.”

WINNERS, LOSERS: It was a big day for backup QBs. Vikings absolutely abysmal on offense.

MORE: 32 things we learned from Week 8 of 2021 NFL season

Amari Cooper #19 of the Dallas Cowboys catches a five-yard touchdown pass from Cooper Rush #10 (not pictured) against Cameron Dantzler #27 of the Minnesota Vikings during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Amari Cooper #19 of the Dallas Cowboys catches a five-yard touchdown pass from Cooper Rush #10 (not pictured) against Cameron Dantzler #27 of the Minnesota Vikings during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Let’s back up.

The Cowboys faced thid-and-11 with 1:04 to play, Vikings defenders swarming Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush as his first NFL star neared its end. Rush didn’t flinch, finding Elliott underneath as the pocket collapsed. Elliott split two pairs of defenders before cornerback Cameron Dantzler could bring him down. The Cowboys now faced first down at the 5, and the Vikings called their third timeout. Cooper decided he would manage his hamstring on a release rather than miss a game-clinching play.

“I came back in the huddle, we were in double left, right, so it means I line up to the left, the short side of the field,” Cooper said. “CeeDee wanted the ball really bad.”

Lamb told Rush to call a double-right instead, per Cooper.

“Because that would put me on the right side and him on the left,” Cooper said. “(Rush) was like, ‘Nah, it’s double left, bro.’”

When Lamb’s attempt to change the play-call faltered, he shifted his focus to the personnel group.

“Coop,” he asked fellow receiver Amari Cooper. “You want to let me get this?’

Cooper said, “Hell, nah.” Lamb laughed.

Cooper released from the left outside receiver position, faking a cut in before gunning for a fade in the left corner of the end zone. Rush didn’t even fathom a carry in what was technically a run-pass option with Cooper matched one-on-one, the defense in single-high coverage. Rush threw the fade to Cooper, who extended his arms to secure the airborne catch. Cooper brushed the end zone before falling out of bounds. Cowboys 20, Vikings 16.

“That’s how much pride I take in wanting those balls in pivotal moments because I know I can go up and make a play,” Cooper said. “I was talking to (Rush), just telling him: ‘Trust the matchups on the outside. These guys can’t guard us.’ I kept repeating that to him.

“Eventually it stuck with him, and that’s what he did.”

Cooper praised Lamb for the eagerness to get another crack at a fade. After all, Lamb had caught six passes for 112 yards in a dominant game. And the most memorable touchdown pass of his young career came on an acrobatic fade in Minnesota last season.

Cowboys receivers celebrate the unselfish culture that prompts them to support each other unfailingly while also encouraging a competitive spirit that drives each to be his best. Whether rock-paper-scissors contests to settle who will catch balls first on a practice JUGS machine or in-game huddle debates of who will get the first chance to catch a touchdown, they believe the spirit elevates all parties.

Cooper and Lamb are each on pace for more than 1,000 yards this season.

“He tried to steal my touchdown, but I don’t blame him,” Cooper said. “He’s the same way as I, and he wants the ball in that situation so that says a lot about us, the confidence we have, that we want the ball in those important situations.

“Because we know we can win a game for the team.”

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

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cowboys WR Amari Cooper reveals 'funny story' of game-winning TD