LANDOVER, Md. — A nearly two-month layoff did little to slow down Jared Cook during his first game back in the Packers’ offense at FedExField on Sunday night.
The eighth-year tight end, who missed the previous six games with an ankle injury, caught six passes for 105 yards and a 6-yard touchdown in his return against Washington.
While it wasn’t enough for the Packers to avoid a 42-24 loss to the Redskins, Cook’s performance helped ignite the offense and provided a glimpse of his big-play production.
Most of his production came in the second half, including an over-the-shoulder reception at the start of the third quarter that gained 47 yards on third-and-3 from the Green Bay 9.
Cook then pulled in another 29-yard catch to convert a third-and-2 on the next drive to get the offense rolling. A series later, he beat former Packers defensive back Will Blackmon on an inside slant for his first touchdown catch in more than a year.
“He kept us in the ball game,” said receiver Jordy Nelson of Cook, who was signed as a free agent last offseason. “Obviously the big play down the sideline when we were backed up was huge and the other third down that he caught. He’s a playmaker. It’s great to have him back and we need to build off that.”
Everything Cook had been working to harness prior to the ankle injury he sustained against Detroit on Sept. 25 was on display Sunday, whether it was his chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers or comfort in the offense.
Coming into Sunday with six catches for 53 yards this season, Cook said he and Rodgers stayed in constant communication throughout Sunday’s game. The two shared what they were seeing and worked to diagnose the best way to go about attacking the defense.
In the process, it became clear that the 6-foot-5, 254-pound tight end could be the deep threat the Packers were seeking in the middle of the field.
Rodgers ended up targeting him a game-high 11 times.
“Energy and he made some big plays for us,” said receiver Davante Adams about what Cook added to the offense. “That’s what we expect from him because that’s what we’ve seen in practice on a daily basis. It’s good having him back out there.”
The Packers got off to a slow start against Washington, going three-and-out on their first three offensive series and gaining only nine yards on nine plays.
As has been the case in recent weeks, the offense responded after it fell behind in the second quarter. The Packers finally got on the board with a 17-play, 75-yard series that ate 8 minutes, 29 seconds off the clock.
Trailing 13-10 at halftime, Cook’s pair of big plays helped spark the offense in the second half with his 6-yard touchdown reception with 10:04 left in the fourth quarter cutting Washington’s lead to 29-24.
“I feel like I can help,” Cook said. “I feel like we have a good offense in hand right now. I feel like nobody can stop us if we come together and put our mind to it, but we have to be able to show that on the field and do it.”
That’s as close as Green Bay would get with its defense unable to disrupt Washington’s offensive rhythm with the Redskins scoring on all five of its second-half possessions before kneeling out the victory.
The Packers had one last chance at keeping pace with Washington, but Cook fumbled after a 6-yard gain to give the ball back to the Redskins with 3:05 remaining.
It was a sour note to end on what was Cook’s first 100-yard performance since a seven-catch, 121-yard showing with the Rams in their regular-season opener in 2013.
The Packers’ finished with 424 total yards, giving the offense hope it might be able to carry over the rhythm it established with Cook back in the lineup.
“We ain’t got time to sit around and sulk on it,” Cook said. “We have to get to work. It’s time to pick it up and go to work. Put on your boots, pull up your boot straps, tie ’em tight, and let’s go. Period.”
In addition to Cook’s effort, receiver Randall Cobb had three catches for 84 yards, while running back James Starks scored on a 31-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“We don’t need to change who we are and completely go off-script. We just need to continue to work at it,” said Nelson, who caught a 13-yard touchdown in second quarter. “We made some plays. We just need to make more of them and we’ll be in a situation to win a game.”
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