49ers vs. Texans: Brandin Cooks is a problem for San Francisco

Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks (13) [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]
Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks (13) [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union] /

8-7. 42. 49ers -12.5. 4-11. 10. CBS. Sunday, Jan. 2. 4:05 p.m. ET

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks of the Texans will be a problem for the 49ers this Sunday. The Niners defense will have to put extra focus on him in Week 17.

The San Francisco 49ers look to be in the driver’s seat on their way to a playoff run in 2021. With the New Orleans Saints’ loss to the Miami Dolphins last Monday, the Niners now return to being the masters of their own destiny.

San Francisco can clinch a playoff berth as early as Sunday, with a Saints loss and a victory against the Houston Texans.

Two weeks ago, this might’ve looked like a cakewalk, however, the Texans just had a startling 41-29 upset of the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16 and have now pulled off two wins in a row, shedding the moniker of being the worst team in the NFL this season.

Although the Texans were one of the first teams to be eliminated from playoff contention with a still-lowly 4-11 record to date, they should not be taken lightly.

The reason for that is the Texans’ prolific wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

In five of his past seven seasons, he has finished with 1,000 plus receiving yards. He looks to be on the verge of another 1,000-yard season despite playing on a hapless Houston offense, now entering Week 17 with 945 yards already.

Cooks is a Northern California native, having grown up in Stockton, California. And in his return to NorCal, he will look to have a big game against the 49ers.

Brandin Cooks putting up big numbers for Texans

Cooks has had big games in the last two games he played. In Week 14, he had a stat line of eight receptions and 101 yards receiving. In Week 15, his stat line was seven receptions, 102 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

He was out Week 16 against the Chargers due to being on the reserve/COVID list, but he was activated on Dec. 29, and he should be a full go for Sunday.

To put Cooks’ numbers into perspective, he is averaging 67.5 yards per game and 5.7 receptions per game. He currently sits at 80 receptions, those 945 yards and five touchdowns on the season.

He has big-game potential and could put up big numbers against a Niners secondary that has shown struggles and inconsistency throughout this season.

Inconsistency in the 49ers secondary

San Francisco’s secondary has been somewhat of an Achilles heel this season. After losing veteran cornerback Jason Verrett to a torn ACL in Week 1, there have been a number of different cornerback lineups.

In addition to that, the 49ers lost their No. 2 cornerback in Emmanuel Moseley in Week 13 with an ankle injury.

That left rookie Ambry Thomas to start at cornerback for the last three games alongside veteran Josh Norman. While they haven’t been terrible, there have been some blown plays that have allowed opposing wide receivers to gain big yards on them.

Related Story: San Francisco is equipped enough to defend Texans QB Davis Mills

All things considered, the Niners passing defense has been pretty good overall. They actually rank seventh-best in the league despite the notable concerns here. But big plays from wide receivers have been especially detrimental to them, most notably late in games.

The 49ers will need to pay extra attention to Cooks in coverage. Quarterback Davis Mills of the Texans will likely go to Cooks often as this game progresses. If Cooks is allowed to have a 100-plus yard receiving game, it could be a long night for the defense.

However, if the defense can limit his production right from the start, there aren’t many other offensive threats on the Texans the Niners should fear.

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