By Jim Thomas

Atlanta’s defense gave Jared Cook the star treatment last Sunday in the Georgia Dome. Then again, after turning in a seven-catch, 141-yard receiving day against Arizona that included two touchdowns, Cook kind of expected it.

“They did all they could to prevent me from having a repeat performance from Week 1,” Cook said. “They had safety help over the top and they always had a linebacker sticking me.”

Rams coach Jeff Fisher had a slightly different term for what the Falcons’ linebackers were doing to Cook.

“They grabbed him a couple of times,” Fisher said.

Well, more than a couple, according to Cook.

“We were looking for (flags) on a lot of ’em, but if the ref doesn’t see it and the ref doesn’t call it, what can you do?” Cook said. “Your words aren’t gonna get you anywhere so you might as well just play and keep playing hard.”

Cook isn’t the type who’s going to react like an actor in a Greek tragedy every time he thinks a pass inference or defensive holding penalty should be called.

“That’s what defensive players do,” Cook said. “They hold. That’s part of the game, so there’s no sense in complaining about it, I feel like. You might as well just fight your butt off the whole game and fight through it.”

You can only hope to get a call here and there, and hope the officiating crews will see it when they review film of their performance. That’s basically how Cook views it.

But just two weeks into his tenure with the Rams, Cook realizes he’s not going to sneak up on opposing defenses. Week 1 as a Ram, he sets a single-game franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end. Week 2, the opposing defense hunts him down like he’s on a most-wanted list. He ends up with only one catch for 10 yards despite being targeted six times by quarterback Sam Bradford.

“It’s a respect factor and the type of player they understand I am,” Cook said. “But at the same time, from my end of the spectrum, it stinks. But that just gives everybody else the opportunity to shine. Like Chris Givens did, like Austin (Pettis) did, like Tavon (Austin) did. That’s the type of offense that we have.”

With Cook blanketed by the Falcons, Givens posted the second 100-yard game of his NFL career with 105 yards on five catches. Austin Pettis had career highs in both receptions (eight) and yards (7Cool. And rookie Tavon Austin scored the first two touchdowns of his career.

“Our big thing is try to move (Cook) around, put him in different spots, and if they’re taking care of him, then other guys are going to have big games like Chris stepped up last week,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “Chris kind of got shut out a little bit in the first game against Arizona and came back last week with a big performance. Who knows who it will be this week?’

Elaborating on that point, Bradford added: “I think that’s the beauty of this offense and the guys that we have in this system now. If people want to focus on one guy, one receiver, it’s going to make it tough to cover everyone else.

“They can only double so many players out there before everyone else is ‘singled.’ I think that when they do that, we’ve gotten a lot of favorable match-ups, and it gives other guys the opportunity to step up and make plays. And guys did that last week.”

Even so, the Rams obviously want and need more out of Cook on a weekly basis than just one catch. They’re going to have to find ways to counter days when defenses give him extra attention. And that’s not always easy.

If for example, Cook gets bumped off his route, he simply can’t freelance his way into other areas of the field.

“You have other complementary routes that might be coming behind you,” Cook said. “And they’re depending on you to get out of the way so they can get open. But at the same time, you’ve got to avoid the (defenders) the best you can and use your hands the best that you can to get ’em off of you.”

This week in Dallas, the Rams face the NFL’s 24th-ranked pass defense. So far, in a victory against the New York Giants and a loss to Kansas City, the Cowboys haven’t faced a tight end with Cook’s kind of ability.

“They’ve got a good front seven,” Cook said. “Their linebacker corps is pretty good. They’ve got DeMarcus Ware; they’ve got (Sean) Lee. They’ve got fast talent in the front seven. But we just have to get down the field and get to the secondary. Make sure that we run crisp routes and get open the best we can.”

And no matter how Dallas decides to play Cook, and no matter how the other receivers are faring, the Rams are a better team when Cook is involved.

“Just because people want to double him or focus on him, we’ve still got to find a way to get him the ball and allow him to create plays once the ball’s in his hands,” Bradford said. “Because he’s too good of a player not to get his touches during a game.”