Cousins starts off slowly, finishes strong

Cousins starts off slowly, finishes strong
December 16, 2012, 6:15 pm
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Cousins: 'total team win today'

Kirk Cousins’ first NFL start got off to a rocky start but, boy, did he finish strong. As a result of that, and a couple of other final scores early in the afternoon, the Redskins now have a control of their playoff destiny.

Cousins, filling in for the injured Robert Griffin III, threw his first two passes incomplete. That was better than his third pass, which was tipped and picked off by safety T. J. Ward. He returned it 37 yards to the Redskins six and one play later Cleveland had a 7-0 lead.

“I thought he made the correct read but those things happen,” said Shanahan of the intercepted pass.

Understandably, Cousins may have been suffering from a mild case of the jitters in the opening moments of his first NFL start.

"I care about how I do. I'm going to get nervous about what I care about,” he said. “This is important to me. There were butterflies."

Their next two series were better but only in that they were three and outs and not turnovers. Maybe the butterflies started to settle late in the first quarter.

A bad punt gave the Redskins good field position at their own 46. On first down, Cousins faked to Alfred Morris to the left, rolled right, and fired to Leonard Hankerson in between some defenders. It wasn’t easy as Hankerson bobbled the ball and then went to the ground before getting up and going into the end zone to complete the 54-yard scoring play.

The Redskins put together a field goal drive but Cleveland scored a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead just before halftime.  Cousins stats at intermission were respectable; he was 11 for 19 for 146 yards with the one TD and one interception. His QB rating was 78.0

It didn’t take long for the Redskins to take the lead for good early in the second half. Rob Jackson picked off a Brandon Weeden pass and returned it to the Cleveland 15. Three plays later Morris powered over for a touchdown to put Washington up 17-14.

The next time the Redskins got the ball, Cousins really got into a groove. The Browns had no answer for the bootleg pass. Cousins led a seven-play, 60-yard drive by completing four of four passes for 41 yards and the touchdown. The payoff came from two yards out on a rainbow that Cousins threw over an onrushing defender into the arms of Hankerson, who stepped into the end zone.

It was thought that Morris would have to have a strong game if the Redskins were going to be successful with Cousins. And Morris did gain 87 yards on 27 carries. But what helped most was the Browns’ fear of him dominating the game. That played right into the Redskins’ hands as it enabled the bootleg, a staple of Shanahan’s offense.  

"They made it their job to stop our run,” said Morris. “We started using that against them."

Cousins and the Redskins were rolling. A 10-play, 70-yard drive spanning the third and fourth quarters put the Redskins in command at 31-14. Cousins went three for four for 40 yards. Evan Royster capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown run.

Two of Cousins’ completions in that drive converted third downs. At one point he in the second half he complete six straight third-down passes for 49 yards.

“I felt the coaches did a tremendous job all day of putting me in good situations,” said Cousins.

He finished the day with 26 completions on 36 attempts for 329 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating is 104.4, a couple of ticks higher than RG3’s QB rating on the season, which is a league-leading 104.2.

As a result of the win, the Redskins are tied with the New York Giants atop the NFC East. If they win their last two games they will win the division.

“It’s great to be playing with two weeks to go and to have a lot to play for,” said Cousins.

And the Redskins and their fans think it’s great to have a young quarterback who can step in in such a situation, get a win, and make sure that they still have all of their goals left in front of them.