Redskins roll to fifth straight win, 38-21, in Cleveland

Redskins roll to fifth straight win, 38-21, in Cleveland
December 16, 2012, 6:45 pm
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Cousins: 'total team win today'

CLEVELAND--

In summary: The Redskins own a share of first place in the NFC East.

Let that marinate for a second.

A month and a half ago, Robert Griffin III and Co. had dropped to 3-6 and there was talk of looking ahead to next season. But after today’s thorough 38-21 victory at Cleveland Browns Stadium – without an injured RG3 – the Redskins’ improbable roll continued as they claimed a fifth straight win and moved into a tie with the Giants atop the division.

If there ever was an opportunity for a slipup, this was it. Sunday was the day. Griffin was inactive because of a knee injury, and the team’s best unit was led by Kirk Cousins, a rookie making his first start.

As it turned out, though, Cousins steadied himself after a rough start and finished with an impressive stat line: 26 of 37 for 329 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The Redskins, meantime, topped 30 points for the seventh time this season, the most since 1991.

After the game, everyone wanted to talk about Cousins. Cousins, however, wanted to talk about the Redskins’ opportunistic defense and the way the unit turned the game around in the third quarter.

“It started with the turnover our defense created,” Cousins said of the second half about-face. “Gave us a short field. Makes it a lot easier. I can’t credit them enough and the job they did today.”

Turning point: The turnover to which Cousins referred was Rob Jackson’s third quarter interception. Jackson returned the ball 17 yards to the Cleveland 15, and only three plays later, Alfred Morris had scored the first of his two touchdowns to give the Redskins a 17-14 lead they would not relinquish.

In the past three games, Jackson has three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. On Sunday, he had a sack, the interception, a forced fumble and six tackles.

“I feel like the more reps I’m getting, the more comfortable I’m feeling,” Jackson said of his growing role. “I feel real comfortable now.”

Offensive play of the game: The Redskins were trailing 7-0 and the offense had already turned the ball over and gone three-and-out twice when Cousins spotted Leonard Hankerson get a step on the Browns’ secondary. Cousins delivered a perfectly-placed ball over triple coverage to Hankerson, who lost his balance, but got back up and scored. It was the first of Hankerson’s two touchdowns on the afternoon.

Defensive play of the game: Jackson’s interception helped the Redskins take the lead. London Fletcher's put it away. The veteran linebacker made his third interception in four games late in the third, and the visitors parlayed it into a 31-14 lead.

Fletcher’s fourth interception of the season equaled his career high. It also came before a large contingent of his friends and family. Fletcher, a Cleveland native, purchased 42 tickets to the game.

“It was special to me,” Fletcher said. “I tried to downplay it in my mind. But last night on the bus [ride] to the hotel, the route we take is right through my old neighborhood. All the different emotions came over me.”

Special teams play of the game: Kai Forbath connected on a 44-yard field goal in the second quarter to put the Redskins ahead 10-7. The first-year kicker is now 15 for 15 this season, moving him to within one field goal of Garrett Hartley’s record for consecutive field goals to start an NFL career.

Game ball: It goes to Cousins, who acknowledged looking calm and cool but feeling a bit nervous. Making the effort more impressive was the way the rookie bounced back from a shaky start. 

Injury report: Right tackle Tyler Polumbus did not return for the second half because of a concussion. Polumbus did not speak to reporters per NFL rules regarding concussed players.

…Center Will Montgomery left the game late in the fourth quarter because of a sprained MCL in his left knee. He’s expected to undergo an MRI Sunday night or Monday.

“We’ll see how that is,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “I’m hoping it’s not very serious.”

One of the reasons for the Redskins’ success on the ground this season has been the continuity of an overachieving offensive line. That, however, could be in jeopardy.

...Griffin said he was "not happy" with the decision to sit out with a sprained right knee, hinting that he wanted to play. He warmed up for about 20 minutes before the game and appeared to take another step forward in his recovery. 

Quote of the day: Cousins: “It’s a good feeling. I said to my Dad last night, it’s either going to highest of the highs if we win, or the lowest of the lows. We’re certainly feeling the highs right now.”

Quote of the day, No. 2: Santana Moss on returning to first place: “It’s been a long time and it’s great to be back. It’s great to be sitting in this seat and have that chance to say, ‘Okay, we’re playing for something more than just the last two games.'"

By the numbers:  The Redskins own a share of first place in the NFC East after 15 weeks for the first time since 1999.

By the numbers, No. 2:  Morris finished with 87 yards on 27 attempts and now has 1,322 yards this season, which is good for the seventh best single season total in team history. With two rushing touchdowns Sunday, Morris now has nine this season, setting a new team record for rookies.

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