Redskins vs. Ravens: The Perfect Game

December 10, 2012

Before the game yesterday, I’m not sure I could have named the backup quarterback of the Redskins. It was some rookie. It was some guy who was most notable for being the rookie quarterback on the team who was not Robert Griffin III. When you have an RGIII on your team, all other quarterbacks are rounding errors.

So, yeah, I’m not a diligent, roster-memorizing, training-camp-attending fan who can tell you about each player’s contract, down to the last incentive clause. The backup QB actually played in a game earlier this year, but the Skins lost, and for those of us who are very casual fans, the loss gave us permission to forget his name. His name was not going to be on the test.

But now we know his name forever, because it is forever and irreversibly and unmistakeably carved into the granitic lore of the Washington Redskins football franchise: Kurt Cousins. Or Kirk Cousins. Something along those lines.

In case you missed the epic game, the Redskins trailed by 8 points in the closing minutes. Our hero, the aforementioned and aforeabbreviated RGIII, led our men down the field as time ticked away. But on a 13-yard dash through the Ravens secondary Griffin got ragdolled by a giant 340-pound defender named Haloti Ngata, which is Tongan for “I will crush your knees.” Though lamed by the encounter, and forced to leave for a play, Griffin came back for four more plays before finally he surrendered to the injury. On came the now legendary Kyle Cousins. Sorry, Kirk Cousins.

Here is where the fantasy football really kicked in. Most of us grew up with mental fantasies of last-minute sports heroics. We’ve all practiced finger-tip catches in the back of the end zone to win the imaginary Super Bowl. We’ve counted down the clock on the school hardtop, 3-2-1, taking the final shot that wins the hypothetical championship at the buzzer. But then we’ve grown up to realize that glory would be for others, that our own lives would be marked not by heroics but by slow, grinding, plodding labor with the occasional highlight moment as the wadded piece of paper flies through the air and swishes into the corner wastebasket as we halfheartedly announce, fighting off a yawn, “He shoots, he scores.”

Cousins came back into the game with only 45 seconds left. He was facing 2-and-20 from the Ravens’ 26 yard line (Griffin had thrown the ball away on his final play of the day and been hit with an intentionally grounding penalty). In that situation the Vegas odds are very long that anything good is going to happen. But Cousins connected with Hankerson for 15 yards to bring up 3rd-and-5. Then he hit Garcon in the end zone for the TD. Huge play — but the Skins still needed the 2-point conversion. While all this is happening, RGIII is flat on his back, the medical staff testing his knee. It’s all so dramatic! On the conversion attempt, Cousins pulls off an RGIII-style quarterback draw, lunging just over the goal line to tie the game. In the overtime session, a Redskin named Richard Crawford (????) takes a punt 64 yards and sets up the winning field goal.

My headline above says “The Perfect Game” for a reason: Cousins officially ended the game with a passer rating rating of 158.3, which, odd as it sounds, is a perfect rating. You can’t go higher. There is no such thing as a 158.4. A quarterback can throw for 17 touchdowns and still get 158.3. Cousins also finished with a “QBR” of 99.9 according to ESPN. Only ESPN understands what a QBR rating is and how it is determined and I don’t know if 99.9 is perfect or just slightly less than perfect.

His numbers won’t go down in the history books, of course, because he had only two official pass attempts. Here is a list, as of August, of all 23 “perfect games” in NFL history with a minimum of 20 pass attempts. Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner have three each, Tom Brady has two. [Update: Of all people, Chris Chandler of Houston maybe had the best game of them all, in Sept. 1995.] You don’t see many old-timer names, because the game used to be different, as we noted when we chewed on this topic last year during the Tebow frenzy.

But even if Cousins had only a cameo at the end, it was a brilliant cameo and one that will be long remembered. We can hope his career has many more great moments. This one was about as good as it gets. Kirk Cousins, nice to know you.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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