Best and worst moments from Washington’s 38-21 win over the Browns in Cleveland.
Best Offense: Uh. What? Like, what just happened? With a backup rookie fourth-round quarterback making his first career start on the road against a team that had won three straight, the Redskins just dropped 38 points on the Browns. It was the seventh time the Skins have topped 30 points this season, and the FOURTH time they’ve hit 38 points. They racked up 430 yards of offense, too.
Best Decision: Robert Griffin III got to rest his knee. And Kirk Cousins went 26-for-37 for 329 yards, two touchdowns, and just one turnover. He also rushed twice for 23 yards. Everything is coming up Shanahan. The head coach should gloat like crazy. I would.
Best Fourth-Round Pick: Guess Cousins is working out ok. Steve Czaban, one of the many critics of using a fourth-round pick on Kirk Cousins, said before the game that if Cousins played well and got Washington a crucial road win, the pick would be justified. I agree. If he does nothing else in his NFL career, Cousins likely produced fourth-round value by leading a late comeback against Baltimore in week 13, and then smashing Cleveland in week 14. He sure looked far more impressive than Cleveland’s first-round quarterback.
Best Out-of-Town Results: Chicago lost. New York got destroyed. Tampa Bay lost. Hard to ask for more if you’re a Redskins fan.
Best Stat: The Redskins are the first team to have two rookie quarterbacks win road starts since….the 1994 Redskins. Heath Shuler. Loved that guy. Gus Frerotte, too.
Best Stat, II: The Redskins have won five straight games coming out of their bye week, the longest post-bye-week winning streak in franchise history, according to Comcast SportsNet.
Best Partnership: Kirk Cousins and Leonard Hankerson is the new RGIII and Pierre Garcon? Something like that. Hankerson entered Sunday’s game with one career touchdown catch; he caught both of Cousins’s touchdown tosses in Cleveland, one from 54 yards out and one from two.
Best Second-Half Shutdowns: In their last three games, the Redskins defense allowed three points, seven points, and seven points in the second half. That’s an average of fewer than six a game. For three months, we’ve wondered whether the offense was good enough to overcome the defense’s weaknesses. Maybe the question needs to change.
Best Analysis: “There’s a different feel on that sideline, I promise you,” Fox’s Mike Martz said after Kirk Cousins’s first touchdown pass. “There’s a confidence now that our guy can get it done, [that] he can do the same kinds of thing in the passing game that RGIII does, and he certainly did there.” I wrote that quote down because it sounded ridiculous to me at the time. Guess I was wrong.
Worst Taunting Call: Honestly, I don’t like Pierre Garcon spinning the ball and pointing and screaming at it after every last catch. It’s kind of obnoxious and unnecessary. But if it wasn’t a penalty the 14 previous times he did it this season, I don’t see why it was a penalty on Sunday, just because the Browns were offended.
Best Special Teamer: Well, besides Kai Forbath. But Lorenzo Alexander sure seems to make every tackle on every special-teams unit, many in spectacular insides-jarring fashion.
Best Revelation: Last week I suggested that Rob Jackson has emerged as Washington’s most dynamic defensive presence, and Sunday didn’t change that impression. In addition to blowing up several Cleveland plays at the line of scrimmage, Jackson reversed the momentum with an interception on Cleveland’s first series of the second half, and leaped onto Brandon Weeden for a sack-fumble in the second half. He also had a sack two weeks ago against the Giants, and a sack-fumble last week against the Ravens.
Best Turnaround: Last season, the Redskins scored 43 points off turnovers. After Rob Jackson’s interception led to an Alfred Morris touchdown on Sunday, and London Fletcher’s interception led to an Evan Royster touchdown, the Skins already have 96 points off turnovers this season.
Best Bouncing: Santana Moss caught a second-half pass and was drilled at the Cleveland 27 by Joe Haden. Moss didn’t go down, though, and with Haden out of the picture, the veteran sprinted for another 10 yards.
Best Forbath: Kai Forbath still hasn’t missed a field goal. And his successful kicks include field goals from 50, 45, 43, 45, 48, 47, 48, 48, 49 and 44 yards.
Best Scramble: Kirk Cousins has wheels, eh? His second-quarter bootleg went for 17 yards, and he wasn’t hit. It also prompted lots of jokes about whether the Redskins were unnecessarily risking their offensive future by allowing the rookie quarterback to scramble.
Worst Fourth-Down Non-Attempt: WIth RGIII under the center, the Redskins have been brilliant on fourth downs, converting 11 of 15 attempts. In the first half on Sunday, they first attempted to draw Cleveland offsides, then spent a timeout, then had a false start penalty and punted. So there was never technically a fourth-down attempt, but whatever it was, it wasn’t pretty.
Worst Fourth-Down Attempt: Still, that was better than Cleveland’s fourth-and-short in the second half, when Brandon Weeden rolled left and pump-faked and pump-faked and pump-faked and threw the ball away. I mean, an attempted arm punt there would be preferable to a disgusted toss out-of-bounds.
Worst Start: The Cousins Era began with a three-and-out, featuring a false start and a poorly thrown incompletion. On his second series, Cousins threw an interception. After four possessions, the Redskins had gained a total of seven yards. Cousins was 1-for-6 for 4 yards, with the interception.
Best Fifth Series: And then suddenly, Cousins got the Skins on the board, rolling out and throwing a lovely ball to Leonard Hankerson, over the hands of three Browns defenders. Hankerson tumbled into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown that evened the score, and finally reversed Cousins’s ugly beginning.
Worst Goal-Line Stands: Cleveland’s first touchdown came after Trent Richardson was hit at the 2-yard line and stacked-up at the 1. The rookie runner then carried what appeared to be five Redskins defenders into the end zone. Cleveland’s second touchdown came after another Richardson run, in which he ran through two arm tackles to get to the half-yard line, and then ran through at least one more arm tackle to score.
Worst Flirtation With Disaster: With the ball on their own 20, no timeouts and a rookie quarterback making his first start on the road, I figured the Redskins would surely just run out the clock when they got the ball back late in the second quarter. Instead, they tried to mount a drive, eventually leading to Cousins getting sacked and fumbling. He recovered the fumble. That could have been a disaster.
Best Misdirection: I guess I’m gullible, but all the positive reports and sunny Mike Shanahan press conferences and breezy Robert Griffin III smiles had me pretty convinced the rookie star would play on Sunday. Credit to Shanahan and the gang for fooling me and, I’d reckon, the Browns.
Best Anticipation: Two more games, against two longtime NFC East rivals, with a division title and home playoff game at stake. This might be interesting.