Playing in place of injured star rookie Robert Griffin III, Cousins passed for 329 yards and two touchdowns in the Redskins’ fifth consecutive victory. (Griffin’s season high is 323 yards.) Cousins overcame a slow start, got into a good rhythm in the third quarter and led Washington to a 28-point second half.
But the Redskins’ late-season run has been all about a group effort. Sunday’s victory here was another all-in production.
Although rookie running back Alfred Morris’s run of consecutive 100-yard rushing performances ended, he again provided rushing balance to complement the team’s success in the passing game. The offensive line, despite losing right tackle Tyler Polumbus to a concussion and center Will Montgomery to a knee injury, continued to pass-protect and run-block better than most Redskins observers ever thought they could entering the season.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s opportunistic squad is short on talent but big on forcing turnovers: Washington intercepted two more passes. And offensive play-caller Kyle Shanahan remained on a better roll than anyone in Washington not named Griffin. Shanahan modified the game plan and play-calling to accentuate what Cousins does best, and the Redskins still amassed 430 net yards.
It’s all going right for the Redskins, who now expect to win each week. And they’re starting to make it look easy.
Cousins is not one of the Redskins’ leaders — but he was definitely in charge against the Browns.
A week ago, Cousins came through off the bench — he threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon, then ran for a tying two-point conversion with 29 seconds left in regulation — to spark the Redskins’ victory in overtime against Baltimore. Cousins took the bulk of the first-team snaps in practice last week while Griffin, who also practiced, tried to prove to the Shanahans that his sore knee had improved enough for him to play against Cleveland. Griffin wasn’t persuasive.
Cousins started, veteran Rex Grossman backed up Cousins and Griffin was inactive. No problem.
Kyle Shanahan eliminated the read-option and pistol-formation plays that have helped the athletically gifted Griffin terrorize opposing defenses. Cousins can move a little in the pocket, but running the option isn’t what he does best. He’s a classic pro-style quarterback. That’s how Kyle Shanahan utilized him against the Browns.