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5 takeaways from Redskins' close win against San Francisco

5 takeaways from Redskins' close win against San Francisco

Here are my give takeaways from the Redskins’ 26-24 win over the 49ers.

A win is a win but . . . I’ve covered every one of Jay Gruden’s games in Washington, and I’ve never hear him say that there was any degree of disappointment in a win until today. “You can see that we’re starting to turn the corner a little bit when you’re not quite as ecstatic as you normally would be after a win,” he said. It’s clear that they had at least a couple of different chances to put them away but they almost let a rookie quarterback throwing his first NFL passes beat them. Against the Chiefs they got ahead and couldn’t apply the clinching blow. They didn’t get away with that against a very good team. Today, they survived but it’s unlikely that they can play like they did today and win any of their next three games against the Eagles, Cowboys and Seahawks.

Better a close win than a blowout? Maybe the Redskins are better off by having to scrape by over the winless 49ers than they would have been had they blown them out. The praise would have been flowing in, and this is not necessarily a team that can handle prosperity well. A two-point win and a rout count the same in the standings. They will go into Philadelphia next Monday night at 3-2 and with, as Gruden said, plenty of things to work on. That may be better for them.

RELATED: Must See Photos: NFL Week 6, Redskins 26 San Francisco 24

So much for limiting Chris Thompson’s touches — Thompson started the game, and while I don’t have official snap counts, I’d say he was in for at least 50 of Washington’s 71 offensive plays. He had 16 rushing attempts and he caught four passes. I’m not sure if 20 touches is a career high, but it’s close. But the thing is, the Redskins needed him. Cousins is still having issues connecting with his wide receivers, and until that gets ironed out he will continue to rely on Thompson when he needs a big play.

The defense is taking a step back — The Redskins defense peaked while allowing the Raiders fewer than 100 yards before they picked up some in garbage time. The Chiefs piled up yards and points against them. In Week 6, they allowed a rookie quarterback to drive 75 yards against them after the two-minute warning and had a broken coverage that gave up a 45-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that made it a two-point game. The other TD wasn’t their fault, coming after a turnover that gave the 49ers the ball at the Washington one. They were becoming a force to be reckoned with and a group that was fun to watch. Now you want to close your eyes when they are on the field. To be sure, injuries have a lot to do with it.

A football season doesn’t always go like you think it will — Sunday, Matt Ioannidis had a sack and a half, including a big one that knocked the 49ers out easy of field goal range (they missed the kick) in the third quarter. Ryan Grant had some key receptions. Many fans would not have batted an eye if one or both of these players had been cut during the offseason. In fact, some would have cheered. But here we are in mid-October and the two fifth-round picks are contributing in wins. So is rookie safety Montae Nicholson, who many thought was a huge reach on the fourth round (I am sheepishly raising my  hand). But you just don’t know how a season is going to play out and how much guys can take a leap in between seasons.  

MORE REDSKINS: It may not be a perfect match, but Kirk Cousins and the read option do look good together

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ ugly 20-10 win vs. the Giants.

A Win is a Win:
If you are worried about style points you are doing it wrong. This was a banged up team on a short week playing for its life. Perhaps a better start would have made for a more comfortable win but they got done what they needed to do.

Jamison Crowder is on a Roll
:
He gained a career-high 141 yards on seven receptions. The yardage broke his career high of 123 that he set in Week 8. The third-year receiver got off to very slow start, not posting over 52 yards in any game.

But he has broken out of his slump in a big way and Kirk Cousins is very glad to see it.

Perine is Ready:
The rookie was elevated into the starting role after Rob Kelley went onto injured reserve two weeks ago. His importance elevated when Chris Thompson went out for the year with a broken leg.

Fortunately for the Redskins, his play has elevated since becoming the starter. He rushed for 117 yards against the Saints on Sunday. Thursday, four days later, he couldn’t get anything going in the first half, gaining only three yards on seven carries. But he got rolling in the second half and finished with 100 yards on 24 carries.

The Redskins may well have lost this game if Perine, the only back who was on the roster as of three weeks ago, had not gotten himself on track.

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

Defense Got Help: 
Eli Manning passed for 113 yards. Only six times in his career, which spans 211 games, has he thrown for fewer yards. There are three entities mainly responsible for Eli’s woes. The Redskins defense did a good job of putting pressure on him and for the most part the back seven played well in coverage. But Eli himself contributed to his own production problems.

On many occasions he had time to throw and a receiver open but he either sailed the ball well over the receiver’s head or threw it in the ground. Finally, when Manning did have time and delivered the ball on the money, his receivers frequently were unable to find the handle; there were several costly drops.

RELATED: BIGGEST UP'S AND DOWN'S FROM REDSKINS-GIANTS

There is Hope:
It’s too early in the weekend to go into much detail about the Redskins chances of making the playoffs but the losses earlier in the day by the Lions and Cowboys certainly helped.

It’s still a tough path to navigate.

But they did what they needed to do today in winning one of six games that looked winnable earlier this week. All they can do is try to get a winning streak together and they did all they could do in that regard on Thanksgiving.

Now it’s on to Dallas to see if they can take the next step.

MORE: THIS ONE THROW SHOWS HOW COUSINS IS EVOLVING

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

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USA TODAY Sports

Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

LANDOVER — At times during the Redskins' 20-10 Thanksgiving night victory over the Giants, Kirk Cousins and Washington's offense performed at a level somewhere between sloppy nausea-inducing.

There was that awful sequence where the offense botched a fourth-and-1 more than they normally do.

There was also No. 8's slightly off-target throw to a running back he barely knows that ended up as six points for New York. And there were plenty less notable, but still gross, plays before and after those.

But Cousins' first touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder was far from gross. It was beautiful. It was creative.

And it showed how the 29-year-old is still developing as a quarterback:

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

"The touchdown he had to Crowder was one of his best touchdown passes that I've seen since I've been here," Jay Gruden said about it afterward.

He's right.

By now, you know the boxes that Cousins checks off as a passer. He has the requisite arm strength. He's usually able to move an offense, even one like the Redskins' 2017 version that includes a ton of spare parts, up and down the field. He has the work ethic and leadership skills. 

But a common knock against him is that he can't extend a play and find a receiver when things aren't there during his initial dropback. And that weakness becomes a glaring one in the red zone.

Yet on Thanksgiving night, there Cousins was, avoiding an edge rusher, stepping up, rolling right and then nailing Crowder right on the numbers for a crucial TD. Like his head coach, Cousins was proud of how that score unfolded.

"I felt some pressure so I just tried to escape up and to the right and kept my eyes down field," he said. "I think just the longer I play, I'll get a better feel for how to move and escape."

MORE: ALL OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE THANKSGIVING WIN

Cousins' final stats don't stack up to some of his past performances, such as his Week 11 effort in New Orleans where he shined or his pretty perfect evening vs. the Raiders in Week 3. Regardless, this one was encouraging in its own way, because it provided another grlimpse at how the signal caller is becoming more comfortable when things around him become uncomfortable.

Like most of his fellow starters in the league, Cousins has flaws. But the more he plays, the more those flaws diminish. Gruden sees it, he sees it, and you should see it, too.