Go ahead and groan about the special teams. Complain about the conservative play-calling and the lack of discipline in crunch time. And, yeah, be grumpy about the Redskins’ third straight season-opening defeat.
But don’t get too down on Kirk Cousins’ performance in Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Dolphins.
It was far from spectacular. But spectacular is not Cousins’ thing, nor what Coach Jay Gruden expects from him.
In Cousins’ own words, his job this season is to be a game manager who knows his limitations, puts the ball in the hands of the Redskins’ playmakers and, more importantly, puts his team in position to win the games in the second half.
And, for the most part, he did exactly that. It wasn’t good enough against Miami. But it was a start.
Cousins finished the game 21 of 31 passing for 196 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He was also sacked once.
One of those stats, of course, jumps off the page when you consider Cousins’ history of throwing the ball to players on the other team. And, indeed, the first interception never should have been thrown. Cousins went off schedule, went rogue. He tried to make a play and get the ball to Jordan Reed when he should have made a game manager’s decision, and chucked it away. Fortunately for the Redskins, the defense picked him up and forced a three and out.
Cousins’ response to the interception, however, was as notable as the mistake itself.
The ensuing Redskins drive was a game manager’s clinic. Seventeen plays covering 88 yards over the course of 8 minutes 49 seconds. Run, run, run, deep pass, run, run, run, run, end around, short pass, short pass, run, short pass, run, run, throw out of bounds, touchdown pass. It was the longest Redskins’ drive ending in a touchdown since 1996, per Elias.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter. The game turned on a single series—and it had very little to do with Cousins.
The Redskins’ first possession of the final period began at their own 20, the score tied 10-10. After two penalties on Morgan Moses, on one Derek Carrier and a dropped pass by Andre Roberts, punter Tress Way tried to do too much and outkicked his coverage, giving Jarvis Landry all the time and space he would need to return the ball 69 yards to give the Dolphins all they would need.
Sure, the Redskins got two more opportunities. And yes, one of those drives ended with Cousins’ second pick, a nice grab by Dolphins corner Brice McCain as he fell out of bounds.
But I still can’t pin this loss on Cousins.
Before some of you go and accuse me of being a Robert Griffin III hater and/or Kirk Cousins apologist, let me say this: Ten points is rarely, if ever, good enough to win in the NFL. No doubt about that. But I also can’t ignore all the good that Cousins did, despite losing his No. 1 pass catcher, DeSean Jackson, to a hamstring injury on the second drive of the game.
The Redskins dominated time of possession, 37:54 to 22:06. The Dolphins’ vaunted defense mustered a single sack, thanks to a strong effort from the O-line and Cousins’ ability to get the ball out quickly.
Cousins gave the Redskins a chance.
There are 15 games remaining. And my first impression could turn out to be completely wrong. But I’m eager to see what Cousins does next week against another decidedly mediocre opponent, the Rams, after another week of first team reps in practice before I start forming any conclusions.
And you should, too.