Kirk Cousins was far from perfect against the Giants on Sunday. But he was good enough to help the Redskins to a 20-14 win in a game that lifted the Redskins into a first-place tie for the NFC East lead.
In fact, if Cousins turns in five more such efforts over the remaining five games of the season, completing 69 percent of his passes for 10.4 yards per attempt with one touchdown passing, another rushing, and no turnovers, the Redskins will very likely be playing beyond the end of the regular season.
But consistency has been hard to come by for Cousins and the 2015 Redskins. He will need to lead the Redskins to a win on the road and probably to a winning streak of at least two or three games if the Redskins are going to reach the postseason.
Knowing that, like many of his teammates Cousins downplayed the importance of a win to move into first place going into December.
“I am going to be reluctant to say that it is so much bigger than any other game – if we had beaten Miami or Atlanta, this game would have had a different weight on it, if you will – potentially if we put ourselves in a better position,” he said. “Every game matters at a high level. They all count one win or one loss. From where we are right now, this was very, very important and I am glad we came out on top.”
Cousins was able to answer questions about the significance of the win in part because of a play he and tight end Jordan Reed made in the fourth quarter. The Redskins were holding on to a 20-14 lead with three and a half minutes to play. They faced third and five at their own 28. New York had scored a touchdown on each of their last two possessions and if Eli Manning got the ball back with that much time, who knows what would have happened.
But Cousins dropped back, calmly surveyed the field and fired over the middle to Reed for 20 yards and a first down at the Redskins 48. After an Alfred Morris run for another first down, the Redskins punted back to the Giants with only 18 seconds left and a desperation drive never really threatened the end zone.
“The last third down completion to Jordan Reed, patience in the pocket, was his best play of the day,” said Jay Gruden.
Cousins gave credit to Reed.
“He’s an elite tight end. He’s the real deal as a receiver . . . It becomes a good matchup for us and he’s a key, key player on our team.”
That was Cousins’ last pass. His first big pass of the day was a 63-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson that put the Redskins on the board in the second quarter.
"We did a little hurry-up,” said Couins. “DeSean won his matchup and got behind the safety. I was able to lead him across the field. I had a great pocket. He made the catch. He made the play. It was his ability to get behind the defense with his speed and then track the football in the air that’s so special."
Jackson said that the quick break out of the huddle surprised the Giants defense.
“It was a speed break out the huddle. We said we were going to hurry up and hike the ball. We kind of caught the defense off-guard. And on how it felt, it felt great. You know, anytime I’m able to make big plays like that for my team, spark the energy up and points on the board that’s what I’m here to do. When my number is called, I’m ready to play.”
Cousins still has his detractors, fans who say that he will never establish himself as a legitimate franchise starting quarterback. Reed believes that it’s time for people to start to believe in him.
“Kirk’s a great player,” said Reed. “I don’t think it’s a question any more of his talent and his potential. I just think that all of us believe in him and I think you guys should start seeing it, too.”
Cousins could gain a lot more believers among his skeptics if, as noted above, he can put on a few road performances as impressive as has at FedEx Field. He gets three more chances to lead the team to a win on the road this year and it is likely that the Redskins will need at least one of those to claim the NFC East title.