FEDEX FIELD - The ball was slightly under-thrown, but DeSean Jackson broke back on his route, adjusted to the ball, and grabbed it along the Bills sideline. What happened next was a blur for Redskins fans, and a nightmare for Buffalo defenders, as Jackson broke back across the field, and then raced to the end zone, jumping over the outstretched arms of the Bills secondary.
"That's what I live to do," Jackson said after the Redskins win. "Spark it up, get big plays and get the momentum."
The 77-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Jackson made the score 28-3 midway through the third quarter, a lead big enough that it became a certainty the Redskins would win and maintain their first place status in the NFC East. Cousins to Jackson happened more often than just the dagger TD, however, as the QB looked to the wideout early and often. On the day, Jackson finished with six catches for 153 yards and one TD, but for what seemed like the first time this season, Jackson was much more than a home run threat.
"As a wide receiver it's tough because you do want to make the big plays," Jackson said. "I just credit the coaches, Sean [McVay], Jay [Gruden], and Kirk honestly - just for staying patient with me, him getting me the ball and being able to know what I'm capable of doing."
Perhaps what's most remarkable is that Cousins and Jackson have not spent too much time together, on the field at least. Last season Cousins was part of a three QB circus for the Skins along with Robert Griffin III and Colt McCoy, and Jackson missed most of the first two months of this season with a hamstring injury.
"With a young quarterback who doesn't have as many reps as you would think, or you would want, it really just comes down to trusting," Jackson said. "He's doing a great job of staying with it, that's the biggest thing."
Though he may be in his fourth season - and 27 years old - the reality is Cousins is still early in his NFL career. This is his first season installed as the starter, and though there have been rough patches, Cousins is coming on down the stretch. Against the Bills he was terrific, completing 22 passes on 28 attempts for 319 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for a TD while committing no turnovers.
"It's a player's game and Kirk is doing a great job of managing it," 'Skins coach Jay Gruden said after the game.
Gruden also talked about Cousins' development, and that it's still a work in progress.
"That's the good thing about Kirk, he's never lost confidence," Gruden said of the years Cousins spent on the bench behind RG3. "He's studied the game and worked to get himself to be a starter in this league. Hat's off to him."
For Cousins, believing in himself and a strong religious faith have gotten him to this point.
"I think any experience you have is going to make you better, whether it's a positive experience or a negative experience," he said. "I've learned from every opportunity that I've gotten."
Since a rough outing in New England in early November, Cousins has been strong for Washington, throwing for more than 1,200 yards and 12 TDs to go against just two interceptions in his last six games. He's also rushed for three TDs in that span. The hot streak for Cousins coincides with the return of Jackson, as well as tight end Jordan Reed, allowing the QB to prove how effective he can be surrounded by offensive weapons.
"We've got a lot of guys who can catch the football for us and make plays and be electric," Cousins said. "It's my job to be a distributor and today was no different. They kept making me look good."
With two games remaining in the battle for a playoff spot, his return to Philadelphia the first stop, Jackson sounds optimistic about the days ahead with Cousins.
"This is his first full year of him being a starter in this league, so he has a lot he's trying to accomplish," Jackson said of his quarterback. "I think the more and more we play together and the more snaps we take together, I think we'll see more days like this."