Facing the NFL’s top-ranked defense, Kirk Cousins picked apart the Denver Broncos unlike no other quarterback this season. As a result, the Washington Redskins won their second straight game, improving to 7-8 on the season and moving one win away from their third straight non-losing season.
Cousins got off to a shaky start, misfiring on his first five passes and seven of his first eight. But after connecting with WR Ryan Grant on a 32-yard pickup over the middle on Washington’s fourth offensive drive, Cousins and his receivers settled down to complete 18-of-29 passes from that point on.
Cousins did so attacking the soft spots of the Broncos’ defense and avoiding the dynamic duo of Chris Harris and Aqib Talib for the most part, Cousins exploited matchups, much like when he found Jamison Crowder on a slant matched up against Bradley Roby for a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
He caught the Broncos in a match-up zone, where Josh Doctson leaked out down the strong side of the field from trips formation for a 48-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
1. Cousins Battled through Immense Pressure from Broncos Pass Rush
Even without much of a running game, Cousins and the Redskins passing game was able to keep the Broncos off balanced. The Broncos daunting pass rush just could not affect Cousins. Von Miller pressured Cousins four times. Unbothered mostly, Cousins was able to make plays despite the pressure barreling over him.
On a first quarter play, Cousins felt Miller from his blindside. He evaded Miller with a sidestep before scrambling off for a first down on a seven-yard run on a 3rd-and-4. He also was able to complete passes under distress, completing 4-of-13 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus. A touchdown in which he was hit while connecting with TE Vernon Davis on a 31-yard pass in the fourth quarter. Most importantly, he did not turn over the football.
Despite playing with a backup, left tackle, left guard, and center, Cousins stood tall in the pocket. He seemingly understood when and how to get out of danger with his feet.
2. Most Passing Yards Allowed by Denver All Season
Just to understand the significance of Cousins’ performance on Sunday. Prior to Sunday’s game, Tom Brady had the most passing yards this season on Denver’s vaunted secondary — 266 yards. The New England Patriots had the highest total of passing yards as a team at 297. Cousins surpassed both with his 299 yards.
Line them up, and no other QB did as much damage to Denver than Cousins. Not even Carson Wentz (188) and Dak Prescott (235 yards on 50 attempts), could compare to Cousins’ performance. His 8.1 yards per attempt was only behind Derek Carr’s 10.2 in Week 12 and Tyrod Taylor’s 8.2 in Week 3.
Dissecting every pass has become a thing in D.C. on Cousins. So, when he flourishes against a highly-rated defense, and does better than any other QB it’s worth noting. Even his biggest critics should tip their hat at what he did on Sunday.
3. One Throw He Would Like to Have Back
Cousins’ strong performance wasn’t flawless. Cousins most notable error came on the opening drive of the second half. After marching 68 yards on nine plays to the Broncos’ nine-yard line, Cousins threw an errant pass into triple coverage to Doctson in the back of the end zone. Unfortunately, Will Parks intercepted the pass, killing the drive in a 10-3 game at the time.
Cousins was looking at Doctson who was running over top of zone coverage underneath. Cousins hesitated on his decision allowing Parks to get over into the passing window from the weakside. It was a bad decision all together. But, the interception was just Cousins’ fifth in the red zone of his career.
Luckily, the Redskins defense held to force a punt. Then Cousins and the Redskins offense went right back to work responding with a field goal on the ensuing possession followed by Cousins connecting with Doctson two drives later with the 48-yard touchdown.
Considering all things, Cousins and the Redskins would take just having one mishap against the herald Denver secondary just about every time.
4. Breaking Down Cousins Numbers
Cousins’ numbers were magnificent when he had a clean pocket, completing 15-of-24 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns when not pressured. Another positive was Cousins spreading the football around. He connected with eight different receivers.
His most productive connection was with Crowder, in which Cousins completed all four of his passes to the former Duke standout for 47 yards and a touchdown. Cousins also leaned on Grant, completing 4-of-6 passes for 85 yards. Cousins even found seldom used WR Brian Quick and TE Jeremy Sprinkle.
Cousins’ least productive target was Doctson. The two connected just twice on 13 targets. Doctson had a couple of drops, including one pass that hit the TCU product in the fingers as well as a pass in the first quarter in the end zone that hit Doctson square in the chest before bouncing to the turf.
5. Cousins Needs Just 65 Yards for Third Straight 4,000-Yard Season
Cousins now has 3,935 yards passing on the season. Another 65 yards and he’ll reach the 4,000-yard mark for the third consecutive season. Keep in mind, Cousins is the only QB in Redskins history with multi-4,000 yards seasons.
No Pierre Garcon or DeSean Jackson, and Cousins has been just as good as the past two seasons. Additionally, he lost his favorite targets TE Jordan Reed and RB Chris Thompson, and the tabbed No. 1 WR Terrelle Pryor all to season-ending injuries. Yet, Cousins may have had his best performance of the season Sunday against Denver, the league’s best defense heading into the Week.
To those arguing the Redskins need to salary cap to improve the roster therefore shouldn’t re-sign Cousins, may need to understand, Cousins has become the QB that can work with what he has. He is reserved to throwing high pressured passes to Ryan Grant as well as relying Kapri Bibbs at running back due to injuries. That is remarkable in itself. The Redskins are not missing the playoffs because of its quarterback, that’s to say the least.