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Cousins Steps Up

Charles E. Sutton | 12/21/2012, 11:47 a.m.

A Sports Commentary

Rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins helped to keep the Redskins playoff push on course by beating the Cleveland Browns 38-21 on Sunday in his first NFL start. The Redskins now have an 8-6 record and find themselves in first place in the NFC East after the New York Giants fell to Atlanta 34-0.

It was a very physical game, with each team playing solid defense until Washington pulled away in the final quarter. It had the type of playoff intensity that gives teams the opportunity to display their grit. And Cousins made it clear that he has what it takes to lead his team in all-important games.

It wasn't very surprising that Cousins had success substituting for the injured Robert Griffin III. Cousins downplayed his win in relief against the Baltimore Ravens on December 9th by saying he simply completed both of his passes. However, his game preparation is obvious. Since training camp, his confidence and ability to focus have been apparent. He was fully prepared to take on this opportunity.

Washington's decision to draft a second rookie quarterback to develop alongside Griffin has worked like a charm. Cousins is not only a talented player, but he has the humility to embrace a backup role and still work as hard as a starter.

The fourth round pick's 104.4 passer rating from Sunday looks quite familiar. That's because Griffin's 104.2 led the league entering Sunday's games. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has two rookie quarterbacks with 100-plus passer ratings. He now looks brilliant just weeks after he was being questioned during a 3-6 start.

After the Redskins fell behind 7-0, Cousins connected with wide receiver Leonard Hankerson on a 54-yard touchdown pass which got the offense going. Rookie running back Alfred Morris started to have success which led to 87 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Cousins finished the game 26-for-37 for 329 yards and two touchdowns, later hitting Hankerson again to put Washington up 24-14.

Griffin was sidelined because of a sprained right lateral collateral knee ligament, sustained against Baltimore. He could play Sunday against Philadelphia. If so, Cousins will wait for another opportunity knowing he is capable of starting somewhere.

Washington is in a really good place right now regarding the quarterback position. They have two rookies that have different styles, but both can win at the NFL level. Now, it's just a matter of winning the next two games and making the playoffs.