The news came late Saturday night. Robert Griffin III out, Kirk Cousins in. Those who held hope that RGIII could potentially sub in during the game if needed had their hopes deflated when it was announced Sunday morning that Griffin III would not suit up. With their most dynamic player sidelined, the day belonged to the Washington Redskins who were led by another rookie quarterback, Kirk Cousins. Captain Kirk led the Redskins (8-6) to victory over the Cleveland Browns (5-9), completing 26 passes and throwing 2 key touchdown passes on the day to Leonard Hankerson.
Needless to say, this was a tough late season game and it showed as the Redskins struggled early in the game going 3 and out on their first possession and throwing an interception on their second possession. Kirk Cousins started 1 of 6 and early on it looked like the Redskins would not be able to survive without RGIII. After the early Redskins turnover, the Cleveland Browns took advantage of their first red zone opportunity with Trent Richardson displaying some monstrous power, taking the ball in for a TD. The early score energized the crowd and gave the Browns a 7 – 0 lead. With that touchdown run, Richardson broke the Browns rookie touchdown rushing record previously held by Jim Brown.
After a couple of failed drives, it was becoming very evident that the Redskins are a drastically different team without RGIII. Surprisingly, and to their credit, the Redskins came out on their next drive with a play action bootleg call which the Cleveland Browns bit hard on, allowing Kirk Cousins to get into space and hit Leonard Hankerson for a nice 54-yard touchdown. Cousins was able to loft the ball over three Browns defenders, giving the Redskins a nice jolt and some much needed confidence. This was one of many great calls made by Kyle Shanahan, who is starting to show why he is held in such high regard.
Though the Redskins went into the locker room down 14 – 10, the third quarter belonged exclusively to the Redskins. Washington came up with multiple key defensive plays, allowing Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense to start a majority of their drives with great field position. Brandon Weeden threw an early interception to Rob Jackson, setting up the Redskins with a red zone possession which Alfred Morris capitalized on. Showing great determination, Morris scored on a short run, giving the Redskins a lead of 17 – 14.
After showing some life and starting to have some success moving the ball down the field, Brandon Weeden threw another interception, this time to Cleveland native, London Fletcher. Santana Moss helped the Redskins on the ensuing drive, coming up with some big catches. Cousins and the offense continued to capitalize on the bootleg as the Browns obviously game planned to focus on and shut down Alfred Morris. On a third and goal play, Cousins was able to lay the ball out nicely and hit Leonard Hankerson for a touchdown. The Redskins took a 24 – 14 lead and assumed control of the game. With his second touchdown of the game, Hankerson achieved the first multi-touchdown game of his career.
After a terrible 3rd quarter, Cleveland cut the lead to 31 – 21 when Weeden hooked up with speedy wide receiver Travis Benjamin for a 69-yard strike. What could have been a huge turnover on the following drive ended out working in the Redskins favor. Santana Moss took a screen pass for a first down, but fumbled the ball. Pierre Garcon luckily came up with possession after a pile of players fought for the loose ball. Evan Royster took the ball in for a touchdown on the very next play, deflating the Browns hopes of a late game comeback.
Alfred Morris added another late touchdown run as the Redskins held on to beat the Cleveland Browns 38 – 21. With the win over the Browns and the Atlanta Falcons dominating win over the New York Giants, the Redskins have moved into first place in the NFC East. With two divisional games left against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins playoff destiny is now in their own hands.
Kirk Cousins finished the game 26 of 37 for 329 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT.
Alfred Morris had a tough day on the ground but scored 2 TDs and finished with 87 yards on 27 attempts.
Alfred Morris is one touchdown shy of Charley Taylor’s franchise rookie total TD record of 10.
If the Redskins win their final two games, they will make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Tyler Polumbus left the game with a concussion.
Trent Richardson broke the Cleveland Browns single season TD record for a rookie, previously held by Jim Brown.