Week 15: Victory Formation

After a slow start, Kirk Cousins went on to lead the Redskins to an incredible 38-21 victory over the Cleveland Browns. In a game the Redskins of yore would surely have lost, with or without their starting QB, the 2012 Redskins rose to the challenge and dominated the Browns. It was an incredible performance by the entire team and one that should leave all Redskins fans optimistic about a playoff run.

Captain Kirk the Comeback Kid
With Robert Griffin, III sidelined by his LCL sprain, rookie QB Kirk Cousins took over as leader of the Redskins offense Sunday. While few people doubted he would perform well, most did not imagine he would finish the day with 329 yards and complete 26/37 attempts for a QB rating of 76.3. Cousins also rushed three times with a long of 17 yards. The 24-year old fourth rounder showed amazing poise and confidence on the field, making strong, accurate passes under pressure and into tight coverage. The offense struggled to produce in the first quarter, not earning a first down in their first four attempts, until Cousins hit Leonard Hankerson with a gorgeous 54-yard TD pass that helped shift the momentum of the game. Cousins did throw one interception, but his total performance was impressive enough to far outshine any minor flaws.

Defensive Domination
28 yards. Our defense held Browns rookie RB Trent Richardson to 28 yards, only five of which were earned in the second half. The entire Browns team only logged 58 total yards. The Redskins defense has been a big part of the team’s five game winning streak since the bye week and is showing no signs of reverting to their pre-bye ways. The defense had two interceptions, six deflected passes, two sacks and two additional QB hits. The line was also able to generate a lot of pressure on Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden. If there was one defensive star Sunday, it was Rob Jackson, who had a sack, an interception and two deflected passes. Jackson may not have the pass rushing skills of Orakpo, but he is a very dynamic linebacker and is proving a reliable, even essential, playmaker. Jim Haslett has done an impressive job of reenergizing the defense and making necessary personnel adjustments. Let’s hope they can keep up this level of play over the next two weeks (and hopefully beyond).

Cousins’s two touchdowns were via passes to second year WR Leonard Hankerson. Hankerson has struggled with drops, but is still managing to quietly put together a rather impressive season. Hankerson is second only to Santana Moss in receiving yards, with 521 yards to Tana’s 525 yards, and tied for second with Moss in number of targets behind Josh Morgan. Two of Hankerson’s three TDs were longer than 50 yards54 and 68 – highlighting his speed and potential to become one of the team’s biggest offensive threats. At 6’2″ and 211 lbs, Hankerson also has the size that Pierre Garcon lacks and can be the difference maker when facing down some of the leagues big DBs. Hankerson still needs to work on his ball handling skills, but I like what we’re seeing right now.

Share the Love
One of the best parts about the win over the Browns is that it truly was a team win. Every player deserves credit for it and a few others deserve special shout outs. Lorenzo Alexander, as always, made great contributions on special teams and defense. Ryan Kerrigan had one of his best games of the season, with two pass deflections and some excellent contributions to the run defense. Big Barry Cofield had a sack and celebrated with his characteristic taser dance. And of course we can’t forget London Fletcher’s INT. Even Logan Paulsen, who has been struggling with penalties and drops, came back this week with four catches for 47 yards. Final props go to Coach Shanahan for the final series of the game in which he went for it on 4th and 1 before having the offense assume victory position to wind down the clock rather than take an easy field goal or go for the short TD. That is called class. Oh yeah, and Kai Forbath remains perfect. 

Winning is awesome. Winning in December is even more awesome. Redskins nation is in a full blown playoff sweat right now and hoping for two big NFC East wins over the next two weekends against the Eagles and Cowboys. The Redskins are currently tied with the Cowboys and Giants for first place in the division and are in a good position to win the division and make their first playoff appearance in years. It is an exciting time to be a Redskins fan, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. One game at a time. Up next, the Eagles.  

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