Cousins takes command
With RG III injured, backup QB lifts Washington into tie for first in NFC East.
CLEVELAND — The Redskins decided one game without Robert Griffin III couldn’t hurt.
RG III disagreed, but after Kirk Cousins kept Washington’s winning streak and playoff hopes intact, Griffin understood. First place has him feeling better.
Cousins threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns filling in for an injured Griffin, leading Washington to its fifth straight win, 38-21 over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Cousins connected with Leonard Hankerson for both TDs in his first career start and the Redskins (86) barely missed a beat without Griffin, who sat out with a sprained right knee and wasn’t happy about having to stand on the sideline and watch his teammates play.
“I was not happy with the decision,” said Griffin, who was informed Saturday night of the plan to start Cousins. “That’s the decision they went with and I respect that. It doesn’t mean I have to necessarily like it. I feel like I could have played this week, next week, the week after. But that’s not my decision.”
Turns out, the Redskins (8-6) have more than one rookie QB who can win. Cousins finished 26 of 37 as the Redskins improved to 5-0 since their bye. They’ll end the season with games against NFC East rivals Philadelphia and Dallas, teams they beat in consecutive weeks to start their streak.
Last week, Cousins came off the bench after Griffin got hurt against Baltimore and rallied the Redskins to an overtime win. Cousins was behind center from the start of this one and delivered a performance that extended Washington’s longest winning streak since 2007 and moved the Redskins into a threeway tie with the New York Giants and Dallas atop the NFC East.
Cousins admitted being nervous, but said going to bed knowing he would start helped.
“It was good to have a definitive answer, but I’ve been preparing to go all season as if I had to play knowing I’m one play away,” he said.
Rookie Trent Richardson had a pair of TD runs for the Browns (5-9), who had their winning streak stopped at three and faint playoff hopes snuffed out.
By a bur ALT E — The Denver Broncos no longer can be considered a notch below the best in the AFC, nor can they be viewed as a team that can succeed only when Peyton Manning puts up dazzling numbers.
Their 34-17 rout of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday showed just how good these Broncos can be.
Chris Harris returned an interception 98 yards for a momentum-turning touchdown, and Denver (11-3) cruised to its ninth straight victory in surprisingly easy fashion.
“You come to the Ravens’ house and beat them handily, it’s definitely a statement game,” Harris said. “We definitely wanted to show to everybody that we’re an elite team.”
Manning threw for 204 yards and a score in his ninth consecutive win against Baltimore (9-5), the first with Denver.
But he was merely a role player in this one, because Denver’s defense dominated the Ravens, who sputtered in their first game with Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator.
This was supposed to be a test for Denver, which was 0-5 in Baltimore and was eager to face a quality opponent on the road.
“Pat Bowlen has owned the team for 29 years and has averaged 10 wins a season, but it’s the first time he’s won in this building,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “I was proud to see that for him.”
Baltimore has lost three straight — including two in a row at home for the first time since December 2007. The Ravens trailed 31-3 in the fourth quarter before Flacco threw touchdown passes of 31 and 61 yards to tight end Dennis Pitta.
Washington’s Kirk Cousins threw two touchdown passes against Cleveland in his first NFL start.