Cousins takes com­mand

With RG III in­jured, backup QB lifts Washington into tie for first in NFC East.

Austin American-Statesman - - NFL -

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.

RICK OSENTOSKI / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Washington’s Kirk Cousins threw two touch­down passes against Cleve­land in his first NFL start.

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