Cousins tries to bounce back af­ter tough stretch

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY BRIAN MCNALLY

ASH­BURN | Wash­ing­ton Red­skins quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins fin­ished last sea­son on a tear to help lead his team to the NFC East ti­tle and a play­off berth.

That level of play has been miss­ing late this sea­son as the Red­skins have skid­ded to three losses in their last four games and now are on the out­side look­ing in at the chase for the fi­nal NFC wild­card berth.

Cousins will try to halt the slide when Wash­ing­ton vis­its the Chicago Bears on Satur­day.

He has thrown an equal num­ber of touch­down passes and in­ter­cep­tions (three) over the last three games as the of­fense has con­sis­tently strug­gled in the red zone.

Cousins was also hit and fum­bled at the 1 — a play that led to a touch­down — in Mon­day’s dis­ap­point­ing 26-15 loss to the Carolina Pan­thers.

“Not my first time com­ing away from a tough loss,” Cousins said Thurs­day. “I’ve learned through all my years of play­ing foot­ball to just keep go­ing and not ride the roller coaster. Get back to work. Do what you know to do to pre­pare for the next one.”

Cousins has be­come far more adept at that over the last year. He caught fire the sec­ond half of the 2015 sea­son, throw­ing for 24 touch­down passes to just three in­ter­cep­tions over the fi­nal 11 games end­ing with a play­off loss to Green Bay.

And af­ter a shaky start in the sea­son opener against Pitts­burgh this sea­son, that run of success continued. Cousins broke his fran­chise record for pass­ing yards Mon­day and sits at 4,360 with two games to go.

He has 23 touch­downs to 10 in­ter­cep­tions with two games to play and a 98.3 quar­ter­back rat­ing. Only five quar­ter­backs have posted a higher rat­ing this sea­son among 25 qual­i­fied.

“Kirk al­ways stayed positive on Mon­day that we can fix the things we did wrong,” right guard Bran­don Scherff said. “You can’t fo­cus on the bad play or the bad game. You’ve got to flush it and he al­ways seems to be able to do that.”

Cousins and the Red­skins (7-6-1) dropped an op­por­tu­nity to re­main the No. 6 seed in the NFC play­off race on Mon­day. In­stead, they fell a half game

be­hind Green Bay (8-6) and Tampa Bay (8-6) for the fi­nal spot.

Wash­ing­ton must beat the Bears (3-11) in Chicago for the sec­ond year in a row to main­tain re­al­is­tic post­sea­son hopes head­ing into Week 17.

It isn’t all on Cousins. His wide re­ceivers and run­ning backs dropped five passes vs. the Pan­thers.

Cousins does need to play the way he did in October and Novem­ber when he posted 13 touch­downs to two in­ter­cep­tions over six games. He was shaky in a loss to Ari­zona on Dec. 4, re­bounded with an ef­fi­cient game against Philadelphia (14 of 21, 234 yards, two touch­downs) Dec. 11, but was ragged, at best, against Carolina. That won’t cut it against Chicago.

“When you win the credit goes to the quar­ter­back and when you lose you know a lot of blame goes to the quar­ter­back,” Red­skins coach Jay Gru­den said. “Some­times it’s de­served, some­times it’s not, but it’s just a fact of life in pro foot­ball.”

NOTES: The team signed cor­ner­back Dashaun Phillips off its prac­tice squad and waived wide re­ceiver Rashad Ross. Phillips played in three games ear­lier this sea­son for the Red­skins, start­ing two . ... Tight end Jor­dan Reed (sprained left shoul­der), line­backer Su’a Cravens (up­per arm) and cor­ner­back Quin­ton Dun­bar (con­cus­sion) didn’t prac­tice Thurs­day . ... Line­backer Will Comp­ton, who has a sprained pos­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in his right knee, was lim­ited in prac­tice but is con­fi­dent he’ll be able to play against Chicago af­ter miss­ing the Carolina game.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Red­skins quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins broke his fran­chise record for pass­ing yards on Mon­day against the Carolina Pan­thers and sits at 4,360 with two games to go.

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