CLEVELAND — Mike Shanahan drafted Kirk Cousins for a day like this. He wanted to establish stability at the Washington Redskins' quarterback position. And with star quarterback Robert Griffin III watching from the sideline with a sprained knee, Cousins delivered.
The fourth-round rookie continued the Redskins' magical late-season run by engineering a comfortable 38-21 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
The Redskins surged into first place in the NFC East division because the New York Giants lost, 34-0, to the Atlanta Falcons. Washington and New York are 8-6 overall, but the Redskins have clinched the two-team tiebreaker victory over the Giants.
Cousins rebounded from a slow start. He was 26-of-37 passing for 329 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His passer rating was 104.4.
He threw an interception on his third pass of the game, which set up a Browns touchdown on the next play.
The Redskins stuck with an unsuccessful running game on their first four drives and had no first downs to show for it. But that set up the play-action passing game that has fueled Washington's offense with Griffin behind center.
Cousins shredded the Browns on play-action passes. Cleveland's linebackers consistently flowed to the ball, creating space for receivers.
Receiver Leonard Hankerson caught a 54-yard touchdown on a play-action pass on the first play of Washington's fifth drive. From there, the offense found its rhythm.
Washington trailed 14-10 at halftime, but linebacker Rob Jackson intercepted Cleveland rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and returned it to the Browns' 15-yard line. It was the first of Washington's two interceptions.
Hankerson caught his second touchdown three plays later, and the Redskins never trailed after that.
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