Kirk Cousins knows the most popular player on the football team is often the backup quarterback. When he took the field for the first time with 13:31 remaining in the Washington Redskins' 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the response from the fans didn’t surprise him.
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot until you go out there and play,” Cousins said. “I’ve been booed before. I’ve been cheered before. I’m sure my NFL career will have both in it going down the road. I don’t read too much into all of that, but the goal would be to hopefully keep having them cheer in the future.”
Cousins completed 7 of 16 passes for 59 yards, with his longest pass a 15-yard completion to wide receiver Joshua Morgan on his second attempt. He fumbled two plays later when he was sacked by Chiefs outside linebacker Frank Zombo, losing 15 yards after right tackle Tyler Polumbus recovered the ball, and his only foray into Chiefs territory ended with 6:58 remaining when tight end Logan Paulsen fumbled following a 10-yard reception.
The appearance was the sixth of his two-year career, and the first time he entered a game when Robert Griffin III did not leave because of injury.
Coach Mike Shanahan refused to commit to starting either Cousins or Griffin in the Redskins‘ next game Sunday on the road against the Atlanta Falcons, but seemed to recognize the potential scrutiny in his statement and said he wouldn’t make such an announcement for a player at any position immediately after a game.
“I just prepare every game like I’m the starter,” said Cousins, who previously played 10 snaps in a loss to the Denver Broncos on Oct. 27. “I have to be ready, because I don’t want to get called into a game like this game and have not prepared the way I need to. I’ll prepare the same as every week and do whatever I’m coached to do.”
Special teams implode again
Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster returned seven punts for 177 yards, the most ever allowed by the Redskins in a single game. He returned his first attempt for 60 yards, his next for 24 yards and his third for 74 yards and a touchdown, marking the fourth the Redskins‘ punt coverage team has surrendered this season.
The Redskins later allowed a 95-yard kickoff return by strong safety Quintin Demps. It was the first time the Chiefs returned a punt and kickoff for a touchdown in the same game since Dante Hall did so exactly 11 years earlier in a game against the St. Louis Rams, and the first time the Redskins did so since Oct. 13, 2002 in a game against the New Orleans Saints.
“I’m extremely [ticked] off,” said tight end Niles Paul. “What we’re doing on special teams is unacceptable as a unit. Where we stand in the league, it reflects us as a unit. We’re terrible. It’s embarrassing to be on the field.”
Paul, who laid McCluster out while covering a punt with 2:02 left in the third quarter, said the repeated breakdowns aren’t on coaching but rather on individual effort.
“I think we need people to understand their role on this team,” Paul said. “If you want to stay on this team, you need to be able to play special teams. I do think that. I think there’s too many guys who think they’re too good for special teams, and you can’t have that.”
Lichtensteiger, Royster injured
Two players left because of injury and did not return: left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, who experienced a stinger in the fourth quarter, and running back Evan Royster, who sustained a high left ankle sprain in the second quarter.
Lichtensteiger was replaced by Adam Gettis for the final 12 snaps, marking the first time all season the Redskins have played a different offensive lineman.
Reed, Young remain sidelined
Tight end Jordan Reed and fullback Darrel Young missed their third consecutive game because of injury. Reed continues to recover from a concussion sustained Nov. 17 in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Free safety Brandon Meriweather also did not play after bruising his sternum in a loss to the New York Giants a week ago and was replaced by rookie Bacarri Rambo, who was in turn benched for Jose Gumbs in the fourth quarter.
• Nathan Fenno contributed to this report