- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 11, 2015

ATLANTA — Kirk Cousins was the last player sprinting after Robert Alford, though he was losing the race by about 10 yards.

Alford picked off a pass Cousins intended for Ryan Grant and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown, giving the Atlanta Falcons a 25-19 overtime victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

It was a crushing way to lose after Cousins led the Redskins‘ offense 46 yards over three plays and put the team in position for Dustin Hopkins’ tying 52-yard field goal as time expired in regulation.

Facing second-and-8 at the Redskins‘ 48-yard line, the Falcons sent a heavy blitz to Cousins‘ left. He hurried a pass for Grant, who slipped to the ground, leaving Alford with an easy interception.

“That was just unfortunate,” coach Jay Gruden said. “There really isn’t anything to say on that.”

There were no positives in pushing a 5-0 team to overtime, Gruden said, and no moral victories. Yet, for the second consecutive game, Cousins displayed an ability to direct the Redskins‘ offense in crunch time when it needed to score.

He was able to do it last week, when he led a 15-play, 90-yard drive against the Philadelphia Eagles that ended with a game-winning touchdown to Pierre Garcon.

Cousins completed 21 of 31 passes for 219 yards against the Falcons, though he was never quite on target most of the game.

There were throws behind receivers, like one to Garcon in the second quarter that was also intercepted by Alford. Garcon had to reach back to try and catch the errant pass, and in the process, tipped it into the air toward Alford.

“I felt like I wasn’t good enough on some of those throws. There is nowhere to point except to myself,” Cousins said. “I have to make those throws. I can make those throws, and I believe I will over the long haul, but today, I left too many out there.”

Gruden called Cousins‘ performance “up and down,” but what mattered most was that Cousins was able to put the team in a position to win.

On the final drive in regulation, Cousins completed a 20-yard pass to tight end Derek Carrier, a 19-yard strike to Garcon and a seven-yard pass to rookie Jamison Crowder.

“It takes great play-calling,” Cousins said. “It takes great pass protection. I wasn’t held up. I was able to take seven-step drops. Derek Carrier did a phenomenal job after the catch getting up the sideline and getting out of bounds, which gave us a chance to regroup. Pierre did a great job coming over the middle with the effort diving for that ball. Then, Jamison Crowder getting out of bounds to give us a chance for a field goal. It takes all 11, and again, the play-calling put us in a good position.”

Cousins remained poised in the pocket during the overtime drive. He did not let his previous misfires in the game get to him.

“He was calm and confident,” Carrier said. “He was great out there.”

On the final interception, it was difficult to tell where the play went wrong. It looked as if Grant, who left the locker room immediately after the game ended, may have run a different route than Cousins expected. Grant tried to adjust to catch the ball, and that’s when he slipped.

“It was hot off the left side and I felt the need to get rid of the football than take a sack and kill a drive, so I threw it,” Cousins said. “The guy made a great play, and that was it.

“Until I watch the film, I can’t say confidently on what I thought. I know I just tried to put it where I felt like it needed to be put, and until I watch the film, I can’t really say much else with any conviction.”

Unlike the final drive in regulation, Cousins wouldn’t have another opportunity to show his resiliency. That will have to wait until next week, when the Redskins visit the New York Jets.

“The bounce-back thing has never been an issues for me,” Cousins said. “Bouncing back, I mean if you look back at my story, that’s my life; bouncing back, fighting adversity, and continuing to be tough, mentally, physically tough.I feel like I have always been able to do that, and to play quarterback in this league, you had better be able to do that. So, going forward, that’s something I will continue to have to do.”

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