LANDOVER — Never underestimate how quickly an 11-play, 80-yard game-winning drive can soothe a maddening fan base.
The Washington Redskins pulled off the largest comeback victory in franchise history when they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-30, on Sunday at FedEx Field.
Kirk Cousins was 9-for-11 on the final drive and delivered the game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Reed.
The Redskins exited the field to a raucous applause from the same fans that were heartily booing them after falling behind at halftime, 24-7, against the Buccaneers.
After the game, an exuberant Cousins raced toward the locker room, shouting at a TV camera, “You like that?! You like that?!”
There was plenty for Redskins fans to like after Sunday’s victory. That said, it wasn’t always pretty and there is still plenty to improve on.
Most importantly, the Redskins halted their two-game losing streak to stop before the bye week. A loss to the bottom-feeding Buccaneers would have been crushing with a game against the 6-0 New England Patriots looming after the break.
Entering the bye week with a 3-4 record is far more enticing than the prospect of being 2-6 after Week 8.
For one half, the Redskins looked like a team that lacked the sense of urgency they professed about all week. For another half, the Redskins looked like the complete opposite.
With that, here are three takeaways from the Redskins’ win.
** The Redskins’ run defense will get a much-needed break this week after allowing 582 rushing yards in the last three games. It’s been talked about frequently, but this is becoming a serious problem for the Redskins. Though they won on Sunday, not many teams will lose with that type of success on the ground. Doug Martin rushed for 136 yards. The Redskins have allowed an opposing running back to rush for more than 120 yards in each of the last three games. What appeared to be a strength early in the season appears to becoming a weakness. Earlier last week, Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry said the run defense is not as bad as the numbers reflect. That was somewhat true against the Jets, but right now, that reasoning isn’t hard to buy into.
** The last two weeks have been tough for Cousins. He threw four interceptions, two in each of the Redskins’ losses to Atlanta and the New York Jets. There were questions this week about how much progress Cousins has made this season, how much longer the Redskins could endure the seemingly endless turnovers. Coach Jay Gruden adamantly supported Cousins as the starting quarterback and his performance on Sunday showed why the head coach believes in him.
Cousins finished the game 33-for-40 with 317 yards and three touchdowns for a 124.7 passer rating, the highest of any start of his career. For the second time this season, he showed poise under pressure and led the team on a game-winning drive. Though the interceptions have been troubling at times, Gruden has made it clear Cousins will have the chance to correct his mistakes, and the fourth-year quarterback showed an ability to do that on Sunday.
“There’s going to be pressure on him every week,” Gruden said. “How he responds to that is what’s going to make him, you know? He’s going to have his ups and downs as a professional quarterback in the National Football League. Everybody does, and you have to fight through that. You have to stay the course, be patient, go through your reads and your progressions and keep your head up, and he’s done that. I’m very happy for Kirk.”
** Cornerback Bashaud Breeland continues to make big plays in the Redskins’ secondary. Breeland chased down Martin on a 49-yard gain in the fourth quarter that looked like a sure touchdown. Instead, the Buccaneers settled for a field goal, making the Redskins’ stunning comeback possible.
Against the Jets, Breeland recovered two fumbles and had an interception.
“It’s the play of the day,” Gruden said. “They score there, and the game’s over. That shows what kind of guy he is. I talk about Breeland being an ultimate competitor — if he takes that play off, for one instance, they go up by 10 and the game’s over, most likely.”
Breeland strained his hamstring on the play. With cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver still out, the Redskins can’t afford to lose him.