- - Sunday, November 13, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

LANDOVER — After the Washington Redskins opened up a 14-0 lead Sunday and dominated the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter, it seemed — like it has so many times early in games this season — that Jay Gruden’s team had control. Then things started to slip.

Minnesota drove 67 yards down the field to score on a one-yard run by Matt Asiata with less than 10 minutes left in the half to cut the Redskins lead to 14-7. Washington, after scoring the first two times it had the ball, went three and out and was about to give up the ball again when Kirk Cousins went deep to Ryan Grant on third and 10 with about six minutes left in the second quarter.

Grant went down, and the back judge didn’t call a pass interference.

Cousins was not about to let this aggression stand.



In a very un-Kirk-like moment, Cousins sprinted about 50 yards down the field to do battle with the back judge. He jumped up and down and grabbed his helmet in disbelief as he pleaded his case, even though it appeared that Grant had simply slipped.

In a way, it was a “You like that” moment for Cousins.

This was his game — his team — and he was going to fight for them, with passion.

“He thought he saw something,” coach Gruden said after Cousins and the Redskins escaped FedEx Field with their fifth win, 26-20. “It’s good. Kirk played with a lot of energy today, he played with a lot of passion, and he always does. He just keeps within himself. We hear it on the sidelines from time to time, he just doesn’t show his emotions. That’s a rare occurrence. But I love the way he played and competed.”

Cousin said he wanted to “voice my opinion, and that’s that. It was a big play for us.”

It wasn’t the only big play, though. Cousins had more left — successful ones, without the help of the officials.

With his team down 20-14 after the Vikings’ three-touchdown explosion in the second quarter, Cousins kept within himself and used his arm to bring Washington back, keeping the 5-3-1 Redskins in the playoff mix on a day when their NFC East rivals in Dallas and Philadelphia each won.

Trailing 20-14 at the half, the Redskins came out in the third and drove 56 yards down the field for a key 30-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to cut the Vikings lead — and more importantly, put the momentum back in Washington’s favor.

“Football is a game of momentum, so you definitely want to capture the momentum and keep it,” Cousins said. “If you lose it, which you’re bound to do at some point, try to fight like crazy to get it back.”

Cousins fought, with his emotions and his skill. “I thought the first drive coming out at halftime, taking it down the field, was a step in the right direction. I hated having to settle for three, but it was a good step to move the football like that coming out of the half.”

As each game passes, it is hard to imagine this team without Cousins as the quarterback in the future. He plays well most times — Sunday, he completed 22 of 33 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions — and when he is inconsistent, he bounces back. The days of the self-loathing Cousins — the one whose psyche negatively fed off each interception or near disaster — appear to be over.

When he nearly was intercepted in the end zone on Washington’s first possession of the game on second down on a pass attempt to Jordan Reed, Cousins came right back and completed a four-yarder to Jamison Crowder to give the Redskins a 7-0 lead.

“It was a big win,” Cousins said. “They’re all big.”

They all seems more and more like Kirk Cousins wins.

He’s in the top 10 among NFL quarterbacks, with 2,716 yards passing through nine games, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He now has 60 career touchdown passes as a Redskin, joining Sammy Baugh, Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Theismann, Billy Kilmer and Mark Rypien. DeSean Jackson is out, he gets the ball to Crowder and Pierre Garcon. His starting left tackle, Trent Williams, is out, the beginning of a four-game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy, and Cousins has just one sack for two yards.

“I like where we are,” Gruden said. “I like where we’re going.”

Kirk Cousins is taking them there, and you better not get in his way, or else you’ll get an earful.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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