When the Washington Redskins schedule came out this year, there may have been two games in particular that quarterback Kirk Cousins might have circled — if not physically, at least mentally, in that place where you keep score deep inside your psyche.
One might have been Oct. 4 — the anticipated showdown vs. his former film room silent comrade, the Prince of Redskins Park, Robert Griffin III. That failed to materialize when RG III failed to stay healthy enough to even make it to Week Four of this NFL season. So Cousins didn’t get a chance to settle that score.
Another was Sunday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers — a rematch of their wild card playoff game in January, a 35-16 Packers win that many Cousins critics point to as evidence of his failure against good teams in important games.
Consider that demon vanquished, as the Redskins finally delivered a long-awaited offensive explosion with a 42-24 win at FedEx Field over the Green Bay Packers.
It’s Washington’s second straight win, winning three of their last four, putting them at 6-3-1 going into Dallas on Thanksgiving to play the NFC East division-leading Cowboys.
That’s a meaningful game because of the implications of what may come. But Sunday night’s game against the Packers was meaningful because of what has passed.
It was apparent that the Packers wild card loss stuck in the throat of the Redskins since that January defeat. Cousins admitted they looked forward to another shot at Green Bay. “Yes, as a competitor we certainly had a sour taste in our mouths walking away from the game last season,” he said. “When you watch the film, we felt like there were plays there to be made that didn’t get made.
“I think tonight you saw what felt we were capable of doing last January,” he said. “We’re all competitors, so we came into this game with a bit of a sour taste and a chip on our shoulders.”
Coach Jay Gruden also talked about plays left on the field in that game in Sunday’s post-game press conference. “Last year (when) we played them we had a few shots that we didn’t connect on,” he said. “The difference in wins and losses is hitting some real shot plays.”
The difference primarily is Cousins. He is not the same quarterback who led his team onto FedEx Field for that Jan. 11 wild card game, when he completed 29 of 46 passes for 329 yards and just one touchdown, fumbling once and being sacked six times while failing to move his offense into the end zone.
No, the Redskins quarterback is now the one who responds to those challenges from the likes of Aaron Rodgers, not the one who collapses.
Cousins responded with an impressive, nationally-televised three touchdown performance — including a 44-yarder to Jamison Crowder in the third quarter that may have been his best scoring pass of the season. He hit 21 of 30 passes for 375 yards.
After the game, Cousins — playing under a $20 million franchise tag this year after the team failed to sign him to a long-term contract in the off season — was seen on the field embracing Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan, shouting into his ear, “How do you like me now?”
Cousins may have had a small chip on his shoulder for the Packers. But he is carrying a much bigger chip there for his own team — at least those decision-makers at the top of the franchise who remain unconvinced he’s the future. Cousins is keeping score there as well.
Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.