- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 23, 2017

LANDOVER — As the pocket collapsed, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins escaped to the outside with two New York Giants defenders chasing him. On third-and-goal from the 15-yard line, he found Jamison Crowder open in the end zone.

The third-quarter play gave Washington its first touchdown, and was also a microcosm of the Redskins’ 20-10 win Thursday over the New York Giants. Dogged by sloppy play, injuries and just overall bad football, Cousins had to make a play to help bail out the Redskins. He did.

In the fourth quarter, Cousins did the same again — finding Josh Doctson for a 14-yard game-winning touchdown to take a 17-10 lead.

Behind Cousins, the Redskins improved to 5-6. Washington’s playoff hopes are still technically alive, even if they have to likely win out to earn a Wild Card spot.

“I thought it was another gutsy performance by Kirk,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “It’s not easy when you’re playing with a new center.. Every week it seems like we’re shuffling guys around … and I think he played great. … The touchdown he had to Crowder was one of the best touchdown passes that I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

Think back to the beginning of the week when Cousins declared on his weekly radio show that he was playing the best football of his career. The quarterback expanded on his thoughts Wednesday, saying he’s improved in “every area.”

By Thursday morning, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport released a report saying the Redskins were “still to trying figure out” if Cousins was indeed a franchise quarterback. Rapoport added Cousins‘ play “down the stretch” will help the Redskins make a decision on his future.

Cousins, of course, is playing on the last year of his contract after being given the franchise tag in two consecutive seasons.

It seemed almost comical that, if true, the Redskins need more of a sample size given Cousins has been their starter for the last three seasons.

Cousins wasn’t perfect Thursday. He had to overcome a slow start to the game in a shortened week. His most significant error was throwing a pick-6 — a pass that was tipped by intended receiver Byron Marshall — near the end of the third quarter, which tied the game.

But he was much better than the Redskins’ offensive line, which allowed six sacks without usual starters Trent Williams (knee), Chase Roullier (hand) and Shawn Lauvao (stinger).

Cousins was taking snaps from third-string center Tony Bergstrom, who was signed on Oct. 25.

Cousins, however, said taking more sacks this season has allowed him to get better at making throws under pressure. He said the longer he plays, he’ll get a better feel for how to move and escape.

“If you’re going to make those kind of plays, you’ve got to be willing to take a sack here and there,” said Cousins, who finished with 242 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. “That’s been a big difference this year, I’ve been taking more sacks here and there and probably not forcing the ball into coverage or throwing those scary throws as often as I have in the past.”

Part of Cousins‘ success Thursday can be attributed to Crowder, who had a career-high 141 yards on seven catches. Crowder has re-emerged as a consistent target as the Redskins offense has surged in the past two games.

Cousins, meanwhile, has always said how important it is for him to have familiarity with his receivers. In a season where Cousins lost his top two receivers from last year and struggled to incorporate his new ones, Crowder is a reliable crutch for this Redskins offense.

Even with Cousins‘ performance, Thursday was hardly the offense’s best performance of the season. In general, the offense’s efficiency took a step back when compared to the two previous weeks. Some of that was natural, given the short rest for each team.

It was hard to expect much from teams entering the game with 4-6 and 2-8 records, respectively, but the game was uglier than even most expected. Washington punter Tress Way, for instance, was the Redskins’ most valuable player in the first half. The same could be said for Giants punter Brad Wing.

In the second quarter, the Giants finally scored — needing an excruciating 13-play, 60-yard drive for them to do it. New York kicker Aldrick Rosas tacked on a 30-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with four minutes left in the half.

Washington would answer with a crawling drive of its own. After Doctson drew a 37-yard pass interference penalty to the 11-yard line, the Redskins couldn’t find the end zone, having to settle for a 28-yard Nick Rose field goal. The teams went into halftime tied at three.

The Redskins also had the opportunity for the game to spiral out of control after Cousins threw his interception. Instead, they stayed composed.

After Cousins‘ touchdown to Doctson, Rose added a 33-yard field goal with 1:49 to put the game out of reach.

“We found a way to win and the defense kept us in the game all night long and I was proud of the resiliency we showed once again,” Cousins said.

That started with him.

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