Cousins, stiff defense fuel Redskins past Broncos
LANDOVER, Md. -- It is not as sexy as winning one for the Gipper or clinching a playoff berth, but the Washington Redskins, who seemed on the verge of imploding a few weeks back, are one win away from their third straight .500 or better season.
Kirk Cousins threw three touchdown passes in perhaps his final home start at FedExField, the defense turned in another stellar effort and the Washington Redskins defeated the Denver Broncos 27-11 on Sunday.
“It’s important for a lot of reasons,” said head coach Jay Gruden. “For one, everybody wrote us off and questioned the character and quitting and I knew it wouldn’t happen. The guys stepped up and played their tails off and there’s still a lot to play for.”
The Redskins (7-8) will play at the Giants next week looking to end the season on a three-game winning streak.
Cousins meanwhile, will be a free agent after the season unless Washington elects to place the franchise tag on him for the third time or signs him to a long-term contract. He completed 19 of 37 passes for 299 yards against the NFL’s top-ranked defense in terms of yardage allowed. He was intercepted once.
“You know, it was an imperfect game but when you have your defense playing at such a high level -- it kept us in the game and kept giving us a chance,” said Cousins, whose day began with two three-and-outs. “Then, we finally got rolling and made enough plays to pull away.”
The Washington defense was stout, keeping the Broncos out of the end zone until the game’s final minutes. The Redskins intercepted a pass and recovered two fumbles.
“It’s huge,” Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (two sacks) said of the turnovers. “It puts their defense back on the field, kind of wears them down. I thought our offense did a good job of capitalizing on some of the field position we gave them, and when you do that it’s a recipe for success.”
Quarterback Brock Osweiler got the start and was largely ineffective, completing 22 of 38 passes for 193 yards, with an interception. He lost one of two fumbles for Denver (5-10) and was sacked four times.
“I thought Brock was up and down,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “We couldn’t block their front so that’s not on Brock. I thought Brock was playing good football in the first half until the fumble and the interception happened.”
After gaining 86 yards in the first quarter, Denver finished with 303. C.J. Anderson rushed 16 times for 88 yards and a late 5-yard touchdown, but bemoaned the lost opportunities.
Leading 10-3, the Redskins drove inside the Denver 10 after getting the second-half kick, but Cousins was intercepted in the end zone by safety Will Parks.
Washington drove inside the 20 on its next possession and settled for Dustin Hopkins’ 29-yard field goal.
The Redskins broke it open early in the fourth quarter. On second-and-6 from the Denver 48, the Redskins bunched three receivers to the right. Josh Doctson raced down the right sideline by himself and Cousins hit him in stride for the touchdown, giving Washington a 20-3 lead with 12:07 remaining.
Cousins connected with tight end Vernon Davis for a 35-yard score with 4:21 left.
Cousins started the day 0-for-5 and the Redskins were outgained 86-14 in yards during the first quarter.
Denver took a 3-0 lead with 5:55 left in the quarter on a 31-yarder by Brandon McManus.
Early in the second quarter, Cousins found wide receiver Ryan Grant for back-to-back gains of 13 and 32 yards and another completion, to Davis, gave the Redskins first-and-goal at the 10. The drive stalled however and Hopkins’ 26-yard field goal tied the score.
On Denver’s ensuing possession, Osweiler fumbled while avoiding a sack and Washington’s Zach Vigil recovered at the Broncos 38. Cousins later found wide receiver Jamison Crowder on slant for a 15-yard touchdown 2:07 before halftime.
“I think we had a chance to definitely get an early jump with those five (first-half) possessions in their territory and we didn’t get the job done,” Osweiler said. “That’s very disappointing and there’s no excuse for it.”
Osweiler was intercepted in Washington territory with 1:15 remaining and, after a punt, Denver drove again but rookie wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie cut back toward the center of the field as opposed to going out of bounds on the last play of the half, costing the Broncos a field goal try.
“I should have gotten out of bounds,” McKenzie said. “I just caught the ball and mentally was like, ‘make a play.’ Unfortunately, I didn’t make the right decision.”
NOTES: Denver RB Jamaal Charles was inactive for the first time this season. Rookie RB De‘Angelo Henderson was active. WRs Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) and Cody Latimer (thigh) were out after being listed as questionable during the week. ... Redskins RB Samaje Perine (groin), who was listed as questionable, played while WR Maurice Harris (back) was out. ... Redskins NT Ziggy Hood (elbow) and WR Robert Davis (concussion) left in the second quarter and did not return. ... With his second-quarter touchdown pass, Kirk Cousins became the first Washington quarterback to record three 25-touchdown seasons. ... Ryan Kerrigan (two sacks, 11 on the season) posted his second straight year of double-digit sacks, becoming first Redskin to do it since Charles Mann and Dexter Manley in 1985-86. ... Denver RB C.J. Anderson needs 54 yards next week for a 1,000-yard season.