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In Difficult Situation, Kirk Cousins Remains Calm, Collected At Quarterback
LANDOVER, Md. – There was no wavering in Kirk Cousins’ voice as entered the huddle late in the fourth quarter Sunday. If there was, his Washington Redskins teammates surely would have been alarmed.
“All of us expect him to be the same guy,” receiver Joshua Morgan said. “If he would have came in the huddle too excited or something, we would have been like, ‘OK, Kirk. Calm down.’ He came in there like he normally does all the time, and nobody said anything. We just kept playing football.”
Cousins completed both passes he attempted, including an 11-yard touchdown throw to Pierre Garçon with 29 seconds remaining, and then ran for a two-point conversion on a quarterback draw to tie the score against Baltimore. The Redskins later won the game in overtime, 31-28, after a 34-yard field goal by Kai Forbath.
Robert Griffin III, the starter, left the game with a sprained right knee with 1:42 remaining. Cousins, Washington’s other rookie quarterback, was immediately responsible for trying to prolong the Redskins’ four-game winning streak with late heroics of his own.
“Cold as ice,” Morgan said. “Like they used to say about Larry Bird – ‘He’s got ice water in his veins.’ That’s the best thing you can say about Kirk. It was like nothing was going on. He don’t hear the noise, he don’t hear nobody but the play call and once he hears the play call he starts thinking like a mad scientist – ‘OK, that’s the read, that’s the second read.’
“[Receivers coach] Ike Hilliard said it best – ‘He’s a human computer.’ He’s gonna make the right reads, and all he’s got to do is make the right throws.”
Cousins, playing for the first time since Griffin was concussed Oct. 7 against Atlanta, drew from that experience. He forced a pass to Garçon on his first play, and while it fell incomplete, Ravens cornerback Chris Johnson was flagged for pass interference.
Griffin, limping on his right leg and unable to put any pressure on it, returned to the game for the next four plays. He found Santana Moss over the middle for a 15-yard gain, missed Garçon and then found him for 22 yards, but the pain was too much to bear.
He collapsed to the grass, requiring assistance with 45 seconds left. Cousins returned.
“I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what the plan was,” Cousins said. “I tried to find [head coach Mike] Shanahan just to be able to let him make the call. … He said, ‘Go out there and take his spot.’ I went out there. I wanted to make sure he actually was hurt and he said, ‘Yeah, I can’t do it,’ so he went down and we went from there.”
Cousins sent Leonard Hankerson in motion to the left and found him on a slant for a 15-yard gain. Then, after a timeout, Cousins improvised. He dropped back, pump faked to his right, and as the Ravens’ pass rush arrived, he lofted a ball to Garçon in the front right corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
“I think in some respects I had learned from the Falcons game – when I threw my second interception in that game I just waited too long on it and tried to do too much,” Cousins said. “I thought ‘I’m going to make something happen,’ – try to do my best RGIII, if you will.”
The Redskins still trailed 28-26 and needed a two-point conversion to tie the score. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called a quarterback draw, and the play was well-executed, with Cousins dropping two steps to sell the pass before scurrying forward into the end zone.
“You know if guys have a chance to step up and take advantage of the opportunity,” Mike Shanahan said. “It really didn’t surprise with the way he handled himself.”
As the backup quarterback, Cousins estimated he gets maybe five plays with the offensive starters at practice. Otherwise, he’s tasked with running the scout team, which mimics the opponent’s offense for the benefit of the Redskins’ defense.
Still, he tries to remain ready – for times like in October, for moments like this.
“It’s a learning process,” Cousins said. “I’m nowhere near where I want to be two or three years from now, but day by day, I am trying to get better.”