August 23, 2014

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins victory over the Browns

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ Monday night 24-23 preseason victory over the Cleveland Browns.

  1. An up-and-down performance from Robert Griffin III. The interception RGIII threw was an ugly one, where he should have thrown the ball away and didn’t plant his back foot and throw with good form. This will be something the third-year pro will surely go back and correct on film. However, the interception wasn’t helped by poor pass protection by both the offensive line and running back (Roy Helu). However, on the second play of the game Griffin did a fantastic job of standing tall in the pocket, progressing through his reads and finding the open man down field. Griffin also threw a pretty ball to Andre Roberts at the end of the first quarter. Griffin’s transition into more of a pocket passer will take time, but he has shown promise on plays like these.
  2. The defensive pass rush may be the biggest strength on the Redskins entire team. Even without Jason Hatcher the front seven has played very well. The pass coverage has to improve though. The Redskins were bailed out by poor passes from the both the Browns quarterbacks, in addition to some drops from the wide receivers.
  3. The running back position is wide open. Roy Helu still has the inside track on the third-down back job, however, he struggled both in pass protection and in catching the ball against the browns. Evan Royster, Helu’s main competitor for playing time, played very well including an impressive catch-and-run on a circle route and a solid run to finish off a two-minute drive with a touchdown.
  4. Ryan Grant is making a push to be the fourth receiver on the Redskins depth chart. After Aldrick Robinson had a solid performance in the first pre-season game, Grant continues to show rare polished routes for a rookie and consistently good play, including a beautiful touchdown strike from Kirk Cousins.
  5. Turnovers need to stop, especially the sloppy avoidable ones. The starting offensive unit played well, and moved the ball well, but when you fumble a ball that is directly in your hands and throw an easy interception you won’t win many games. Turnover margin was one of the biggest reason for the Redskins success in 2012 (+17) and failure in 2013 (-8). The Redskins simply have to take care of the ball better.

Washington Redskins Game 16 Review: Skins lose to Giants in finale in soggy mess

The Washington Redskins and New York Giants were eliminated from postseason contention weeks ago. They played like in on Sunday in a sloppy, soggy, turnover-filled contest that the Giants eventually took control over and won, 20-6.

The biggest drama of the day was when — not if — owner Daniel Snyder would fire head coach Mike Shanahan, with one year and $7 million remaining on his original 5-year deal, and the rest of his coaching staff. Media reports following the game indicated Snyder and Shanahan were to meet Monday morning at 9:00 am.

The Redskins finished the season 3-13, the third time in Shanahan’s four seasons the team has finished with double-digit losses.

The teams combined for six turnovers lost, with the Redskins fumbling twice and Kirk Cousin picked off twice, including the last offensive play of the day.

Cousins’ work was spotty in the heavy rain most of the day. He finished just 19-of-49 for 169 yards and threw behind receivers all day long. Alfred Morris carried 16 times for 62 yards and Pierre Garcon hauled in six catches for 56 yards, becoming the third player all-time to catch at least five balls in each of his 16 games in a season.

Indicative of how poor the play was, the teams combined to convert just 8 of 34 opportunities on third down.

The Skins scored first, taking advantage of a Giants’ turnover. Brandon Meriweather forced an Andre Brown fumble at the Giants’ 20. Three plays gained just five yards, so the Skins settled for a 31-yard Kai Forbath field goal.

On the ensuing possession, Eli Manning hit Jerrel Jernigan for 30 yards, then again for 24 yards for a touchdown, giving New York a lead that would never really be challenged. Jernigan finished with six catches for 90 yards.

After another Redskins three-and-out and a short punt by Sav Rocca, the Giants struck again, as Manning hooked up with Hakeem Nicks on a 35-yard completion to give them the ball at the Skins’ 11-yard line. The drive stalled, and Josh Brown was good from 34 yards out to up the Giants’ lead to 10-3.

Washington went three-and-out again, but on the Giants’ next series, Manning was picked off by Josh Wilson at the Redskins 46. A 14-yard reception by Garcon and 9-yard catch by Santana Moss set up Forbath for a 49-yard field goal just before the half.

On the last play of the third quarter, Jernigan took and end-around 49 yards untouched for a touchdown and Brown added a 38-yard field goal on the Giants’ next possession to close out the scoring — and the Redskins season.

Washington Redskins Game 15 Review: Cowboys comeback late to win 24-23


Tony Romo giveth, and Tony Romo taketh away.

Romo’s third quarter interception gave the Washington Redskins hope, leading to an Alfred Morris touchdown and a Skins 20-14 lead. But in the waning moments of the game, Romo went through all of his receivers until he found DeMarco Murray alone in the flat, who sneaked into the end zone to lift the Dallas Cowboys to a 24-23 win at FedEx Field, keeping their playoff hopes alive until the final week of the season.

The Redskins fell to 3-12 in the defeat, their seventh in a row. The (at least) 12 losses clinches coach Mike Shanahan’s worst record as a head coach in the NFL.

Washington led 23-14 after Kai Forbath’s 47-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. But the Cowboys showed resilience though the final stanza, getting a Dan Bailey 25-yard field goal with 6:09 left following a 15-play, 73 yard drive before the deciding touchdown, which came at the end of a 9-play, 87 yard drive.

Kirk Cousins finished 21 of 36 for 197 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Morris ran for 88 yards on 24 carries.

Pierre Garcon caught 11 balls for 144 yards and a third quarter touchdown, passing NFL Hall of Famer Art Monk’s team single-season reception record of 104. Garcon stands at 111 with one game remaining.

For the day, Romo went 17 of 27 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. Romo shook off an right leg injury in the third quarter to lead his Cowboys to a win critical to their playoff chances. Dallas plays Philadelphia next week with the division title — and playoff appearance — on the line.

The Skins had no such aspirations, their playoff hopes realistically dashed early in the season. But the game marked London Fletcher’s last home game of his career. The veteran linebacker announced earlier in the week he was “99 percent” sure he would retire at the end of the season. Fletcher received several ovations during the day from the Redskins fans in the decidedly split crowd at Fed Ex, and finished with one solo and five assisted tackles.

The Redskins complete one of the franchise’s most disappointing seasons in their storied history next Sunday at the New York Giants.

Competition considered, but Cousins comes up big in first start

It’s been a long season for the Washington Redskins. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate.

The long days started last season, when Robert Griffin III originally hurt his knee getting tackled by Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata. The bad times continued in the playoff game against Seattle, when the knee was re-injured, Griffin was cleared by the Redskins braintrust, and allowed to return only to blow the thing out later in the game.

That led to a tumultuous “he said, he said” off-season, a preseason full of doubt, and an inconsistent and ultimately disappointing regular season for Griffin, leading to head coach Mike Shanahan’s controversial decision to shut down the presumably healthy quarterback for the final three games of this very long year.

Which brings us to the Redskins fiasco of the day.

Kirk Cousins made his first start of the season, and only had the best day of any Redskins quarterback in three years.

Of course, this came against the three- (now four) win Atlanta Falcons. But as disappointing as the Falcons have been this season, they are still an NFL team.

Cousins went 29 of 45 for 381 yards and three touchdowns. He threw two picks as well, but also led the Skins on a touchdown drive to score with just 18 seconds left in the game when an extra point would have forced overtime. The Skins went for two and his pass intended for Logan Paulsen was deflected harmlessly out of the end zone and the Skins fell by one.

No one wanted to see overtime in this game, least of all Shanahan.

Regardless, Cousins acquitted himself well in a very difficult situation, with Griffin in street clothes — relegated to high-priced cheerleader despite his health.

Cousins becomes the first Redskins QB to record back-to-back 300-yard games in his first two starts in the Super Bowl era. His 381 passing yards were the most by a Skins quarterback since Donovan McNabb tossed for 426 against Houston on Sept. 19, 2010. Cousins’ 248 yards in the first half alone were the most by the Redskins since Mark Rypien threw for 259 yards against Atlanta in 1991.

Should we go on?

Pierre Garcon, who finished with seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown, said after the game the Skins put their whole game plan out there against Atlanta — they didn’t hold anything back. Garcon has had some pointed comments this season about the Skins offense, the game plan, and the execution of the same. His post-game comments here could be a simple defense of Kyle Shanahan and Cousins, or they could have larger meaning to the effectiveness of Griffin all season long.

What can’t be overlooked in this result, though the Redskins ultimately lost and considering the level of competition, is that Cousins has a grasp of what Kyle wants to do, despite receiving second-team reps throughout the season. It shows that Cousins is capable of making plays at the NFL level. In the limited opportunities he’s had in the past two seasons, he’s made the most of it, throwing for 300-plus yards in his two starts and leading the Skins to a win in relief over the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens last season.

This town loves a quarterback controversy like no other. Cousins has two more weeks to “build film” in his case that he’s ready to get more playing time, whether that’s here in Washington or elsewhere. And with all the questions the Redskins face in the coming off-season, that’s just what they need — one more question to answer.

Washington Redskins Game 14 Review: Last second two-point conversion fails, Skins fall in Atlanta by one

After a confusing and contentious week off the field, the Washington Redskins actually had to play a football game, traveling to Atlanta to face the Falcons, who like the Skins have played to a disappointing 3-10 record this season.

The Redskins scored a touchdown with 18 second remaining on the clock to bring the score within one point, but coach Mike Shanahan decided to go for two. Like much of the rest of the Redskins season, though, the two-point attempt came up short, and the Falcons escaped with a 27-26 win.

Kirk Cousins, starting for the first time this season with Robert Griffin III shut down for the rest of the season, had a banner day, going 29 of 45 for 381 yards and three touchdowns, though he did throw two costly  interceptions.

The Falcons broke out quickly, scoring twice in the first quarter. Atlanta took the opening kickoff for a 14-play, 83-yard drive, culminated in a Steven Jackson 3-yard plunge.  After Cousins fumbled — off a sack by Osi Umenyiora — set up the Falcons at the Skins 36, Matt Ryan found Tony Gonzalez open for a 13-yard scoring strike.

On the ensuing drive, Alfred Morris busted a 37-yard run immediately preceding Cousin’s 23-yard touchdown pass to forgotten man Fred Davis, in the lineup again while Jordan Reed recovers from concussion symptoms.

The Skins held Atlanta on their next drive, but Santana Moss muffed the punt when E.J. Biggers blocked an Falcons defender into him while Moss was trying to fair catch. The turnover gave Atlanta the ball at the Skins 14. Atlanta couldn’t punch it in, so they settled for a 20-yard Matt Bryant field goal.

On the next series, Moss fumbled after a short completion but the defense forced a 3-and-out and Washington took over on their own 41 after the punt. Three plays later, Cousins hit Pierre Garcon in stride down the left sideline for a 53-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown — the Skins longest touchdown of the season.

The Skins’ D held again and the offense drove 51 yards on 10 plays to set up Kai Forbath for a 33-yard field goal to tie the game at 17 with 54 seconds left in the half.

Though they started at their own 10 yard line, Atlanta tried to make something happen before intermission, ut Ryan’s long pass was intercepted by Jose Gumbs at the Falcons’ 38. The Skins moved to Atlanta’s 19 yard line, but ran out of time and had to settle for a Forbath 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Skins a 20-17 halftime lead.

On the Falcons’ first possession of the second half, they marched 57 yards on 10 plays to the Skins’ 1-yard line. Washington held on fourth-and-one, with Perry Riley, Jr. tackling Steven Jackson short of the goal line. Unfortunately, on the next play Cousins was picked off by Willliam Moore at the 16 and he took it down to the two, where Jackson immediately punched it in to put Atlanta up 24-20.

The Redskins took their first drive of the fourth quarter down to Atlanta’s 13-yard line, using completions of 16 yards to Moss and 14 and 11-yard catches by Garcon. But Morris’ second fumble of the day — the Skins sixth turnover — killed the drive.

Washington got the ball back after another defensive stop with 5:45 left in the game, but on the first play Cousins’ long pass intended for Garcon was picked off by Desmond Trufant at the Skins’ 39-yard line.

The Falcons gained five yards and Bryant drilled a 51-yard field goal to put Atlanta up seven with 3:31 left in the game.

Cousins drove the Skins down the field systematically, including an 11-yard pass to Aldrick Robinson on a third and six at their own 44. Cousins hit Robinson again for three yards to set up second-and-goal from the 3-yard line with 22 seconds left on the clock. Cousins then found Moss on a quick out route to bring the score to 27-26.

Cousins rolled right on the two-point conversion attempt, but his pass for Logan Paulsen was tipped harmlessly out of the end zone.

Washington Redskins Postgame Audio: Preseason Game 2 vs. Steelers

Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan addressed the media following the team’s injury filled 24-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. While none of the injuries seemed to be too bad, the injury everyone still wants to talk about is to Robert Griffin III’s surgically repaired knee, and when he might see game action.

“I did talk with Dr. [James] Andrews before the game; he feels great about Robert’s [quarterback Robert Griffin III’s] progress. He really feels the same way as he did before camp with practice – he feels good about him practicing. He doesn’t feel like we should put him in any games. He’s going to re-evaluate him after the Tampa game and then he’ll make a decision, at least from his perspective, about where he is. But, like I said, he feels very good about where he is at this time. If there are no setbacks, he thinks he’ll be ready, but that’s assuming there is no setback here over the next couple of weeks so that’s a good sign.”

Shanahan’s reaction to the game action was decidedly less upbeat, especially when talking about the turnovers and penalties.

“Well, that’s what you have to do; you can’t beat yourself, and you’ve got to take a look at the personal fouls. You’ve got to eliminate them. And that’s one of the reasons why you have the preseason is to eliminate those silly mistakes. And we’ll emphasize them. We’ll talk about them, and hopefully, next week we won’t have quite as many. But when you’re able to overcome some of those mistakes, that means a lot of people are playing hard and playing together, but like you mentioned, that’s way too many mistakes.”

For Shanahan’s full comments, plus comments of several Redskins players, please click the links below.

[Audio courtesy Sky Kerstein]

08-19-13 Mike Shanahan Postgame RAW

08-19-13 Chris Thompson Postgame RAW

08-19-13 David Amerson Postgame RAW

08-19-13 Jordan Reed Postgame RAW

08-19-13 Kirk Cousins Postgame RAW

08-19-13 Leonard Hankerson Postgame RAW

08-19-13 Rex Grossman Postgame RAW

08-19-13 Ryan Kerrigan Postgame 1 RAW

08-19-13 Ryan Kerrigan Postgame RAW

08-19-13 Santana Moss Postgame RAW

08-19-13 Trent Williams Postgame RAW

Redskins beat Steelers in injury-filled second preseason game


The last thing any NFL coach wants is for critical players to get injured in meaningless preseason games. The Washington Redskins probably missed out on any big injuries, but watching backup QB Kirk Cousins limp off after spraining his right foot had to cause some anxious moments on the Skins sidelines.

Cousins went 2-for-3 for 19 yards before he hurt his foot at the end of a run. After the game, District Sports Page contributor Sky Kerstein of 106.7 The Fan tweeted from FedEx Field that Cousins’ injury was a “mild sprain” and that x-rays were negative, though the team would perform an MRI after the swelling went down out of an abundance of caution.

Barry Cofield, who will be counted on to anchor the Redskins defensive line from the nose tackle position, suffered a broken bone in his right hand, but all indications are that surgery doesn’t seem necessary and Cofield will play through the injury with his hand in a cast.

The Skins also saw injuries to wide receivers Aldrick Robinson (left thigh) and Leonard Hankerson (right knee), but neither appear serious.

As for the actual game, Washington beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-13, though once again the team held out several starters. One of the starters that did play, however, was defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, and he opened the scoring in the first quarter with a  22-yard interception return for a touchdown. Kerrigan also added two tackles and a sack for a nice night’s work.

The Skins scored again in the second quarter, with Hankerson hauling in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Rex Grossman. Kai Forbath added a 38-yard field goal as time expired on the half to give the Skins a 17-6 lead.

Pittsburgh capped an eight play, 76 yard drive early in the fourth quarter with a Derek Moye 10-yard TD catch from Landry Jones, but the Skins answered with 3:21 remaining as Roy Helu, Jr. busted up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown run — his only carry of the night – that completed a seven play, 74 yard drive of their own.

Grossman went 10-for-16 for 133 yards, with one touchdown and one interception in relief of Cousins. Pat White finished things up and went 3-for-6 for 22 yards and a pick.

Keiland Williams led Washington in rushing, carrying eight times for 39 yards. Alfred Morris started and rushed four times for 12 yard before being given the rest of the night off.

Robert Griffin III took the field for warm-ups, as he did for the first preseason game last week. According to reports, he’s been cleared by Dr. James Andrews for play, but the Skins expect to continue to hold him out during the preseason.

Redskins open 2013 preseason with win over Titans


More notable for players that didn’t play than did, the Washington Redskins — at least those in camp trying to win positions or make the roster — opened their preseason play with a 22-21 win over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville.

The Skins held most of their starters on the sidelines, including rehabbing QB Robert Griffin III and second-year RB Alfred Morris. The ones that suited up, though, gave head coach Mike Shanahan an irrelevant preseason win to kick off the four-game campaign before things get going for real — a Sept. 9 Monday night regular season opener against division rival Philadelphia Eagles.

Backup and second-year QB Kirk Cousins performed admirably in his two series of play, finishing the night 6-for-7 for 52 yards with a three-yard touchdown to TE Fred Davis, returning from his Achilles injury of last season. On the play, Cousins faked a pitch to RB Roy Helu, Jr. to the left, then rolled right and found Davis in front of the goal post for the relatively easy score.

The touchdown capped the second drive of the game for the Skins. Cousins went 4-for-4 on the drive with 36 yards The TD pass ended Cousins’ performance for the evening, but the young signal caller got good work in with the offense and looked comfortable leading the Skins while he was under center.

Davis, playing in his first game since surgery to repair the Achilles injury, caught two balls for 14 yards with the first team offense.

Helu, looking to make an impact as a third down back and capable backup to Morris, ran for 57 yards on 13 carries behind a somewhat make-shift line that did not include LT Trent Williams, just one of eight Skins starters that were held out of the preseason opener.

Veteran backup QB Rex Grossman took over for Cousins and had a mixed bag of success (10-for-21, 119 yds, 1 TD, 0 Int.), but did hit Leonard Hankerson for an eight-yard touchdown strike that tied the game at 14 just before the end of the first half. Hankerson, still trying to establish himself as a reliable target in the offense, made four catches for 38 yards.

Ten Skins receivers in all made receptions on the evening.

Third string QB Pat White made the best of a late-game opportunity, leading the Skins on a 12-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in White’s nine-yard touchdown run and subsequent two-point conversion to reserve TE Emmanuel Ogbuehi to provide the difference in the final score.

Defensive leader Brian Orakpo returned to the field after missing much of 2012 with a torn pectoral injury, and the veteran looked like he hadn’t missed a day at all. He put pressure on Titans QB Jake Locker on several occasions, including registering a sack on Tennessee’s third possession of the game, sprinting past Titans’ LT Michael Roos and catching up with Locker on a strong outside rush.

Because of multiple injuries to veteran defensive backs, three rookie draft picks — Safties Baccari Rambo and Phillip Thomas and CB David Amerson — started for the Skins to mixed results. Amerson almost had an interception and recorded three tackles, but Rambo was juked by Titans RB Chris Johnson en route to a 58-yard touchdown run, was similarly faked by Titans backup RB Shonn Green for a 19-yard score, and pushed Green after the run to draw a 15-yard penalty.

Thomas, a fourth-round pick from Fresno state, left the game in the first quarter after suffering a right shoulder and left foot injury on the same play. Replays showed Thomas’ foot got caught underneath the ball carrier on the tackle and the team announced he was held from the rest of the game due to the foot injury.

NOTES: In addition to Griffin, Morris and Williams, the Skins also played without WR Pierre Garcon, DBs DeAngelo Hall, Brandon Merriweather and Josh Wilson, and NT Barry Cofield.

Washington Redskins Postgame Audio: 24-14 Loss To Seattle

LANDOVER, MD–The Washington Redskins give up 24 unanswered points and fell to the Seattle Seahawks 24-14 as their season officially comes to an end.

The big story was Robert Griffin III.  Griffin III (10-of-19, 84 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) re-aggravated his right knee in the first quarter and looked gimpy the rest of the game.  He could barely run and an ugly play off a bad snap late in the fourth quarter left him in even more pain, allowing the Seahawks to recover a fumble at the Redskins five yard line which set up a chip shot field goal that put the game out of reach.

“I’m the quarterback of this team,”  Griffin III said. “My job is to be out there if I can play. The only time I couldn’t play was when I went down. I took myself out of the game. That’s just the way you have to play. Just to tackle the next question, I don’t feel like me being out there hurt the team in any way. I’m the best option for this team, and that’s why I’m the starter.”

Kirk Cousins came in, but didn’t have much time to work any magic.  Following the loss, Griffin III went straight to the hospital to have an MRI and will know the results sometime later tonight.

“I think I did put myself at more risk by being out there,”  Griffin III said.  “But every time you step on the football field in between those lines you’re putting your life, your career [and] every single ligament in your body in jeopardy. That’s just the approach I had to take toward it. My teammates needed me out there, so I was out there for them. When it comes to the impact of the injury, I’m not sure what it is. We’ll figure that out here in the next few days. Whatever it is, I’ll make sure I come back healthy from it.”

Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan had no problem with him being out there.

“Robert will have the MRI,”  Shanahan said.  “We always check that out to see how serious it is… I did and I talked to Robert and he said to me, ‘Coach, there’s a difference between being injured and being hurt.’ He said, ‘I can guarantee I’m hurt right now but give me a chance to win this football game because I guarantee I’m not injured.’ That was enough for me. I thought he did enough this year to have that opportunity to stay in the football game. It’s always a tough decision when to pull a guy and when not to. I talked to him at halftime and had to feel good about him to go back in. I told him we’re going to run the football and he’s going to have to prove to me and like I said before, he said, ‘Trust me. I want to be in there and I deserve to be in there,’ and I couldn’t disagree with him.”

Even though they lost, Shanahan was happy with how the team responded from a 3-6 record at the bye to finishing the season as NFC East Champions.

“I told the players after the game that not too many football teams can be 3-6 and have the type of character to play how they did in the last half of the season. It’s really a compliment to the guys in that locker room, really a compliment to the fans out there to support us the way they did – really got our team energized throughout the second half of the season. It was a fun run. I’m very disappointed today. You always want to play your best football during the playoffs. We probably had our best first quarter. After that first quarter, we just didn’t seem to get things done. It was very tough, but I’m excited about this football team – the direction we’re headed. We’re not very happy. There’s only one team that’s happy at the end of the year, and unfortunately, we’re going home a little bit earlier than expected.”

Listen here to what Mike Shanahan, Robert Griffin III, Pierre Garçon, Kirk Cousins, Darrel Young, Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, Lorenzo Alexander, Logan Paulsen, London Fletcher, Josh Wilson & Stephen Bowen had to say as their season comes to an end.

Mike Shanahan Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Mike Shanahan Postgame RAW

Robert Griffin III Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Robert Griffin III Postgame RAW

Pierre Garçon Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Pierre Garcon Postgame RAW

Kirk Cousins Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Kirk Cousins Postgame RAW

Darrel Young Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Darrel Young Postgame RAW

Trent Williams Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Trent Williams Postgame RAW

Ryan Kerrigan Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Ryan Kerrigan Postgame RAW

Lorenzo Alexander Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Lorenzo Alexander Postgame RAW

Logan Paulsen Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Logan Paulsen Postgame RAW

London Fletcher Postgame Audio

01-06-13 London Fletcher Postgame RAW

Josh Wilson Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Josh Wilson Postgame RAW

Stephen Bowen Postgame Audio

01-06-13 Stephen Bowen Postgame RAW

Washington Redskins might be RGIII’s team, but they’re more than just one man

Kirk Cousins guided the Redskins to a victory over the Browns. (photo by Brian Murphy)

The Washington Redskins announced Friday night they planned to face the Cleveland Browns — in Cleveland — without their leader, quarterback Robert Griffin III. Despite a week of encouraging news from practice, the team’s doctors and coaches decided to be cautious with their best playmaker, and likely rookie of the year, and sit him at least a week after spraining his knee the previous week against the Baltimore Ravens.

That left the reigns to Kyle Shanahan’s high-powered offense in fourth round draft pick Kirk Cousins.

The rookie shook off a couple of rough series at the beginning of the game to lead the Skins to a fifth consecutive win and first place in the NFC East — thanks to tiebreakers — with a 38-21 win over the hapless Browns.

The Redskins now control their own playoff destiny by virtue of a victory delivered by their backup rookie quarterback.

Cousins, obviously, is not the only rookie that has delivered for the Redskins this season. Fellow first year player Alfred Morris, a sixth round pick, has emerged as a tough running tailback in the mold of Gerald Riggs — big enough to run folks over but with enough speed to break off a big run when the hole is available.

The Skins are getting contributions from unheralded young offensive linemen as well. Of course, that depth will be tested this upcoming week with the news of Will Montgomery’s knee injury, Troy Polumbus’ concussion and Jordan Black’s PED suspension.

Another big contributor has been wide receiver Pierre Garcon. Once he got back on the field from a foot injury, the fifth-year playmaker has developed a big-time rapport with Griffin and given the Redskins a young veteran receiver that opposing teams need to game-plan for. That gives room for younger receivers, such as Leonard Hankerson (two TDs against Cleveland) and Aldrick Robinson, to make plays. Even veteran Santana Moss is enjoying a renaissance season with seven touchdowns among his 37 catches.

Kyle Shanahan has designed and developed an offensive scheme to take best advantage of the talent that has been assembled. He’s also showed an ability to adjust the game plan when necessary depending on injury or opponent. The offensive coordinator — much as his head coach father — took a great deal of critique the last couple of unsuccessful seasons with less-than-NFL quality signal callers.

Now that the Skins look like they possess two of those, they are on the precipice of the playoffs. The team sent out a press release Monday morning announcing the plan for distributing playoff tickets — with two big NFC East games yet to play. It’s heady days for the Washington Redskins organization, and it seems like health will be the biggest challenge to the success this season, and for the foreseeable future.

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