Filling in for an injured Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins led the Washington Redskins (8-6) to their fifth straight win and a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East after stunning the Cleveland Browns (5-9) 38-21.
Cousins finished 26-for-37 for 329 yards, two touchdowns and only one turnover on the night.
It wasn’t smooth sailing from start to finish for the fourth-round rookie quarterback, though. On the first drive of the game, the Redskins managed a false start and on third and 5, Cousins botched an easy pass to Evan Royster.
On their next possession, Cousins threw an incomplete pass to Pierre Garcon, pitched to Alfred Morris for no gain and then lobbed a huge interception to T.J. Ward. Ward scrambled 37 yards to bring it to Washington’s six-yard line and, on the next play, Trent Richardson ran the ball for the touchdown to put the Browns on the board 7-0.
The Redskins’ offense showed no signs of revival on the next two drives – the first of which resulted in a net loss of five yards, and the second of which produced no gain.
However, with one long toss, Cousins changed the momentum of the game.
From Washington’s own 46-yard line, Cousins fired downfield to Leonard Hankerson for a 54-yard touchdown to tie things up.
In the second quarter, Cousins showed his speed with a 17-yard run to help set up a 44-yard field goal for Kai Forbath who extended his perfect streak to make it 10-7 Redskins.
However, it took the Browns little time to answer. On their next drive, they chipped away at the Redskins’ defense. On third and 5, Lorenzo Alexander went down with an injury to his shoulder. Brandon Weeden then connected with Greg Little for a 30-yard pass before Richardson managed his second touchdown to make it 14-10 Browns.
The Redskins hit the ground running in the second half, this time on the celebratory side of an interception. Looking to connect with Little, Weeden’s pass instead landed in the arms of Rob Jackson. Then, Cousins tossed to Josh Morgan for 12 yards before pitching to Alfred Morris for the three-yard touchdown to allow the Redskins to retake the lead, 17-14.
The Cousins-Hankerson dynamic duo held its own on the Redskins’ next possession as Washington tacked on another seven points to give the Redskins a 24-14 cushion.
The Redskins may have had another shot to pile on more points right away had it not been for a hapless taunting penalty issued to none other than Pierre Garcon. After Cousins found Garcon for a 17-yard toss, Garcon carried out his traditional football spin maneuver, only to earn the Redskins a 15-yard penalty.
In the end, it didn’t matter much. Cousins tossed to Evan Royster for a four-yard touchdown to start the fourth quarter up 31-14.
Weeden launched a 69-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin on the Browns’ next drive, but yet again, Kirk Cousins provided an immediate answer in the form of a touchdown pass to Alfred Morris.
With five minutes left, the Browns showed no ability to threaten and the Redskins solidified their 38-21 win.
By day’s end, Leonard Hankerson had two receptions for two touchdowns and 56 yards, and Alfred Morris added another two touchdowns and 87 rushing yards over 27 carries.
Forbath extended his perfect streak to 15 consecutive field goals. Should Forbath complete his next field goal attempt, he will tie the NFL record for a career start.