Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Trent Williams' media session with reporters on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1. He's staying the course and trusting himself
Cousins had a challenging night on Monday, throwing an interception and fumbling at the 1-yard line, in a losing effort to the Panthers. He managed more than 300 yards passing, but the offense couldn't find a rhythm and score when it needed to.
That might put a dent into his confidence, but with two games left, and more experience dealing with challenging losses, Cousins isn't worried about any kind of regression with the playoffs on the line.
"Just staying the course. Not my first time coming away from a tough loss," Cousins said. "I've learned through all my years of playing football to just keep going and not ride the roller coaster and get back to work and do what you know to do as you prepare for the next one. Come ready to go with an intense focus and help get other guys ready and go play. And trust that your preparation and your talent and the experience you have will be good enough to get back up and have a good outing."
2. Rhythm is a factor in the run game
Running Rob Kelley ran nine times for eight yards against the Panthers on Monday night, which is not an ideal ratio on any day. Cousins noted Thursday that having success on the ground comes through targeting the right people on the defense to block – otherwise a free defender makes things tricky.
"If there's an unblocked person in the box and he can just run right into the gap and make the play and without any impedance, then it's going to be tough to run the football, Cousins said. "So there were a few where there's just an unblocked player at the point of attack. And other ones, guys just… the mesh on the blocks or the timing, they just weren't quite on the same page and the guy slips it off. It happens, so unfortunately we couldn't get that rhythm going and then when you do get behind and get in a bit of a two-minute mode, then you are forced to throw the football."
Cousins clarified his comments about targeting the right defensive players at the line of scrimmage, a job the offensive line works to perfect each game. In other words, the success and failure of a run game is a joint effort.
"It's a combination of people because the center makes his point but at the same time the guard, tackle and tight end all have to fit off of that. And even if the center's point is right, it may be someone outside of that who ended up not fitting properly. So if we're looking for someone to point fingers at, I think it's a combination of everybody, you know, and I don't know that it's any one person over and over and over."
3. The Bears prove Cousins' point about parity
The Bears may be 3-11, but their last several games have all been close affairs, outcomes that help proves Cousins' point he's made earlier this year about the difference between good and bad teams -- there's a small gap.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 16 game against the Chicago Bears Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
For example, the Bears currently rank 9th in opponents yards per game (351.6) and 16th in opponents points per game (22.9) while tallying 37 sacks this season, the fourth most in the NFL. Much of that is split between linebacker Willie Young, defensive end Akiem Hicks and linebacker Leonard Floyd.
"I think their team is a great example of the parity that exists in the NFL," Cousins said. "I know people have laughed when I think, you know, I said how the difference between maybe 6-10 and 10-6 really isn't that much. I just look at them and see a really talented defense. Statistically they're getting a lot of sacks. They're not giving up many yards. I think they're ninth overall, so they're a top 10 defense. So it presents a great challenge, and then you add the fact we're on the road. This is going to be a tough one."
4. Cousins plays a partial role in getting players riled up
The last few games, the Redskins have come out sluggish on both sides of the ball, but particularly on offense. Monday night marked the third consecutive game the Redskins began their first offensive series with a three-and-out.
Cousins is a captain for the Redskins, but does that require more responsibility when it comes to making sure everyone on the team is energized and ready to go once the game begins? Yes and no.
"I think it goes both ways," Cousins said. "I think as a quarterback it will always be a major role of mine to elevate the play of the other players in the huddle. If I step in the huddle and the 10 guys there are not going to play better as a result of me being in the huddle, then what am I doing? So, I believe as a quarterback, trying to be a leader as a team captain, and in order to be able to have a good career, yes, you need to elevate the play of the guys around you. That being said, we're all professionals, we're all grown men, and if it takes a rah-rah speech to get you to the right place, then you're probably not going to last very long. So there's no doubt we want to have real influence on the guys around us, but at the same time, we all need to get ourselves ready to go."
5. Thinking about the playoffs is a waste of time and energy.
The Redskins missed the opportunity to take control of their playoff destiny on Monday, which means they will have to rely on other teams to help their bid.
Will Cousins be checking scores and thinking about the postseason this week?
"It would be a waste of my time and energy to worry about stuff I can't control, so I'll focus on the Chicago Bears," Cousins said. "After that, we'll focus on the next game, and that's all I need to focus on. Frankly, I don't need to know much else. You can let me know after the last game where we stand. Control what I can control, and let the rest fall where it may. But it'll be a great opportunity here just to get to a place where we can finish with a winning record. Just the Chicago game, focusing right there, would be a great step in the right direction. Let's get this one and it's not going to be easy."