The Redskins quarterback threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns, responding to adversity with ease in the Redskins' 42-24 victory over the Packers.
It would have been fair to assume that with frigid temperatures and heavy gusts of wind on Sunday night that quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense wouldn't have the same productivity or opportunities to assert itself in the passing game.
The Michigan State product, no stranger to cold, blustery games in his Big 10 career, imagined a low-scoring affair was in store, too.
The first two sequences proved that to be true – short drives that included dropped passes and ended in punts – but that narrative quickly changed. Cousins picked up a couple of first downs on the team's third effort, including a third down completion to rookie Maurice Harris over the middle, and then found DeSean Jackson over the top for a touchdown. It was the start of a career night.
Cousins, who has grown into the team's starting quarterback role with a chip on his shoulder, continued writing another chapter in his book of resilient play. Facing the team that eliminated them in the playoffs in January, Cousins completed his fifth 300-yard game of the season, adding three touchdown passes and a season-high 145.8 passer rating to defeat the Packers, 42-24, and lift the team to a 6-3-1 record heading into the short week.
"I think tonight you saw what we felt we were capable of doing last January and just didn't get it done," Cousins said. "We're all competitors so we all came into this game with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths and a chip on our shoulder with a desire to prove ourselves."
What he was most proud of was execution, which is what the team failed to achieve in its 35-18 loss just 10 months ago. Sunday night, in front of a national audience and in a game that was crucial to have in order to keep up with their NFC East opponents, Cousins and co. rose to the occasion.
Cousins distributed the ball to seven different receivers on the night, passing 21-of-30 for 375 yards without any interceptions, converting 70 percent of his 10 third down passes. Head coach Jay Gruden gave due credit to the offensive line for making those opportunities possible, and Cousins was just as grateful for the time he had available to him.
Ahead by a field goal to start the second half, Cousins found tight end Jordan Reed over the middle for 28 yards on third-and-5, setting up the Redskins for a field goal to take a six point lead. The next drive, Cousins followed a delay of game on third-and-short with a 44–yard strike to wide receiver Jamison Crowder over the seam to extend Washington's lead.
Green Bay responded with its own touchdown rather quickly, but Cousins showed more resolve under pressure. Facing a potential momentum change, Cousins launched a deep pass to wide receiver Pierre Garçon on second down that, despite the weather conditions, was thrown perfectly for a 70-yard touchdown.
"I believe I just let it fly," Cousins said. "I've always believed rotation beats wind so if you can get a tight spiral you can cut the wind and the key is having that consistently, which even myself will have passes that are not as tight as I want them to be… I try to take pride in playing well in elements and it isn't easy."
"He's always been able to knife a ball through the wind, really," Gruden said. "He's been a good quarterback in the rain and wind. He has a really good release and a good feel for it."
The toss put him over 300 yards for the game, setting a team record with 17 career 300-yard passing games, including the postseason.
The Packers continued to respond, forcing the Redskins to dial up passing plays. Ahead by just five points and facing a fourth-and-1 at midfield, Cousins snuck the ball behind his line for two yards, extending a drive that would quickly culminate in another abrupt score. Cousins would, again, find Crowder, who fell just short of the goal line after hauling in another beautifully placed ball for 53 yards.
Running back Robert Kelley, who contributed 137 yards on the night, punched in his second of three touchdowns, the proper rebuttal that deflated Green Bay's spirits once again.
"Things were clicking tonight," Cousins said. "It goes from top to bottom. It was a great job by the offensive line, protecting the receivers, getting open versus man coverage, zone coverage and running the football well. It was such a combination of so many people."
"Today was just an aerial assault of perfection," Cornerback Josh Norman said. "I had Air Force on my helmet, and that's how they played. [The offense] played all out, full throttle. Bombs away. That's kind of how it was."
Cousins has now accumulated 3,091 passing yards for the season, on pace to shatter his team-record 4,166 yards he tallied last year as the first time starter. Like the second half of last season, the quarterback has played auspiciously of late after beginning the year without the same kind of confidence in his throws.
After the game, he approached his general manager Scot McCloughan and yelled, "How do you like me now?" into his ear before rubbing his head. He will carry that same enthusiasm with him to prepare for the Cowboys on Thursday, which will feature another game that the Redskins must prove to themselves and others they can win. Cousins wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'm just always trying to prove myself and I'm always being evaluated and I will always be trying to improve myself as long as I'm playing this game," he said.