With his right arm, his legs and possibly most importantly, his voice, quarterback Kirk Cousins has been crucial in Washington carrying over its 2015 success into this season.
Facing 3rd-and-7 from their own 13-yard line, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins stepped up the pocket and scrambled left for nine yards and a first down. It was a nice play, sure, but one that didn't make the highlights on SportsCenter or NFL Network. However, for being just a regular play early in the second quarter, it seemed to hold a bigger meaning.
Of course, when running back Robert Kelley burst through the line for a 45-yard gain on the next play, Cousins' first-down conversion loomed larger. Or when Cousins found Vernon Davis in the back of the end zone to finish the drive and give Washington a 14-0 lead, the run felt even bigger.
"Not something you can really emulate, can't really practice, you know what I mean?" Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "He did a great job. I think the play of the game for Kirk was the third and seven backed up when he scrambled and got the first down. We're backed up there, we're punting to [Darren] Sproles, but we end up getting that first down. We end up methodically going down and scoring taking a 14-point lead."
The play perhaps paints a bigger picture of the season for Cousins through six games. He doesn't rank in the top 10 among NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage, yards per attempt or passer rating. But his team keeps winning games. He's thrown nine touchdowns to six interceptions after having a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 29 and 11 in 2015. However, similar to 2015, Cousins keeps leading the Redskins to victories.
Washington has now won eight of its last 10 regular season games. The Redskins won four straight games to finish the 2015 season with an NFC East title. After an 0-2 start to this season, Washington has responded with another four-game winning streak.
"You can never hit the panic button in this game," Cousins said. "All I know to do is take it one week at a time and we will see where we are when the dust settles in January and hopefully in February, which is always the goal. So you just have to keep playing. If you hit the panic button in this business, you don't belong in this business. We just tried to stay the course, work very hard, prepare very well, and trust if we do that then good things will happen in the long run."
Cousins has made his mistakes this season. His interceptions in each of the last three games have been tough to swallow due to how well he's played otherwise. Quarterbacks throw interceptions all the time, but the way signal callers respond to the picks is usually what sets them apart. Sunday proved further that Cousins has a knack from bouncing back from his mistakes as he followed his pick-six to Philadelphia's Malcolm Jenkins by leading Washington on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to end the first half. The Redskins led the rest of the game.
"It was important to just stay up and know that this game is going to test you," Cousins said. "Moments like that are going to happen. You have to just keep playing through it and keep playing at a high level and what happened was a good play by them."
Cousins's resiliency hasn't gone unnoticed. His calm demeanor through both good and bad is one the Redskins' locker room has taken as a whole. The mood at Redskins Park doesn't feel much different from when the team was 0-2 to now just a game out of first place in the NFC East.
"I'd say Kirk – Kirk really handles us," Redskins tight end Niles Paul said. "Even at the end of the game, he took charge of that four-minute drill and we were pushing the ball down the field and we were able to close it out as an offense. I think that just really keeps us focused and grounded. I think as a team, we see the mistakes that we put out there and the issues we've been having. We see there's so much growth we can have from that. Every week, we can improve in this area, we can improve here, and there's always room for improvement. When that's the case, we're always going to keep growing as a team."