Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was steady and efficient on Sunday, building upon an already impressive track record against the New Orleans Saints.
In what ended up as a heartbreaking overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins held his own against what has been a stingy pass defense this year. The 29-year-old completed 22 of his 32 passes for three touchdowns and no turnovers and led the Redskins to a season-high 31 points.
The solid individual performance on Sunday was not the first time the Saints have seen the true potential of Cousins. In two career starts against the Saints, he has completed 42-of-57 passes (73.7 percent) for 646 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions, yielding a passer rating of 150.3.
Prior to Cousins' strong outing, the Saints' secondary, led by rookie standout Marshon Lattimore, had established itself as one of the better units in the league, allowing just 199 passing yards per game heading into Week 11.
Cousins' favorite targets on the day were clearly Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson, whom he targeted seven and eight times, respectively.
Redskins fans have to be encouraged by Doctson's growth as a receiver throughout the season, as he hauled in four receptions for a team-high 81 receiving yards on the day. This week marked the second consecutive game in which he notched seven targets, which is a career-high.
Cousins' blossoming connection with Doctson has occurred, in part, because he has learned how to best use the tall and speedy wideout. While Crowder is used as more of a short-yardage, high-reception receiver, Cousins has learned to turn to Doctson when looking for a big play.
When asked about Doctson's big play ability, notably on 50-50 balls, he said "that is something he does really well." Now, it just becomes a matter of giving him more opportunities to connect.
"Josh did a phenomenal job and we have talked about it," Cousins said after the game. "We need to continue to give him opportunities."
The sixth-year quarterback was looking Doctson's way on a key play at the end of the fourth quarter, but the situation simply wasn't right.
"On the last play of regulation, when I got hit, I was trying to give him a similar throw. I have to see the film, but I believe I was hot and the blitzer was free and got me, and I couldn't get the ball to Josh. We were trying throughout the game to get him opportunities, but a lot of times it's just the play call and the reads," the quarterback said after the game.
Cousins was able to put up a commendable performance even without his trustworthy weapon Chris Thompson, who left the game with a fractured fibula. The loss was undoubtedly a significant one for Cousins, as the duo had really begun to take off this season. Thompson led the NFL in receiving yards amongst running backs (494) heading into Week 11.
Check out the top images from the Washington Redskins' offense in their 2017 Week 11 matchup against the New Orleans Saints Nov. 19, 2017, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"Chris was one of our best players, if not our best player, this year," Cousins said. "He's just had a phenomenal season and it's going to be challenging to continue to move the ball with all the guys that we have had injured, but we will find a way."
Controversy came Cousins' way later on in the constest, however, on a 1st-and-10 play late in the fourth quarter. The Saints had just tied the game at 31 apiece, but left Cousins and the Redskins' offense with just about a minute left on the clock.
After a lengthy completion to Crowder, the Redskins found themselves in Saints territory with 31 seconds left and a chance to win. With the ball at the Saints' 34-yard line, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden signaled for a bubble screen from the sideline, but that is where the miscommunication began.
"I looked over to the sideline out of the corner of my eye, and I just saw the coaches saying, 'throw it.' They wanted potentially an audible, get to an actual pass play. I thought they were saying that if you just throw it by Jamison, in the general area of Jamison, there is an eligible in the area and there's no penalty," Cousins said.
Cousins ended up throwing the ball away towards the sidelines and was flagged for intentional grounding, pushing the Redskins out of field goal range for the time being.
"I don't know why that was a penalty, but it was," Gruden said after the game.
With a Thanksgiving night affair with the New York Giants next on the slate, Cousins will look to improve on his past performances against the divisional foe. The Michigan State product heads into the Week 12 tilt with a 2-4 record and a 57 percent completion rate against the Giants.