On a day in which he would be the catalyst for a game-winning 90-yard drive, quarterback Kirk Cousins showed overall growth in the Redskins' 23-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
The media consensus entering Sunday's NFC East divisional tilt between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles was that if you forced quarterback Kirk Cousins to throw the ball anywhere near 50 times per game, the team was going to struggle.
And with DeSean Jackson still dealing with a hamstring injury suffered Week 1 and with Andre Roberts inactive for the first time in his Redskins career, Cousins was going to have to rely on Pierre Garçon and three young receivers – Ryan Grant, Jamison Crowder and Rashad Ross – with a grand total of 19 combined receptions in their careers.
But with the Eagles going all-in against the run, Cousins showed that he can put a team on his back, finishing the game completing 31-of-46 passes for 290 yards and a game-winning touchdown on a drive that spanned 90 yards.
Cousins also scored a rushing touchdown on a heads-up play following a bobbled snap.
"Coach Gruden challenged us last night to be resilient, and as we know, all these games come down it seems to the last couple of minutes," Cousins said. "And you're going to have setbacks along the way and we certainly had our fair share. But we kept challenging each other to respond and be resilient and I think it's a combination of things."
On a few of his throws, especially to Garçon on that last drive, Cousins had to place the ball perfectly to complete the passes.
He did just that.
"I think in the NFL you're going to have tight windows," Cousins said. "When teams play man coverage, that's the way it is. So you will get those kind of coverages throughout the game. That's why it requires so much precision from myself, from the receivers, the depth of the route, the way they're cutting out of the route. We have to be on the same page and that's why you can't just show up and play. It takes time; you have to build an understanding of where he is going to be."
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden believes that Sunday's game-winning drive, coupled with other moments throughout the game, show Cousins' progress in his fourth year in the NFL and first as a full-time starter.
"You can see that his decision making is pretty good," Gruden said. "To have that high completion percentage, touchdown, no interceptions, he had that one sack …but he's managing the football game. He's putting us in a position to win in the fourth quarter, and we finally did that. We're keeping it close. Having the ability to win in the fourth quarter, making a key drive at the end to win it, it's great to see our quarterback and our entire team do that because we're going to have other games that are going to be close like this."
While Garçon finished the day with seven receptions for 55 yards, the other three wide receivers each showed their particular strengths throughout the day.
Crowder, playing in the slot, was certainly a go-to, finishing the day with seven receptions for 65 yards.
Grant toughed out five catches for 45 yards.
Ross recorded the team's longest offensive play of the season, hauling in a 43-yard catch.
"It really felt like a total team win, much like our other victory this year," Cousins said. "It feels like it takes offense, defense and special teams. Whoever is on the field, it takes all 11. We got a lot of contributions from a lot of different players today and it's going to take that down the stretch here. You're going to have injuries. You're going to need depth and it was encouraging to see how many guys were stepping up today."
Running back Chris Thompson said that on the Redskins' game-winning drive, it was simply "business as usual."
Cousins wasn't shaken by the moment.
"You could just see poise," Thompson said. "Kirk kept his poise and he just played with confidence the whole game. …He trusts us to make plays because he threw that ball to Pierre in a little bit of traffic. He trusted Pierre enough and we all trust him enough."