Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' 35-25 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at FedExField.*
1.) That "the Redskins can't win back-to-back games" stigma? Yeah, it's a thing of the past.
Prior to Sunday's game against the Bills, the last time the Redskins won consecutive games was Weeks 7-8 last season against the Tennessee Titans and the Dallas Cowboys.
That Redskins team would only win four games. This current Redskins team, meanwhile, is much different, and has shown a great deal of improvement throughout the season.
"It's great to get to 7-7," Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "We finished 6-2 at home. It says a lot about our play at home and our crowd. They were phenomenal today. Winning two in a row is good. We just keep taking steps forward."
Sunday's game against Buffalo was never really in doubt, thanks to a 21-point halftime lead. Even when things got somewhat interesting in the second half, the Bills were never ever able to climb any closer than 10 points.
"We finally put that to bed," defensive end Ricky Jean Francois, who had a sack of Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, said of earning back-to-back wins. "That's the first thing. Now, it's going to be three in a row. That's another thing we're going to have to put to bed."
To do just that – win three games in a row – it means Washington will need to continue to show improvement playing on the road. The team earned its first win away from FedExField this season last Sunday against the Chicago Bears, and it could potentially find itself in a position to clinch the NFC East on Saturday against the Eagles in Philadelphia.
But that "P" word isn't yet creeping into the Redskins' minds.
"We're just worried about Philly right now," left tackle Trent Williams said. "We can't look at the playoffs right now because it's not guaranteed, so we're worried about Philly."
READ MORE:Redskins Defeat Bills, 35-25
2.) Kirk Cousins has been getting better and better each week, but he played at an All-Pro level in home games, especially.
Cousins' line against the Bills: 22-of-28 passes for 319 yards with four passing touchdowns and one rushing score. He was one-tenth of a point shy of recording a perfect passer rating for the second time this season.
He continued his theme of torching opposing defenses at FedExField. In the Redskins' eight home games this season, Cousins completed 192-of-257 passes (74.7 percent) for 2,170 yards with 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions for a 117.0 quarterback rating.
Most who know Cousins story know that the fourth-year Michigan State product, a fourth-round pick of the Redskins in 2012, had to wait until Week 1 of this season to be named the franchise's full-time starting quarterback for the first time in his career.
He's taken that opportunity and run with it.
"Anytime you're in the NFL, you're getting mental reps and you're studying the game," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "That's the good thing about Kirk – he's never lost confidence or faith. At least for the amount of time I've been with him, he's studied the game and worked to get himself to be a starter in this league. Hats off to him to get himself ready."
3.) Ryan Kerrigan continued his late-season surge with another sack on Sunday.
During the offseason, Kerrigan underwent minor surgery to clean up his knee. He was kept out of all four preseason games as a precaution.
He never really got a good groove for the first half of the season, collecting just 3.5 sacks before breaking a bone in his right hand Week 7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – well off his 2014 pace, when he had a career-best 13.5 sacks.
Fortunately for Kerrigan, a fifth-year Purdue product, the Bye Week came at the right time following that Buccaneers game, and he was able to play Week 9 against the New England Patriots despite undergoing hand surgery.
He's now starting to reach his groove, with five sacks in the past five weeks, including a big third-down sack of Taylor on Sunday at FedExField, to give him a team-best 8.5 on the year.
Kerrigan also forced a fumble on the play – no player in the NFL has been better at that since he was drafted in 2011 – that was recovered by the Bills.
The Redskins had five sacks total against Buffalo, keeping the speedy and elusive Taylor on his toes all afternoon.
"It was pretty good, really," Gruden said of the team's pass rush. "A lot of the runs Tyrod had are because we had pressure. He stepped up and found a lane and he's a very elusive quarterback. He's something to deal with for a long time over there. Overall, our pass rush was pretty good, pretty steady. Obviously, there could be some looks we wish we could do a little bit differently but overall I'm pleased with the way our rush was coming."
4.) Jamison Crowder, for the first time all season, looked a little shaky on a punt return Sunday afternoon.
Speaking of that Kerrigan sack, it came in the second quarter after the Redskins had just extended their lead to 21-0. Everything was working for Washington on offense and defense.
Check out these top photos from the Washington Redskins' 2015 Week 15 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, Dec. 20, 2015, at FedExField.
The play forced Buffalo to punt back up to its own 4-yard line with 7:09 left, pretty much ensuring Washington would be set up with decent field position to try to extend its lead even more.
Bills punter Colton Schmidt – who had an odd, drop-kick-styled punt earlier in the game – would only get off a 34-yard punt to the Buffalo 38, where Crowder was waiting for the return.
But the rookie out of Duke muffed the catch, and the Bills fell on the football at their own 43.
Buffalo appeared set to take a little momentum going into halftime when it drove all the way to the 1-yard line, but it found a stingy Washington defense that didn't allow it to punch the ball in on three straight plays, turning the ball over on downs and taking some of the heat off Crowder.
Now, Crowder's had a solid first year as the Redskins' slot receiver, catching 49 passes for 461 yards and a touchdown. He's also been consistent as a punt returner, with 24 total returns for 137 yards, a 5.7-yard average, and 11 fair catches. Had the special teams unit not had some bad penalties, Crowder would have a couple more solid returns, too.
But he certainly knows now, with his team vying for a division championship, is not the time to drop punts 12 yards deep into the opposing team's side of the field.
Look for the rook to try to make up for Sunday's mistake on Saturday against the Eagles.
READ MORE:2015 Q&A: Jamison Crowder
5.) Four Redskins starters that suffered injuries in Sunday's win were unable to return to the game.
Those starters include:
- Right tackle Morgan Moses, who suffered a left ankle/foot sprain late in the second quarter. Moses, who was relieved by Ty Nsekhe, briefly came out to start the third quarter but couldn't finish the game.
- Center Josh LeRibeus, who sprained his ankle. He was relieved by veteran Brian de la Puente.
- Middle linebacker Will Compton suffered a stinger in the second half, and was replaced by Keenan Robinson.
- Safety Dashon Goldson, who did not return after suffering a rib contusion in the fourth quarter.
We'll get an update on all of these injuries Monday afternoon from Gruden, but it's certainly one of the few negative marks for a Redskins team heading into a short week of preparation.