As the Redskins have hit their stride, so too has quarterback Kirk Cousins in recent weeks, as he has led an offensive onslaught in the second half of the season.
The last play at the end of the first half of the Washington Redskins 38-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night, followed by what ensued in the second half, has been indicative of Kirk Cousins' ability to bounce back in this breakout season of his.
With a chance to toss his third touchdown pass of the first half with six seconds left on the clock, Cousins, who was expected to throw an endzone fade to Pierre Garçon, instead took a knee, ending the half inside the Eagles' 10-yard line.
But like he did Week 7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Redskins' largest comeback victory in franchise history, and just like he did in throwing four touchdown passes against the New Orleans Saints seven days after a tough outing against the Carolina Panthers, and just like he did by leading the Redskins to a road victory over the Chicago Bears a week after struggling to put points on the board against the Cowboys, Cousins returned in the second half on Saturday to throw an additional two touchdown passes -- and critical ones at that.
"I'm very proud of Kirk," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said after the game. "He came in here and we had the debacle at the end of the half and a normal guy could have gone in the tank there, but he just came in and kept his composure, just like he has all year. Just like he has done his whole career. He's kept his composure and just kept his nose to the grindstone and just kept battling and competing and doing what he's supposed to do."
Cousins finished the night completing 31 of his 46 pass attempts for 365 yards and four touchdowns to zero interceptions.
In his last nine games since throwing a pair of sloppy interceptions against the New York Jets in a Week 6 loss, Cousins has thrown 20 touchdowns to just three interceptions, completely swatting away the turnover bug that annoyed him early in his career.
"I've seen him progress from last year to this year, through OTAs, training camp, minicamps and all that stuff just watching him steadily get better and better every day and then to put it on the field," Gruden said. "You know, when we really thought we had a great chance with him was probably the preseason game against Baltimore when he had a really good preseason game. I think he was 20-for-27 in the first half and led us on a big two-minute drive there at the end of the half and that's when I thought we really could build this offense around him and he could be successful. He knew that he had the confidence of the coaches and the players around him. I think he is a guy that will get better."
"It's been quite a journey," Cousins said. "It will be quite a journey going forward. You almost expect it in this league the way things work and the way things can change quickly. But I'm very satisfied to see how the tables have turned this year. Now we look forward and say, 'Where can we go from here?' and 'How high can we take it?'"
Getting to where they want to go, at least on offense, will be dictated by Cousins' ability to move the offense.
Since DeSean Jackson returned to the lineup after the Bye Week, that's seemingly been an easier task as the speedy wide receiver stretches defenses, allowing other weapons like Jordan Reed and Pierre Garçon more space to maneuver.
"This is his first year under his belt that he's ever been the starting quarterback," Jackson said. "Last year he came in under the fire. This year, he was able to prepare and he was able to get reps with the first team. He's doing what you've asked of him and what starting quarterbacks in this league do. He's getting the ball where he needs to get it to and at the same time we're able to get big shots down the field with me, Pierre and Jordan Reed. We're just really taking advantage of what the defense is giving us. If they take the deep coverage, that's when you have Jordan Reed making awesome catches underneath him. He has some big runs after the catch too because he's faster than a lot of the guys that are out there guarding him. So I think his addition and his playing are blossoming and he's been doing a great job this year."
Indeed, Reed has been extraordinary this season, especially in recent weeks, as the third-year tight end has 25 receptions for 333 yards and five touchdowns in the last three games.
A lot of that has to do with the rapport he's built with Cousins.
"I have seen a lot of confidence and growth from him," Reed said. "I think that he is one of the best quarterbacks in this league and he can be one of the best and get us to the Super Bowl."