Through the first two games of the 2016 season, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has had his share of struggles, but remains confident he can lead a potentially high-powered offense.
"I need to play better. I can play better, and I believe going forward I will play better."
Through the first two games of the 2016 regular season, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins believes he simply hasn't done enough from an individual standpoint to lead the defending NFC East champions in the right direction.
Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Week 1 Monday Night Football matchup, Cousins did not throw a touchdown pass while struggling to solve a zone-exclusive defense in a 38-16 loss. On Sunday afternoon against the Dallas Cowboys, Cousins was able to move the ball at times, but a bad throw in the fourth quarter – one that could have been a touchdown and put the game basically out of reach for Dallas – was intercepted in the end zone.
Instead of extending the Redskins' lead to potentially 10 with nearly 11 minutes remaining, the Cowboys were able to take advantage of Cousins' mistake and turn it into an Alfred Morris game-winning touchdown run.
"I felt like I needed to work not off-schedule, but just needed to let the play develop a little longer," Cousins said after the game. "Backside safety made a good play coming over. He was the one who made the play. I thought that once Pierre [Garçon] got around the near safety that I had a space in the back of the end zone between the two safeties and I could throw that ball. When you wait that long and look at it that long, that's when the backside safety is able to make their way over and that's what happened."
Earlier in the week, Cousins explained to the media that the best indicators of a successful offensive unit is production in the red zone and on third downs.
On Sunday afternoon, the Redskins were just 5-of-12 on third downs and 2-of-6 in the red zone, numbers Cousins isn't satisfied with.
Not only was Cousins intercepted on a 3rd-and-goal from the six-yard line, the Redskins twice had drives stall out at the 11-yard line and another that was stopped at the four-yard line.
"We feel like we can be better in the red zone," Cousins said. "It's the same thing in any game when you come up short or when you win. You can go back and point to red zone offense or converting third downs or protecting the football. It's reasons for a win or a loss. Right now in those areas, I don't know if we're good enough or if we've been good enough. I think what's disappointing is we feel like there is the talent, there is the capability to be very good in those areas and we've shown that. So, we just have to do it more consistently than what we are right now."
Cousins finished the afternoon completing 28-of-46 passes for 346 yards and one touchdown (a beautifully placed strike to Jamison Crowder) and an interception.
One of those incompletions came on 4th-and-1 with the Redskins trailing by four points late in the game.
The Redskins started the drive with three completions to quickly move up the field, but a Chris Thompson carry for no gain on 3rd-and-1 set up the 4th-and-1 play from Washington's 44-yard line.
Cousins dropped back seeking to find Pierre Garçon in the middle of the field, but a pass that would have been tightly squeezed between two defenders to even get to the wide receiver was knocked away.
The Cowboys would get the ball back before running the ball three times, forcing the Redskins to burn all of their timeouts.
"They played man coverage and we talked about if they go to man coverage to get to a certain route and combination," Cousins said. "I didn't like my initial option, so I had to get off of that and went to where I threw the football and taking a little longer to get there that allowed the inside linebacker a chance to make a play on the ball, so this is where you say, 'Good play by them.' They made plays too."
Losing to the Cowboys – dropping the Redskins' home record to 0-2 in the process – with so many self-inflicted wounds stings, but Cousins wants to put the game behind him and focus on his next task: a New York Giants defense that held New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees to just one touchdown pass on Sunday.
"All we can do now is look forward to the 14 games ahead and hopefully we deliver," Cousins said. "We knew it was an important game. I think everybody played hard and the effort is there, but it is a small margin for error and we weren't on the right side of it today."