In his first start of the preseason, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins overcame an early interception to lead his offense on two touchdown drives against the Baltimore Ravens.*
Last season, Kirk Cousins had a "when it rains, it pours" problem playing quarterback for the Washington Redskins.
Oftentimes, after throwing one interception, it would be followed up by another turnover on the next drive, putting his defense in a precarious situation.
On Saturday night against the Baltimore Ravens, Cousins had the opportunity to showcase his growth as a quarterback after throwing an interception to Terrell Suggs on the Redskins' opening drive of the game.
On the ensuing Washington drive, Cousins didn't seemed phased in the bit, as the fourth-year quarterback out of Michigan State showed he had moved on from the early turnover, attempting several passes across the middle without hesitation and trying to make plays for his offense.
It was just one example of the hard work put in this offseason by Cousins, who would lead the Redskins' offense to two touchdowns in his first start of the preseason in Washington's 31-13 victory over Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium.
"It makes a huge difference being a fourth-year player than a third-year player," Cousins told reporters after the game. "I understand the game much better, and I spent the offseason studying, and I feel much better about my performances."
Cousins says he always prepares each week like he's going to be the team's starting quarterback, an approach that paid off this week when starter Robert Griffin III, who suffered a concussion last week against the Detroit Lions, was abruptly scratched from the game on Friday evening after being evaluated by independent league neurologists.
Cousins, who had performed well against second and third stringers in the Redskins' first two preseason games against the Browns and Lions, overcame the adversity on Saturday to complete 20-of-27 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown against a talented Ravens defense.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said he is "really proud" of Cousins for stepping in and delivering a strong performance under tough circumstances.
Then, to see Cousins come back from the early interception to lead the Redskins to two scoring drives was "impressive."
"We've had issues in the past with that situation," Gruden said. "He bounced back, didn't blink an eye and didn't bat an eye. He was fired up to get this opportunity. Nobody wants to start when your starter is unable to play, but he was excited about this opportunity."
Cousins had a little luck on his lone touchdown pass Saturday night.
Late in the second quarter with his team trailing 13-0, Cousins faced a 3rd and 9 from the Ravens' 22-yard line. Cousins, lined up in the shotgun with an otherwise empty backfield, had a quick five-step drop before delivering a strike towards wide receiver Andre Roberts near the first-down marker.
The ball was batted in the air, but quickly landed right in the hands of rookie wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who went untouched into the end zone for the score.
Cousins said the Ravens brought a major blitz on the play, and, after being knocked down upon delivering the pass, he didn't know if the sound of cheering fans was a good or a bad thing.
"I heard the crowd cheering, but I couldn't tell if they were Ravens fans or Redskins fans," Cousins said with a smile. "We kind of fell into that one, but we put ourselves in a good position to get that fortunate bounce."
Cousins and the first-team offense also got the opportunity to showcase its progression in the two-minute offense on Saturday evening.
Check out the top photos from the Washington Redskins' 2015 Preseason Week 3 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens Aug. 29, 2015, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
After the Washington defense forced Baltimore into a punt, the Redskins took over at their own 17 with 2:34 left on the clock in the second quarter. In the next 2:02, Cousins would lead the Redskins on an eight-play, 68-yard drive with six first downs that culminated in a Chris Thompson one-yard touchdown run that gave Washington a 14-13 lead it wouldn't relinquish the rest of the way.
Rookie running back Matt Jones, who had a game-best 57 yards rushing on seven carries (8.1 yards per carry) on Saturday, credited Cousins with being a cool, calm presence for the offense.
"I love the way Kirk played," Jones said. "He was very calm. He was very precise and patient. He played great."
What happens from here at the quarterback position for the Redskins is anybody's best guess. Griffin III, who was anointed the starter by Gruden in February, still needs to be cleared for game action, and Colt McCoy turned in another quality performance, as well, against the Ravens, completing 10-of-12 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
So with one more preseason matchup before the regular season begins – on Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at FedExField – Cousins said he's only going to worry about what he can control.
"I haven't been told anything like that," Cousins said when asked about the possibility of a quarterback competition. "In football, there are too many things you can't control, so I try not to pay attention to outside stuff. I just keep doing the best I can and see what happens."