Putting up big numbers hasn't been a problem for Kirk Cousins, but during Sunday's victory over the Giants he was more crisp with two touchdown passes and no interceptions.*
It didn't seem like Kirk Cousins was too far away from a breakout game. He had thrown for 693 yards through two games while completing more than 65 percent of his passes. However, those impressive numbers were meaningless. The Redskins were 0-2.
Was he trying too hard? Was playing on the franchise tag weighing him? Was there added stress entering the season as starting quarterback?
"You know, as I've said all the time, you know a little bit redundant, but this game, playing this position, it comes with the territory," Cousins said last Wednesday leading up to Sunday's game in New York. "There's going to be pressure, there's going to be expectations, there's going to be failures, I'm going to throw picks. The key is going to be can I continue to just keep grinding and keep pushing, and that's really all I know to do and all I'm going to do, and we'll just let the chips fall where they may."
On Sunday, the chips fell in Cousins's favor. He was impressive in completing 21-of-35 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns. For the first time this season he didn't thrown an interception. And for the first time this season, the Redskins won.
"They all count, but winning on the road is a great challenge," Cousins said after the game Sunday. "It's hard to do in this league. It's hard to score 29 points on the road no matter who you face. When they have a quarterback with two rings and an organization that knows what it's like to play at a high level, it can be a challenge. It's another win. We just have to keep going and find ways to keep stacking them up. Certainly, it didn't come easily and we have to understand that every single week to get a win is going to take everything we have and then some."
Certainly there are things that still need improving for Cousins and the Redskins offense. Washington went 0-of-4 in the red zone Sunday and now has scored three touchdowns in 14 trips inside the opposing 20-yard line. That's a red zone efficiency of 21.4 percent. Only the Houston Texans (14.3 percent) have been worse.
"We need to be better," Cousins said of the team's red zone struggles. "There's no other way to say it. We got down there so many times. Dustin Hopkins and the field goal team did a great job, but obviously as an offense we want to come away with touchdowns. We'll keep working on that. If I had the answer right now, we probably would have won with a greater margin of victory and a bunch of touchdowns. I don't have an answer necessarily. It'll be something we'll keep working on."
Check out the top images from the Washington Redskins' offense in their 2016 Week 3 matchup against the New York Giants Sept. 25, 2016, at MetLife Stadium.
While there's no doubt the Redskins should be converting their red zone opportunities, the team has moved the ball as well as any team in the league – a big reason why the team ranks fourth in the NFL in red zone scoring attempts this season. Cousins ranks second the NFL with 989 pass yards.
There was also welcome return of the big play for Washington as both of the Redskins' touchdowns were on plays of more than 40 yards. First was a perfect throw by Cousins to DeSean Jackson for a 44-yard touchdown on the play after Cousins hit Jackson for 31 yards.
Blocking was key on Jamison Crowder's 55-yard touchdown reception as Washington's line helped turn the receiver screen into a go-ahead touchdown. Washington is second in the NFL with 14 pass plays of 20 yards or more.
"The two back-to-back to DeSean were huge plays for us to get the momentum back for us to give us a little sign of hope there moving forward to get the momentum," head coach Jay Gruden said Monday. "He made some big throws under some pressure situations and played the position."
Cousins has acknowledged that he wasn't been as sharp as he could have been in the first two weeks of the season, but Sunday's win over an improved Giants defense quieted the negative questions for now. But just as the Redskins preached that it was a long season after starting 0-2, there are still 13 games left to build off the first win.
"Wins in the NFL always feel like the highest of highs and the lows feel like the lowest of lows," Cousins said Sunday. "Today is no different. Obviously, it's a little easier to go into work the following morning and to have some pep in your step at practice. I didn't get to the NFL, and most of these guys didn't get to the NFL, because they're mentally weak or they're unable to ride the highs or the lows. The challenge will always be to never let success or failure affect us to a way where we get caught up in it. We'll just keep going, have blinders on, and treat it as 1-0 every week. That'll be the focus."