After leading the Redskins to a road victory over the Bears, quarterback Kirk Cousins was in front of a consistent offense in a game that showed how far he's come this season.
While the Washington Redskins didn't put up points like they did in their Week 10 victory over the New Orleans Saints, Kirk Cousins led an effective offense during Washington's 24-21 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Cousins went 24-for-31 for 300 yards with a passing touchdown, while the quarterback and running backs Matt Jones and Alfred Morris combined for 99 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries.
During their first two drives of the game, the Redskins ate up nearly 12 minutes while scoring two touchdowns.
"I think we always want to start fast," Cousins said on Sunday. "I think we always want to finish strong and we always want to be sharp in the middle. It wasn't perfect today but the fast start certainly helped us and gave us a cushion. The key is, when we have those fast starts, to find ways to sustain throughout all four quarters. If we can do that then we can be pretty dangerous."
On the first drive of the game, Cousins marched the offense 80 yards down the field before Alfred Morris tallied his first touchdown of the season when he scored from one yard out on 1st and Goal.
The second drive started at their own seven-yard line, as an illegal block call negated a 27-yard punt return by Jamison Crowder.
Assisted by a 27-yard pass interference call on former Redskins cornerback Tracy Porter, Cousins would lead the Redskins on a nine-play scoring drive that was capped by a three-yard read-option keeper by the Michigan State product, who would sprint untouched to his left into the end zone.
After the game, Cousins said it's been important to maintain an evel-keeled approach, whether he played great or struggled at times throughout each week.
"I have had games where people want to run me out of town, the next week we win and I am the best thing since sliced bread," Cousins said. "I think it's week-to-week but I keep trying to grow and build on each experience that I have whether it is positive or negative and trust that if I do that, good things will happen."
Cousins was helped by the play of tight end Jordan Reed, who had perhaps the best game of the year on what's already become the best season of his career.
Reed caught nine passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, providing Cousins a reliable target against a strong Bears pass rush.
Check out these top offensive shots from the Washington Redskins' 2015 Week 14 matchup against the Chicago Bears Dec. 13, 2015, at Soldier Field.
"I think some of the coverage's they were playing enabled Jordan to create some separation," Cousins said. "We have said it for a while that it is hard to cover everybody, when you have DeSean [Jackson] they have to be concerned about him and then you have Jordan on the other side and you have to be concerned about him and eventually you have a guy getting open. Today it was Jordan several times and I think having DeSean on the field makes a big difference because it forces them to be concerned about him."
Cousins wasn't completely clear of mistakes, though, as he threw an interception on a poorly attempted pass and nearly had a second interception late in the game.
The interception – which the Bears turned into a touchdown – came in the third quarter when Cousins tried to hit Pierre Garçon on a difficult, high-arching sideline touch pass.
Underthrown, Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller would secure possession of the ball.
"I did not see the defender and that would be the basic simple answer," Cousins said. "When you don't see him and he is there, he can make the play. So, going back and looking at it I would take the flat route instead. The challenge is, I think that there are a lot of plays where you can't see it perfectly and if you wait to see it perfectly you end up taking a lot of sacks. So you try to find that balance between taking sacks and finding completions and finding that balance is really tough but a couple times today I took sacks to avoid throwing something into a spot where I wasn't sure what was out there and the one really hurt us because it turned into a touchdown."
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said the interception could have possibly been avoided had Cousins gotten a better gauge of the Bears' defense before the throw.
"I think he could have gotten a lot from the pre-snap recognition of where the corner was and the coverage," Gruden said. "He should have seen that it was Cover 2, and that particular route, the flat defender was the corner. He just didn't see him. I don't know if he was blinded by the right tackle or what have you. He needs to know where the corner is in Cover 2 for sure when you're running a deep out-breaking route to Pierre. It's something he'll learn from, but he does have to do a better job of seeing where he's throwing it and seeing the underneath hook defenders or flat defenders."
The interception was Cousins' first since the first quarter of the Redskins' Week 11 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Coming into the season, the biggest knocks on Cousins were his high interception rate and reaction to negative plays.
On 454 attempts this season, however, Cousins has been picked just 10 times. And when those interceptions do happen, Cousins has displayed a sense of resiliency, ready to move on and start the team's next offensive drive.
"That's one thing we want to see is if he does throw an interception, to come back and still have an aggressive mentality," Gruden said. "I think he's starting to do that. It's not affecting him as much, or if it did affect him I don't know but it doesn't seem to be affecting him when he does throw a pick. So that's the big thing."