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Kirk Cousins shines against Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- Sometimes it was a little play. Kirk Cousins ran a bootleg to his right, saw no one was open and quickly delivered to tight end Logan Paulsen. It gained four yards, but, more importantly it was a positive gain on a play in which Cousins had nothing. It happened a few times. It's partly why he wasn't sacked in 48 dropbacks.

Sometimes it was more than that. Redskins coach Jay Gruden showed his confidence in Cousins on a third-and-1 play in the first quarter. And Cousins delivered. After faking the handoff, Cousins patiently watched tight end Niles Paul turn upfield along the sidelines and he delivered a perfect pass for a 37-yard gain.

And, sometimes, it was a huge play. Cousins and DeSean Jackson had barely worked together on the deep ball. It was supposed to take them time to connect. But Cousins adjusted and heaved a deep ball that Jackson caught in stride for an 81-yard score.

Add it up and the Redskins, from an offensive perspective, can feel good about the direction they’re headed after Sunday's 37-34 loss to the Eagles. Cousins completed 30 of 48 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns. Yes, there was an interception. Yes, he cooled off in the second half. In fact, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Cousins was 3-of-11 for 68 yards and an interception when the Eagles sent five pass-rushers or more in the second half.

But 34 points. That’s a lot.

“He played well, made some amazing throws,” Redskins safety Ryan Clark said. “We score 34 points, he did enough.”

This isn't about who is better at quarterback; it's about what the Redskins can expect at quarterback with Cousins and whether they can win. That question, though, isn't just about Cousins. He's 1-4 as a starter, but it's tough to pin this one on him. The offense managed 511 yards total. This despite Alfred Morris managing 77 yards on 23 carries, tight end Jordan Reed being sidelined and DeSean Jackson playing with a bad left shoulder.

“I think everybody can see there is major improvement going on here and everybody can rally around Kirk for the next six or seven weeks,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

Cousins typically did a good job of throwing in rhythm. On three-step drops, he’d hit that third step, plant and throw. On a five-step drop, he’d plant and throw on the fifth step. It makes a difference as receivers turn around and the ball arrives.

It’s not as if Cousins was perfect. He forced a throw or three. One pass to Pierre Garcon along the sidelines probably should not have been thrown, yet Garcon made a terrific catch. Another ball down the seam was iffy. And the interception was a bad decision, throwing to a covered Niles Paul. Sometimes Cousins’ passes were off-target or behind the receiver. Garcon was open on the fourth down late in the game, but the ball was behind him.

Cousins has typically turned the ball over when he plays. But if you keep coming out with a 3-to-1 ratio on touchdowns to interceptions, you’re doing OK. And if we’re going to give Robert Griffin III a break because he’s a developing quarterback well, keep in mind that Cousins just made his fifth start.

“Other than the pick he had a good game,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Sometimes he got a little antsy in there and threw balls a little early. But that’s just part of being in the pocket again and feeling the rush and knowing how much time you have. Overall man, to throw for over 400 yards on the road, he did an excellent job.”

Cousins knows his job is simple: distribute the ball to the playmakers.

“As a quarterback, you just have so many people around you who can make you successful,” Cousins said. “There’s a lot to work with.”