LANDOVER, Md. -- The Washington Redskins wanted to see more from quarterback Kirk Cousins this season. Could he repeat his success from 2015? One game in -- a 38-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night -- and all he and the Redskins repeated was a disturbing trend from last season: the failure to beat a really good team.
It’s not all on Cousins, of course. Not even close. But save for one drive, Cousins didn’t look particularly sharp. He was off on throws, lofted a touch pass into coverage that was intercepted, and failed to produce in the red zone. Meanwhile, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was delivering big passes to standout receiver Antonio Brown on fourth-down plays -- and a lot of other ones, for that matter.
You can’t write off a season on one game, nor can you make a grand judgment, either. But there’s no doubt Cousins and the offense needed a better start against a defense that struggled versus the pass in 2015 -- and didn’t make any major improvements.
Cousins completed 30 of 42 passes for 329 yards and two interceptions. When the Redskins were inside the Steelers’ 30, they failed to convert when it mattered except for one series. Those early failures set a bad tone for the night.
The Redskins definitely have the firepower offensively, and early in the game they did a good job of using a variety of personnel packages and featuring different targets. But they never got the run game going; they were slowed too much by one penalty and when they had chances to get up early, they settled for two field goals and not touchdowns. It was a little bit like the Green Bay playoff loss last season; a good team comes roaring back after the Redskins don’t capitalize on early chances.
This game is not a death sentence for the Redskins. But it is a telling one. The Redskins still have enough to compete in the NFC East. They still can win nine games. But Monday is the sort of measuring-stick game the Redskins needed to have. The same is true of Cousins. They didn’t live up to it; neither did he.
That’s not to blame a 22-point loss on one side of the ball. The defense, as was the case last season, could not stop the run or get off the field on key plays. Corner Bashaud Breeland had a bad night after an early interception.
But more was expected from the offense. It failed to deliver. This game will lead to some early introspection, but one thing the Redskins showed last season was great resiliency.
They’ll need it again.