Kirk Cousins' second halves an issue

ASHBURN, Va. -- The games start out just fine. It's what happens after halftime that keeps giving the Washington Redskins, and quarterback Kirk Cousins, one problem after another.

If Cousins wants to make a strong case for a starting job in the future, he will have to improve on his second-half numbers. The passing game is not just all on him -- receivers have to win routes, the line has to protect. But the quarterback is the one delivering the ball, and in the second half, his success rate plummets.

"I don't think there's a big change in my approach," Cousins said. "I don't think it's the pressure of the moment. I think it's just trying to do too much, trying to get us back in the game and forcing things.

"I guess in the first half I don't feel the need to do that as much. Maybe that's it."

It could be that simple.

Of the eight interceptions he has thrown this season, seven came in the second half of just two games. That's why Cousins doesn't want to overstate the issue.

In the second half of games against Jacksonville, Seattle and Philadelphia, Cousins has completed a combined 33-of-57 passes for 509 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for a 97.7 passer rating.

"That's just atrocious," he said of the picks. "But the other two quarters have not been consistent with that. The other quarters, for the most part, have been good football. But it's been two, two and a half quarters that have really gotten away from me. I need to make sure that doesn't continue to happen."

Against Philadelphia, though Cousins had some success in the second half, it was really limited to a few big plays, including an 80-yard pass to DeSean Jackson. Otherwise, his pocket mechanics changed and his throws were off. He threw more with all arm; his base was inconsistent and his footwork wasn't as sharp as the first half. It was not always a result of pressure, either.

And when the mechanics get messed up, throws such as the one Sunday against Arizona when he sailed a pass over the middle for an interception result.

"He is pressing and it's a lot easier to play in the second half when you are playing with a lead than when you are in a frenzy trying to come back all the time," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

The result is poor mechanics.

"When you see him in the pocket sometimes everything is kind of rushed," Gruden said. "He feels pressure, he's just rushing to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry and sometimes he sails throws and isn't as accurate as he normally is, that I see him every day. Not as poised as he should be in a normal situation. You just got to calm down."