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Kirk Cousins creates quarterback controversy for Redskins

BALTIMORE -- The trick is not to go overboard and declare Kirk Cousins anything other than the guy who did a good job Saturday night. Then again, what Cousins showed against the Baltimore Ravens is what Robert Griffin III has needed to show for a while. That guy who did a good job warrants a large piece of the conversation when it comes to who should start.

The Redskins might not have wanted a quarterback controversy, but that's what they now have. If Cousins had played poorly, a lot of that talk would have been tough to justify. But he didn't play poorly, and so the talk will -- and should -- intensify.

It's not as if Cousins was perfect in the Redskins' 31-13 win over Baltimore. He fumbled a snap, threw an interception and missed a few throws, including tossing one behind open receiver Ryan Grant over the middle. Grant had room to run too. There's a lot Cousins must prove, and one night does not wipe out all concerns by any means. But when comparing his game to Griffin's in the preseason games, he's operating at a more efficient level.

But Cousins and the passing game compensated for a run game that, for a second consecutive week, did not produce with the starters playing.

For what it's worth, Cousins doesn't have any idea who might be starting in the opener.

"Nobody has told me anything like that," Cousins said. "If I want to stay in this league, I've got to be ready all the time. If they want me to start, I'll do my best, but that's weeks away."

Still, he started for the sidelined Griffin and announced himself as a strong candidate, if nothing else. Cousins completed 20 of 27 passes for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Here is what stood out about Cousins' night, good and bad:

He wasn't sacked: It certainly helps having left tackle Trent Williams back, but it was more than just Williams' presence that led to the sack-free day. Give Cousins credit in this area, as he routinely threw the ball after hitting his plant step. That leads to throws in rhythm, and it prevents defenders from getting that extra half-second to reach the quarterback.

Also, Cousins did a good job identifying blitzes. On a 17-yard pass to running back Matt Jones in the second quarter, Cousins pointed to the blitzer. Then, after the snap, he lofted a soft ball to Jones as he backed away from pressure.

The touchdown pass that bounced off Andre Roberts' hands to Jamison Crowder is a good illustration of what Cousins did to help the line. He knew a blitz was coming, so when he hit his fifth step in the drop, he planted and threw. If he had hesitated, even a little hitch step, he would have been sacked.

Interception blues: This play was botched from the beginning, as the Redskins expected a three-man front rather than the four-man set Baltimore used. That put linebacker Terrell Suggs in a good spot to disrupt the play -- but he did more. Cousins should have just thrown the ball at the feet of Suggs to prevent the turnover.

"I wish I had thrown it into the ground, but I didn't see him right away," Cousins said.

Cousins must learn from this one to avoid a repeat. He has thrown an interception in 10 of his 14 regular-season starts.

He overcame adversity: This was big. Cousins, as has been stated often, struggled in the past with coming back after interceptions. But on the drive after this pick, he completed five of seven passes and moved the Redskins from inside their own 10-yard line to the Ravens' 40.

"I thought it was awesome," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of how Cousins responded to adversity. "I was real proud of him, no doubt. We've had issues in the past with that situation. He bounced back, didn't blink an eye and didn't bat an eye."

Third-down passing: Cousins completed six of seven passes for 52 yards and a touchdown on third downs. Four resulted in first downs, with another setting up a fourth-and-1 failed run. Cousins was a little long on a deep out to Ryan Grant, but other than that, he did well here. It helped that three of the six were for 5 yards or less.

Two-minute drive: These situations always test quarterbacks. For Saturday night at least, Cousins handled it well, as the Redskins drove from their own 17 for a touchdown in the final 2:34 of the half. A roughing-the-passer penalty helped, and Cousins even gained 3 yards when one of his passes was deflected back to him. Cousins operated with a good rhythm on the drive, again hitting his plant step and delivering the pass -- a three-step drop for 10 yards, another three steps for 12 and a quick hitch to Grant for 26. Also, the Redskins did not face a third down on this series.