By Kevin Ross II
With 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Redskins scored a touchdown to come within one point of the Atlanta Falcons. With nothing to lose, Coach Mike Shanahan decided to settle things in regulation and go for two. Cousins rolled to his right, but had his pass broken up in the end zone. The failed two point conversion propelled Washington to a record of 3-11.
This is how the Washington football team grades out on a rather patented Misery Monday.
Kirk Cousins Grade: B+
Kirk Cousins making his second career start managed to resemble an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. He completed 29-of-45 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs. Cousins becomes the first Redskins quarterback to throw for 300 yards in each of his first two starts. And his 381 passing yards were the most by a Redskins quarterback since Donovan McNabb threw for 426 against Houston in 2010.
Cousins displayed veteran like poise in the pocket, and never seemed to be rattled by the pressure applied by Atlanta. Cousins was able to connect on intermediate passes, and was also very accurate in the downfield passing game. His best throw of the day was a 62-yard missile to Aldrick Robinson, which put to rest any doubts about his arm strength.
Cousins capped off a pretty good day by leading Washington on a 80-yard touchdown drive which gave his team a chance to win in the game’s final seconds. He had an excellent day overall, but he only receives a grade of a B+, as he committed three turnovers.
Aldrick Robinson Grade: B
For the first time in his career, receiver Aldrick Robinson is earning consistent playing time. And for the first time in his career, Robinson is starting to look like a starting wide receiver. With Leonard Hankerson lost for the season, Robinson has become the team’s definitive number two receiver. Against Atlanta he recorded a career high of 99 receiving yards, and once again displayed his niche for catching the deep ball. Robinson has always been known as a burner, but recently he has impacted the game on intermediate routes, and seems to be maturing into a starting receiver.
Defense Grade: C+
With the offense turning the ball over seven times, it’s a miracle that the game was as close as it was. The defense had a great effort across the board, as the young cornerstone players stepped up for Washington. Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Perry Riley, and David Amerson all played well and all are key pieces to the puzzle for Washington’s long term-future on defense.
Mike Shanahan Grade: A
Coach Shanahan receives an excellent grade for his decision to start Kirk Cousins. Not only does the decision guarantee Griffin’s health entering the offseason, but the play of Kirk Cousins may also result in the Redskins recouping a first round pick. Cousins had a quarterback rating of 94.8 against Atlanta. And if he can keep the pace, you can bet that a plethora of general managers would rather start Kirk Cousins over a rookie quarterback in 2014.
When the dust settles, the decision to bench Griffin may prove to be one of Mike Shanahan’s finer decisions as the Redskins head coach.
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Kevin Ross is a freelance writer covering all things Washington Redskins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.