WASHINGTON — The Redskins host the Raiders at FedEx Field next Sunday. Coming off a win in LA, and with a baby on the way, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Cousins and his wife, Julie, are expecting their first child at any moment. Literally. Today is her due date.
“Last week Julie was being told that it may take well after the due date,” he said. “So I went to LA with pretty good confidence that it wasn’t going to come early. Today’s the due date, officially, but no news yet.”
“So we’re on baby watch all week and, fortunately, we’ll be in town the next couple of weeks before we leave for Kansas City (Monday, Oct. 2),” he said. “So that should help be able to be here when it does happen, whenever it happens.”
“Life’s about to change here pretty quick,” he added. “I’m enjoying my last few days with just me and Julie, and then… here we go.”
Through Washington’s first two games, Cousins has resembled more of a game manager than a franchise quarterback, a label Cousins warmly embraced after winning the starting job two years ago, but certainly not one expected of a $23.9-million player.
After Sunday’s victory, even head coach Jay Gruden dipped his toe in the “game-manager” waters, telling reporters, “Kirk managed the game and managed the clock. Got us in the right runs and did a good job overall.”
Cousins did what was needed to win the game, to be sure, but 18-of-27 for 179 yards passing (and one TD) — especially when contrasted with the Redskins’ 229 yards on the ground — is a far cry from the team’s high-flying air assault in 2016.
“It felt different than last year,” Cousins said of Sunday’s game. “Obviously, I was used to last year throwing the ball 40 times and expecting to be throwing it on first, second and third down. Yesterday, I think the plan all along going into the game was, ‘Let’s try to run the ball. First down, let’s commit to run the football throughout the game. Let’s not get away from it, even if it’s not succeeding.'”
“And then when it did succeed, and we had so much production, I think we wanted to run it even more — first, second down, as much as we could,” he said. “That obviously takes away opportunities in the passing game, but I’m not complaining about it. I’m happy to hand the ball off and have production there and move the football.”
The lingering question: Was this game plan specific to the Rams, or should fans expect to see Cousins revert back into a game-manager in 2017? While there’s no way to answer that now, remember back to when these teams last met, almost two years ago to the date. The Redskins’ game plan Sunday was identical to how they beat the Rams — which had largely the same front seven — in Sept. 2015.
Cousins completed 23 of 27 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown. The Redskins gashed the Rams with their rushing attack, with Matt Jones and Alfred Morris combining for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the 24-10 win.
“I think still you’d love to see more production through the air, regardless,” Cousins said. “But I think for the most part we played the game that was called, and we played the game that came to us, and not every game calls for a lot of drop-backs on first down and chucking the ball downfield. I think each game calls for a different plan, and as long as we get the win, I think we executed the plan that was called.”
Paulsen observed that, since Cousins took over the starting role, the Redskins have “the most wins as underdogs of any team in the league — you have 12, no one else has more than 10.”
“I wonder if you think that’s coincidence, why you think that is, and is the team better in spots when people are saying you’re not gonna win,” he asked.
“Well, I don’t know. I do know that that’s kind of par for the course with my story on the football field going back to high school and college,” Cousins said. “I don’t know that anybody ever really said I was gonna be an NFL quarterback or be a successful college player.”
“You kind of always take that chip on your shoulder, and you have to value being underrated and trying to prove people wrong, and that’s kind of always been my story,” he said. “So hopefully that can be a stat that we continue to bring forth, because I think it’s something that says a lot about the resiliency and character of our football team.”
“The more we can try to find ways to win when people just don’t think we can do it, that’s when you can really build an identity,” he said, “and create a following and a support and have a city really believe in you.”
How much did you guys try to counter-program because Sean McVay knows what you do so well? — Adam in Silver Spring
“I think we were very aware of it,” Cousins said. “We didn’t want to overdo it. We didn’t want to give that too much credit. But we had to be aware of it. I felt like it was pretty smooth. I didn’t feel like there was too much we were giving away.”
Sean McVay and Jay Gruden spoke of it all week, often mirroring each other’s remarks, about the advantages and disadvantages of being familiar the other’s offensive schemes. Ultimately, they both seemed to agree they cancelled each other out.
“But, believe me, when we’re in the two-minute drill and I’m giving hand signals to the receivers, I’m scared to death that he’s on the sidelines, or coaches are on the sidelines, shouting out to the corners what the routes are,” he admitted. “Because, at the end of the day, you can’t change your whole offense in four days.”
“So there’s some things you have to just roll with, and you have to be as discreet as possible about it,” he said. “Fortunately, we found a way to get the win, and it’ll be nice, after these first two weeks, not having to play a team that knows a lot of our stuff as a result of having people that have been in our meetings, as of very recently.”