By Chris Lingebach

Kirk Cousins has always spoken of wanting to improve at going off schedule once plays break down. In the final minutes of Monday’s loss at Kansas City, the Redskins quarterback put on an off-script clinic.

Cousins took off seven times for 38 yards in the game. Three of those rushes — for 10, 15 and eight yards, respectively — came on the Redskins’ final scoring drive in the fourth quarter. As Washington’s leading rusher, Cousins accounted for 34 percent of his team’s ground game.

Was this the plan all along, or were those truly… off-schedule runs?

“I think having played longer, and having a better feel for coverages and pocket presence, and feeling the rush and kind of knowing when my clock goes off, all those things come with playing, because when you’re practicing, I have a jersey on that says they can’t hit me,” Cousins told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier during his weekly segment Tuesday — ‘Under Center,’ driven by the Lindsay Automotive Group.

“So it’s hard to really get a true feel for the pass rush and when to take off and run in practice,” he said. “Now that I’m playing more and more and more in games, I think that’s going to constantly improve.”

ESPN announcer Jon Gruden — brother to Redskins coach Jay Gruden — made frequent comments during the Chiefs-Redskins broadcast about Cousins needing to show he can make off-schedule plays.

By the fourth quarter, Jon Gruden — from whom Cousins has spent the past several offseasons learning in Florida — was able to come full circle, noting after several unplanned rushes by the quarterback, “This is what we’ve been waiting to see from Cousins.”

“And then secondly, I really do credit the training I do in the offseason,” Cousins said. “I’ve just continued to move better and better each year as I’ve gotten a better feel for what my needs are, and my training and how to best prepare my body. I just feel like when I do take off and run, or when I move around, I just have a little bit more juice in me than maybe I did a couple years ago.”

The Redskins stood toe to toe with the best team in the NFL. Although they ultimately came out a 29-20 loser, after failing to run off enough clock time on their final fourth-quarter scoring drive, Cousins found a great deal of optimism in the attempt.

“I’ll preface it by saying there are no moral victories in the NFL,” Cousins said. “We go in there believing we can win, and we want to be the kind of team that goes in there and does win and is expected to win.

“That being said, there were a lot of positives to take away, and we try not to ride the roller coaster of every win and every loss. In wins, we look at plays that weren’t made that still need to be made to be a great football team, and in losses, we look at a lot of the good things that were done that we can build on.”

“The fact that we had so few penalties on offense,” he said, “I felt that showed a lot of maturity from our offense in the noise, and the fact that we were able to just keep playing — we made plays in crunch time — there was a lot of resiliency, a lot of character. As Coach Gruden said after the game, effort’s never going to be an issue with this team. Guys are going to play, put their whole hearts on the field and leave it all on the line.”

“Right now, I think we look at it as, alright, let’s get healthy in the bye week, let’s get rested, let’s watch this tape, learn from it,” he said. “And then we have a 12-week run. We’ve got to take it one game at a time, that old cliche, but let’s just see where we are at the end of those 12 weeks. Based on what we’ve done the first four weeks, I think we have a lot of reason for optimism and excitement going into this stretch here over the next 12 weeks.”

Justice Federal Credit Union Fan Question of the Week

What’s the bye week plan? How do you guys get healthy, prep for San Francisco? Just take us through your next week-and-change here. — Alan in Manassas

“The last two years, Julie and I have gotten out of town,” Cousins said. “We go to warm weather and I just kind of sit on a beach and read a book. It’s worked well. I’ve always come back from the bye week and played really, really well.”

Cousins won’t be able to stick to his normal bye-week game plan, however, since he and his wife welcomed their first child only days ago.

“I want to do that again this year, but being that our baby came basically right before the bye week, we’re going to stay put right here and just be at our townhouse in Ashburn,” he said. “No beach, but I’ll still be reading and relaxing and probably watching some playoff baseball. Just kind of trying to spend time with my family and just kind of check out a little bit.”

“It’s a really good time for us,” he said. “I found that really what works best for me to be able to come back and be at my best for those 12 weeks is to really just unplug and unwind, and get away from it. And when we get back next week Monday, be ready to go and be refreshed and have everything you need for the next three months.”

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter

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