Redskins coach Jay Gruden still can’t stomach the intentional grounding penalty called on his quarterback during the final minute of regulation in Sunday’s 34-31 loss to New Orleans.
Kirk Cousins was flagged with intentional grounding after throwing the ball away with 31 seconds on the clock in the fourth quarter. The Redskins were on the Saints’ 34-yard line with a chance to kick the game-winning field goal to snap a 31-31 tie.
That play, Cousins explained to 106.7 The Fan, was designed to be a run, but when New Orleans showed blitz, Cousins looked to the sideline to see Gruden mouthing the words ‘throw it.’ The idea being to kill the clock to preserve the next play.
Instead, Cousins was hit with the penalty and the officials kept the clock rolling. Time expired after a sack-fumble on the next play and the Redskins never got their chance to send out Nick Rose for the game-winner.
“It doesn’t sit very well with me at all,” Gruden told reporters Monday. “I can handle non-calls from time to time, but I can’t handle calls that aren’t calls, if that’s the fact. We have two receivers in the area and he threw it over their heads. I mean, it is perfectly legal for a quarterback to overthrow a receiver; a receiver not to be looking at a ball fly over his head. It happens all the time. He wasn’t under duress. Maybe I don’t understand the rule. We’ll get clarity on it, and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. Costly mistake. And if I’m right, then that’s too bad.”
The NFL has reportedly contacted Redskins President Bruce Allen, informing him the officials got the call wrong, because Cousins wasn’t “facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense,” as the rule book requires for an intentional grounding penalty.
That does nothing for Cousins, who bristled at the notion of the league fessing up its mistake, after the fact.
“The letter to Bruce Allen,” Cousins told 106.7 The Fan. “Or whatever they do to say, ‘We’re sorry. Wrong call,’ or whatever it may be. You know, it’s tough, because there’s nobody bringing that up in February and March when we’re making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. That’s the kind of thing that… We appreciate the clarification, but it really doesn’t do much.”
“I mean, this is our careers. This is our livelihood,” he said. “This is what we do. It just is frustrating when a letter is really all you get, when it has such a major impact on the direction of our lives, when we’re in it and doing it every day.”
Gruden said Cousins did exactly as he was coached to do on the play: “I told him to throw it out of bounds. We had two receivers right there in the area and he wasn’t under duress, so to me, that wasn’t grounding, but we’ll have to ask the league on that one.”
“We didn’t have any timeouts,” he said. “That’s why, I see the blitz and just try to get a hand signal over to throw it away or get the second down. Get a run called, spike it and kick the field goal on the last play of the game, but they called grounding, then started the clock, then we didn’t get it done.”
“The whole point we’re calling a run is to run it,” Cousins said. “If we want to throw it, we’d call a pass. I’m at the line of scrimmage and I see Jay kind of on the sidelines, and I see what I think to be in the noise. I mean, I can’t really hear him, but I see him say ‘throw it.’ And I’m assuming what he meant is the play’s dead. The run’s not gonna work. If anything, we’re gonna lose yards, and right now, on the 34-yard line, yards are precious.”
The Redskins certainly had other opportunities to close out the Saints on the road. If they had, they’d be 5-5 instead of 4-6 and needing to essentially run the table for a shot at the playoffs. But, the fact remains, this is the second time in three weeks officials have made a potential game-altering mistake negatively affecting Washington.
Two weeks ago in Seattle, officials erroneously gave Russell Wilson one final throw, a Hail Mary which would have reversed the outcome of the game. This time around, the blown call came back to bite the Redskins. Even if they bit themselves back.