The throw was perfect, arriving just as Aldrick Robinson sped past the corner and before the safety arrived. It was gutsy. It also shouldn’t have been made. So says the guy who threw the ball.
“I was just playing off feel and instincts,” Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “[The coaches] said, ‘Great throw, tremendous job, big gain. But your read would tell you to go elsewhere. The fact that you can do that, we can’t coach you to do that, is a plus-one. But in the long run stick to your reads.’ “
It resulted in a 21-yard catch by Robinson, who caught the ball and still avoided a major collision with the safety. But while Robert Griffin III learns from some mistakes, Cousins learned a lesson from a successful throw. It’s the difference between facing starters as a rookie and facing backups. The coaches don’t want him to get lulled into thinking such a decision always will work. Then again, he wasn’t afraid to make a play either.
“I understand you got away with it there and you made a good play, but if you continue to do that you’re going to hurt yourself more than you’re going to help yourself,” Cousins said.
In other words, what works against players on the fringe of making a team might not work vs. starters. It was the football equivalent of, “No, no, no… nice shot.” However, Cousins was in a groove at the time and that’s a pass thrown by a confident quarterback (it’s also the same pass Griffin completed in practice last week to Pierre Garcon between Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams).
“It’s a throw you try later in the game as opposed to when you first get in there,” he said. “As you start to feel better and get more confidence, that’s the throw you try to make. I’m learning and growing.”
Another thing Cousins showed was poise in the pocket. On a second and 1 early in the fourth quarter, the defensive end beat tackle Tom Compton wide, then reached over and tried to hit Cousins. He tapped him on the helmet. Cousins barely flinched, took a short step up and completed a pass to tight end Logan Paulsen.
“You feel it,” Cousins said. “I remember when he slapped my head thinking, oh boy he was closer than I thought. But you have to keep your eyes downfield and go through your reads, stay calm and trust the guys in front of you. … That’s the challenge of playing quarterback in the NFL, keeping your eyes downfield and feeling the rush and not seeing the rush. The great ones are the ones who do that at a very high level.
“When you’re getting hit in the head your clock starts to go off. If I don’t have an outlet here I have to get rid of the ball. I can’t keep holding onto it. Fortunately I did have an outlet.”