A quarter-by-quarter look at the Washington Redskins' 35-25 win over the Buffalo Bills Sunday afternoon from FedEx Field. The Redskins entered Sunday tied with the Eagles and Giants atop the NFC East.
Big play: Touchdowns are always nice so let's start with Washington's first score. Kirk Cousins to Jordan Reed is a thing, especially in the red zone. This time the QB-to-TE combo connected for a 3-yard touchdown, one of three catches on the opening drive for Reed. He has back-to-back scoring weeks after going three games without.
Turning point: Talk about your dominant opening drives. This one went 10 plays for 84 yards as Washington found the end zone on its first possession for a second straight week. Cousins completed all six passes including a 28-yarder to DeSean Jackson. The Redskins only faced one third down which Alfred Morris converted with a one-yard run.
The takeaway: Win or lose, the Redskins came to play with big stakes on the line. The Bills picked up three first downs on their first drive, but ended up punting after Tyrod Taylor missed an open Sammy Watkins deep on third down.
Score: Redskins 7 Bills 0
Big play: The Redskins' second touchdown was the fifth on the ground for Cousins, obviously.
The 13-yard scamper developed after the Bills shut off an apparent shovel pass-play design. Nobody views Cousins as terribly mobile and yet the score tied him for second with Jameis Winston in rushing touchdowns behind Cam Newton.
Turning point: This space was all set for a Jamison Crowder after the rookie muffed a punt return with the Redskins poised to bury the Bills. Instead Washington's defense gets the love for what followed next. Buffalo drove from its own 43 to Washington's 1-yard-line. Facing a second-and-goal, the Redskins stopped the Bills not once, not twice and not even three times, but four straight plays (An offsides call on the initial third down gave the Bills an extra chance). Three time the Redskins dropped running back LeSean McCoy with Will Compton and Terrance Knighton combining on the real third down. Taylor threw on fourth, but his fade to Sammy Watkins with 1:38 left in the half missed the mark.
The takeaway: All the fire emojis for the Redskins offense, but really the entire team outside off the one put muff. Washington's 14 first downs and 265 net yards dwarfed Buffalo's production (7 first downs, 93 yards). Cousins was efficient and potent, entering halftime 14 of 17 for 182 yards with two touchdown passes to Reed plus the running score. Taylor (3 of 8, 27 yards) was the opposite.
Score: Redskins 21 Bills 0
Big play: Wizards forward Paul Pierce, after one of his clutch performances during the 2015 NBA playoffs, famously uttered, "That's why they brought me here." Nobody would argue with DeSean Jackson if copied Pierce after his latest playmaking score. Shortly after the Bills finally joined the scoring with a field goal, Jackson turned a mid-range pass into a 77-yard touchdown, swerving past two defensive backs after hauling in the pass along the left sideline.
Turning point: Buffalo went from sleep walking to high-stepping even after McCoy was ruled out with a knee injury. Backup running back Mike Gillislee countered Jackson's long score with a 60-yard TD run. The momentum didn't completely shift on the play, or maybe it did. Washington punted on its next drive and Taylor immediately completed passes for 37 and 48 yards. The second toss found Watkins and found him for a touchdown. No more rout, but rather game on at 28-17 with 3:48 left in the third quarter...
The takeaway: Team that go up three or more scores know what's coming. That the Bills struck back so quickly brought some tension to what had been a joyous scene at FedEx Field. Still, the Redskins entered the fourth quarter up two scores. Time for a time consuming drive. Meanwhile, Cam Newton is crushing the Giants in New York while the Eagles watch the acton ahead of their Sunday night game against the Cardinals.
Score: Redskins 28 Bills 17
Big play: It's not just that Pierre Garcon caught Cousins' fourth touchdown pass, a five-yard fade toss. It's that it came at the end of a 13-play, 80-yard drive that took 7:32 off the clock. That's a half a quarter and it came right when Washington needed it most.
Turning point: In the midst of the scoring drive, Washington faced 3rd-and-11 from its own 36. Actually, make that 3rd-and-16 following a Matt Jones false start. Despite the long odds for a conversion, Cousins didn't flinch. He deftly fed Garcon over the middle for an 18-yard chain-moving completion. The touchdown came seven plays later, but the drama essentially ended right there. Watkins' second TD and Taylor's 2-point conversion came with 1:34 remaining
The takeaway: The argument is no longer whether Cousins will or even should receive a multi-year contract this offseason. He will and when the negotiations occur, his side will point to the spectacular performance. The numbers: 22 for 28, 319 yards, four touchdown passes and zero interceptions with a 153.7 QB rating. He never directed wins in consecutive weeks as an NFL QB before Sunday. He has now and with plenty at stake -- and with plenty of help from Jackson and Reed. Other than third quarter, the defense largely delievered. For the first time this season, the Redskins won back-to-back games. Assuming injuries to Compton, Matt Jones, Morgan Moses and Josh LeRibeus are more minor than serious, all is right in the DMV. The playoff drives rolls on and up I-95 next week. On to Philadelphia.
Score: Redskins 35 Bills 25
Next week: Redskins are in Philadelphia for a rematch and ginormous NFC East game.
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