Trent Williams pondered the reporter's assesment, taking the amount of time the Pro Bowl left tackle usually affords his quarterback before responding.
There was a clear play calling difference in the Redskins' Week 16 win over the Eagles. For the first time this season and with the NFC East division title in their grasp, Washington wanted the ball with Kirk Cousins.
"I hadn’t thought about it like that, but that makes sense to think that way," Williams answered thoughtfully.
Cousins threw the ball 46 times in the 38-24 victory that clinched Washington's first NFC East title since 2012. That wasn't the first time this season Washington's quarterback and newly minted NFC Player of the Month for December tossed at least 40 throws in a game this season, but the sixth.
Here's the distinction: In those previous five occasions, the Redskins were in some form of hurry-up or comeback mode. Against Philadelphia, Washington led most of the game.
"They did put the ball in his hands," Williams continued. "I mean, he makes some smart decisions with the ball. He’s growing up, man. He’s growing up. He’s relishing in that role."
Cousins is indeed thriving and all involved are catching on as the Redskins head into the Wild Card round against the Packers Sunday at FedEx Field.
Remember the audio captured by NFL Film from 20-somethings Cousins and Sean McVay, Washington's offensive coordinator, the prior week in the 35-25 win over the Buffalo Bills?
“Look at what putting our foot on the gas pedal the whole time has done,” an excited Cousins tells McVay during the Week 15 win.
"That’s what we did last week, too,” responds McVay says, referring to the 24-21 victory over the Chicago Bears that started the current four-game winning streak. “I’m gonna keep doing that. I’m learning too.”
“It’s like the first seven or eight games, it was like we don’t want to put it all on me because I’m new,” Cousins said. “But now that we’re doing that, it’s been our best shot.”
Lessons learned indeed.
In the four games before the recent win over Philadelphia, Washington averaged 30.7 carries and 29.7 pass attempts. That's an even split even though Cousins completed 74 percent of his passes in that stretch while the running game averaged 3.2 yards per carry.
In the Week 12 win over the New York Giants, the Redskins led 17-0 at halftime as Cousins threw for 207 yards on 18 attempts. The languishing running attack had 31 yards on 14 carries by that point. Yet in the second half, Washington called 23 runs to just 11 passes. As the ground game limped towards a 2.8 yards per carry finish, New York rallied, coming within an Eli Manning interception in the end zone of taking the lead and first place.
Against the Eagles, the split swung hard the other way with only 26 runs compared to 46 passes. Those 26 runs included three carries and three kneel downs on the last two drives with the game long decided.
"I think you're seeing a guy that's making great decisions. I think Kirk's doing an excellent job seeing the field well and being a great distributor," McVay said a few days after the Philadelphia win. "When you've got a guy that you trust that's seeing the field making those good decisions, you feel comfortable being able to throw the football a little bit more on some of those early downs where you're probably more inclined to run it. He's done an excellent job with that."
That's been clear for a while. Starting with the "You like that" win over the Buccaneers in Week 7, Cousins has thrown 23 touchdown passes with three interceptions. In that stretch, he's quieted the doubters, particularly those that called for a change at quarterback.
Those calls weren't coming from his blindside.
"He’s an outstanding player if you guys haven’t figured it out yet," Williams said. "You know, I have no problem with them wanting to put the ball in Kirk’s hands. I know that he does his studying during the week, and he’ll never be unprepared.
"So, I’ll go to war with Kirk any day."
It looks like the coaching staff agrees.
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