LANDOVER, Md. – An icy wind – the remnant of a winter storm that dumped rain and snow all over the East Coast – whipped through the stadium, swayed goalposts, pushed field goal tries wide, and knocked high passes flat to the turf. But in Sunday night’s 42-24 Washington Redskins victory against the Green Bay Packers, it wasn’t the throws of Aaron Rodgers that ignited explosive play after explosive play.
The strikes belonged to Kirk Cousins. Cousins completed 21 of 30 attempts for 375 yards and three touchdowns. He tossed short passes accurately that opened up crossing routes down the middle of the field. And when Washington’s receivers darted past Green Bay’s secondary, Cousins heaved several accurate deep throws, including touchdowns of 70 and 44 yards.
With the victory, Washington (6-3-1) kept pace in an NFC East that does not have one team with a losing record. The Cowboys (9-1) are front-runners for the division crown, so Washington needs to pile victories to fend off the Giants (7-3) in the race for two wild-card spots in the NFC. Unreliable may be too harsh, but Rodgers has become inconsistent. Simple throws in the flat to wide-open checkdowns now sometimes sail well over their intended targets. Some passes trail behind streaking receivers.
Though Rodgers still missed on a few throws he would normally connect with ease, he did fling side-arm throws at seemingly impossible angles with accuracy. He floated lob passes with touch, like a perfectly-placed go route on a 47-yard completion to tight end Jared Cook. And he bounced around in the pocket, extended plays and used his footwork as a weapon.
Rodgers connected on 26 of his 41 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns. In the end, however, Cousins outdueled him. With Sunday night’s performance, Cousins became Washington’s career leader for 300-yard passing games with 17. As inconsistent as Rodgers was, however, it was Green Bay’s defense that couldn’t stop Washington when it needed it most. As a result, Green Bay (4-6) has lost its fourth game in a row – five out of the last six – and are two games back in the NFC North. The question must now become whether jobs are on the line.