ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Redskins players and coaches say their turnaround from 0-2 to 4-2 is a matter of resilience.
Coach Jay Gruden and cornerback Bashaud Breeland cited a strong response to “adversity,” and quarterback Kirk Cousins said no one hit the panic button. But this four-game winning streak isn’t just about next man up, taking it one play at a time, never quitting, always believing or any other sports cliché.
No, Washington has climbed back up the NFC East standings on a foundation of a balanced offense, clutch defense and improved play from Cousins over the past four weeks. The Redskins go into Week 5 at the Detroit Lions feeling good about themselves — but not too good, knowing how quickly things can change.
“We know we’re on fire, but in order to stay on fire in this league you have to take it one day at a time,” wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. “You can’t peak. We have the Lions ahead of us and that’s a big game for us. Every game is big.”
After opening with home losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins have come up big in victories against the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles .
It’s no coincidence that three of those four wins came with a heavy emphasis on the running game. The Redskins had 89 passing attempts to 39 rushes in the first two weeks of the season, and since then Cousins has thrown the ball 138 times and handed it off 109 times.
The three-headed running attack of feature back Matt Jones, rookie Robert Kelley and third-down back Chris Thompson has allowed Cousins to get a breather and given him more time to execute the offense.
“It benefits everybody when we have good balance,” Gruden said Monday. “We love that recipe, man. It’s been good to us when we can run the ball as much as we throw it.”
Throwing it has been better, too. After one touchdown and three interceptions in the first two games, Cousins has eight touchdowns and three interceptions during the streak.
His QB rating was over 100 against the Giants and Browns, and while the picks have been a problem he has been good enough to make up for his mistakes.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has withstood a season-ending injury to safety DeAngelo Hall, potentially season-ending ones to safety David Bruton and nose tackle Kedric Golston and injuries to Breeland and cornerback Dashaun Phillips.
After getting torched for 38 points and 437 yards by Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, and giving up 27 points to Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, the Redskins’ defense hasn’t allowed a second-half touchdown in four consecutive games.
“They’re doing it a lot of different ways,” Gruden said. “They’ve mixed up their coverages and stunts and stopped the run game better in the second half. We give up some big plays, but they bend but don’t break and hold to field goals, which is excellent.”
Defensive end Chris Baker said it has been a case of playing better fundamental football, which includes solving the tackling problem that had cropped up. A big difference is the defense is better rested because it has improved on third down of late.
The Ravens and Eagles converted on just seven of 27 third downs over the past two weeks. And the Redskins’ defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown since four minutes into the Baltimore game, a streak of almost eight full quarters.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry was criticized for early season struggles, and now he and the position coaches are getting some credit for the improvements and adjustments
“Those guys are doing an excellent job coaching those guys up, but the players are making plays and that’s what it’s about,” Gruden said. “They’re getting off blocks and they’re making the tackles when they have to make the tackles. … They’re pursuing to the football, they’re playing hard, they’re playing with confidence (and) they’re making plays.”
Notes: Gruden said receiver Josh Doctson will be shut down for a few weeks to rest a lingering left Achilles tendon injury. Injured reserve remains a possibility for the first-round pick. … Linebacker Su’a Cravens will increase his workload this week as he tries to come back from a concussion that caused him to miss the Eagles game, Gruden said. It’s unclear if Cravens will be ready to face the Lions.
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