Kirk Cousins vs Cowboys (Week 17) – 12/15, 176 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs

Kirk Cousins played just five drives last week versus the Cowboys before Redskins’ head coach Jay Gruden pulled him in favor of Colt McCoy. Many questioned the Redskins’ decision to play Cousins after clinching the NFC East especially into the second quarter as the Redskins already had a 21-0 lead. Fortunately for Redskins’ fans, Cousins escaped unharmed even though he gave ‘Skins fans a brief scare.

Before I begin, here are my previous breakdowns I have written about him so far this season:

Play 1
Situation: 3rd and 5 at WSH 28
Description: (11:23 – 2nd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Cousins pass deep right to J.Crowder ran ob at DAL 44 for 28 yards. Pass complete on a “fly” pattern


  • The Redskins line up in their favorite 3×1 set with #39 Pierre Thomas in the backfield.
  • Jordan Reed is by himself on the left side of the field with #80 Crowder, #14 Grant, and #88 Garcon on the far right side of the formation.
  • The Cowboys drop into a Cover 1 man shell with one deep high safety and man-to-man coverage on the receivers.
  • Grant and Garcon both break inside while Crowder runs a wheel-route up the right sideline using the switch-concept that attacks man-to-man coverages.
  • On the flat portion of the route, cornerback #39 Carr takes an aggressive angle towards the sideline thinking the Redskins are throwing short on 3rd and 5.
  • Crowder uses this aggressive angle to his advantage beating him up the sideline.
  • Cousins places the ball perfectly where only Crowder can catch the ball good for a 28 yard gain on 3rd down.

Play 2
Situation: 1st and 10 at DAL 18
Description: (10:39 – 2nd) K.Cousins pass deep right to J.Reed to DAL 18 for 26 yards (A.Hitchens). FUMBLES (A.Hitchens), ball out of bounds at DAL 15


  • On the very next play, the Redskins are in singleback formation again this time with two tight ends on the field as opposed to just one like in the previous play.
  • The Redskins run a three-level read where Garcon runs a deep corner-route up the sideline clearing out the deep safety.
  • Pierre Thomas works his way to the right flat as Cousins’ checkdown receiver, while Jordan Reed attacks the mid-level portion of the field between the safety and the underneath zone defender.
  • Cousins targets Reed who brings it in for a 26 yard gain. #59 Hitchens actually strips the ball from him, but it falls out-of-bounds innocuously.
  • Why does this play work? The Cowboys are in a Cover 3 shell with three deep defenders and four underneath linebackers. A flood-route (triple-level read) is the perfect method to attack the soft portion between the two outside zones on the sideline.
  • This is simply a great play call and execution against this Cover 3 defense on first down combined with Jordan Reed versus a backpedaling linebacker, which is almost impossible to cover.

I mentioned in the introduction that there was a brief scare with Cousins. If you watch Play 2 again look for defensive tackle #98 Crawford. After Crawford bulljerks rookie #75 Scherff into the backfield, he rolls into Cousins’ ankles. For a moment it looked like Cousins was was hobbling after the hit, but he stayed in for the rest of the drive ending in a field goal by Hopkins making the score 24-0. Colt McCoy finished the rest of the game.

The Redskins play the Packers next week at home. The Packers lost their last two games including the NFC North division title last week. This should still be a close match considering the Redskins’ weak secondary.

Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.

Samuel Gold

Sam founded NFL Breakdowns after working his way through the journalist farm system and is enjoying life in the big league. Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Sam didn’t choose the Redskins, the Redskins chose him. Out of a love for the game and an insatiable curiosity to determine why his beloved team was underperforming, Sam turned to studying film in NFL Breakdowns.