TINSMAN: Kirk Cousins lobs fade pass for OT win

Brian Tinsman
January 06, 2020 - 10:05 am
Kirk Cousins lobs fade pass for OT win

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

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Kirk Cousins remains one of the most polarizing figures in Washington Redskins history and gave fans on both sides of the debate some new material on Sunday.

Playing in just his second NFL playoff game, Cousins kept the Minnesota Vikings close enough to the New Orleans Saints to force overtime in their Wild Card game.

With a flip of a coin, he got the first crack at closing out the game with a sudden-death touchdown, something he had not thrown in the first 60 minutes of the game.

Cousins was at his best on the drive, completing three-of-four passes for 59 yards and marching his team down to the 2-yard line. After a run for a loss, Cousins got the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

How many times was he in this exact position with the Redskins? How many times did he lob up an incomplete fade pass in the end zone to Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Josh Doctson or Jordan Reed? 

The answer: too many times. The Redskins were in love with a play that didn't love them back. Maybe they executed it flawlessly in practice every day, but when the game was on the line, it never worked. Ever.

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So when hulking tight end Kyle Rudolph battled a Saints defensive back into the back left corner of the end zone, Redskins fans had flashbacks of painful, repressed incompletions.

Cousins ran through his reads, saw Rudolph and lobbed a high-arcing pass to the back pylon.

Launching himself above the outstretched arms of his defender, Rudolph snagged the catch and used his body to twist the ball away from the defender, planting his feet down in-bounds.

Touchdown. What? It was surreal to watch, but that was exactly the type of play that Cousins and Gruden tried to run dozens of times in Washington. 

If Cousins had completed half of the fade passes that Gruden called:

  • Cousins would be the Redskins' starting quarterback;
  • Gruden would be the Redskins' head coach;
  • Redskins fans would love them both.

Instead:

  • Cousins is prepping the Vikings to face his former sensei, Kyle Shanahan, in the Divisional Round of the playoffs;
  • Redskins fans were either surprised or aghast that he can complete a fade pass for a touchdown;
  • Gruden is probably cursing the day he met Cousins. Or Doctson. Or Bruce Allen.

Love him or hate him, Cousins earned his win on Sunday and shook a colony of monkeys off his back in the process. He protected the football in crunch time. He had his biggest throw of the day to reach the red zone (a 43-yard bomb to Adam Thielen). Then he completed a fade pass for a touchdown.

In the post-game locker room, surrounded by his teammates, he recycled the rallying cry of "You like that!" and his teammates went berserk with joy. Of course.

Maybe that line is lame and tired now, or maybe it always was. But when a guy gets over the hump, it's hard not to be happy for him.

Even if Cousins breaks the hearts of Minnesotans next week, he had one afternoon, on national TV, where everything went right. Perhaps we should all like that.

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.