GREEN BAY – The Redskins haven’t beaten a team with a winning record all season.
“What better time to try to make that happen than in the playoffs,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said during a conference call with Packers media on Wednesday.
Cousins is the fast-rising quarterback of the surprise NFC East champions, and he’ll pit his 101.6 passer rating against Aaron Rodgers and the 10-6 Packers this Sunday at FedEx Field.
The last time the Redskins were in the playoffs, the year was 2012 and Robert Griffin III was one of the hottest rookies in the league. Cousins was Griffin’s backup.
“I didn’t know if I’d have a short career or be a career backup or have a chance to start. I didn’t know where my career was going to go,” Cousins said.
A major knee injury helped turn RG3’s career south, which opened the door for Cousins. Sunday, he’ll have a chance to do something a Redskins quarterback hasn’t accomplished since the 2005 postseason: win a playoff game.
At 2-4 this season, Coach Jay Gruden was said to be on the hot seat, and the Redskins came to a crossroads in their season. They rallied to beat the Bucs, 31-30, and finished the season with four consecutive wins to claim the NFC East title.
How good are the Redskins, the NFC’s No. 4 seed?
“There’s been a lot of negative press about this football team the last couple of years. They overcame it. They played with great energy for 16 games. They played hard and they stayed together,” Gruden said. “We’re kind of used to the mentality of give it all you’ve got or you’re done. That’s what we’re in right now.”
The Redskins have the league’s No. 5-rated passer, and one of the top tight ends in the game, Jordan Reed, who’s caught 87 passes for 952 yards and a whopping 11 touchdowns.
Their No. 11-ranked passing attack is the Redskins’ strength, and it features big-play threat DeSean Jackson (17.6 yards per catch) and possession receiver Pierre Garcon (72 catches and six touchdowns).
“The offensive line has done a great job of giving (Cousins) protection. Staying balanced in the second half of the season has been good. The threat of the run and being able to hand the ball off and get positive yards has been good. Our people around him have done a great job. He’s been phenomenal in all aspects of the game these last 7-8 weeks,” Gruden said of his quarterback.
Green Bay comes into the game with a hot defense that’s picked up the slack for a struggling offense.
“It’s not what you think when you think of the Green Bay Packers,” Gruden said. “They do a great job of disguising their intent with their coverages. Offensively, statistically they may not be where they have been, but I know there’s an unbelievable quarterback at the helm. We have to be consistent in getting pressure, because that’s been the key to slowing their offense down. You have to get pressure on the quarterback.”
Cousins rose to prominence following the 24-point comeback against Tampa Bay on Oct. 25. As he walked past media and into the Redskins’ locker room, Cousins gestured toward a media member and shouted, “You like that?”
“I would never have thought it would catch on like it has. I didn’t realize it was caught on camera and it was going to go on social media. By the time I got to my car, my family told me it was over social media and was getting re-tweeted,” he said.
The outburst became the subject of a hot-selling t-shirt, the profits from which have gone to charity. Cousins and the Redskins will have a chance to increase sales dramatically, with a win over the Packers.
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