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Week 15 Game Recap: Washington Redskins 38, Cleveland Browns 21


Washington Redskins

QB Kirk Cousins, Pass: 26 - 37 - 329 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 22 - 0

The Redskins' decision to draft Cousins in the fourth round of the 2012 received significant criticism, given the Redskins' pressing needs at a number of positions and the organization's choice to trade a boatload of draft picks for Baylor product Robert Griffin III. However, Cousins has impressed in limited action when filling in for Griffin, and following Griffin's Week Fourteen knee sprain, Cousins drew his first NFL start on the road against the Browns.

Now, the Redskins hold what is arguably one of the NFL's more valuable trade chips in Kirk Cousins. Cousins completed twenty-six of his thirty-seven pass attempts for three hundred and twenty-nine yards passing -- more passing yards in a single game than Griffin has this season - and looked every bit like a starting NFL quarterback. He recovered from a shaky first quarter that saw him throw the ball into the grass and get picked off on a tipped pass, intended for Pierre Garcon, to completing a fifty-four yard touchdown pass to a triple-covered Leonard Hankerson. Hankerson and Cousins would hook up again on a two-yard touchdown pass off a goal line bootleg. Cousins might have logged a third score had Browns cornerback Joe Haden not been draped over Pierre Garcon in the end zone on a short pass attempt.

Scoring opportunities aside, Cousins looked like a legitimate NFL starter against an NFL defense that most consider underrated. His execution of the Washington offense had a veteran's savvy to it. The Redskins abandoned the pistol set and read-option runs that Robert Griffin III uses, but Cousins still relied on a heavy dose of play-action fakes and bootlegs, selling them just like Griffin. Cousins' ball had zip to it and came out of the pocket quickly and accurately to his receivers, especially while they were moving down the field. The rookie from Michigan State remained unfettered changing the play at the line of scrimmage, and, if the play broke down, he found the speed to sprint for positive yardage while avoiding unnecessary contact. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Washington offense barely missed a beat with Cousins under center. If Griffin is unable to return to the field of play for Redskins' Week Sixteen tilt against the reeling Eagles, there will be no despair in Washington. Cousins proved he can command the Redskins' offense -- tailored it may be to his skill set, which differs from Griffin's -- to victory, whether starting or substituting for Robert Griffin III.

RB Alfred Morris, Rush: 27 - 87 - 2, Rec: 2 - 6 - 0 (2 targets)

If Alfred Morris lacks a nickname through fifteen weeks into the season, this publication suggests "Juggernaut," because Morris cannot be stopped, only slowed down. With Robert Griffin III sidelined due to a knee injury the previous week, Morris stepped up for a career-high twenty-nine touches, producing ninety-three yards from scrimmage. A stout Cleveland run defense kept Morris from doing too much on the ground, as he averaged under four yards per carry, but the rookie ran incredibly tough on every single carry. Morris sought contact on every carry, ramming his pads into Cleveland defenders and digging his cleats into the grass to push for the extra yard. The Redskins relied on Morris to move the chains and chew the clock, and so he did. Morris scored twice for the first time since the season's first game -- once on a gritty, three-yard effort off the left tackle, and again on an eight-yard scamper in which the Browns offered almost no resistance. Amazingly, Morris seems unfazed by the tremendous workload the Shanahans thrust upon him, logging two hundred and eighty carries through fifteen weeks, good for third in the league. Despite being a rookie, Morris continues to perform at an incredibly high level as he leads the league's number one rushing attack.

RB Evan Royster, Rush: 2 - 3 - 1, Rec: 2 - 30 - 0 (4 targets)

Royster had his best game of the season, catching two passes out of the backfield for thirty yards, including a twenty-five yard catch-and-run. He also carried the ball twice for three yards, with one carry resulting in a four-yard score of a stretch zone run. The Browns offered little resistance on Royster's early fourth-quarter goal line carry, and the second-year halfback waltzed into the end zone to put the game out of reach for Cleveland. Royster continues to get a pauper's share of the touches out of the Redskins' backfield.

WR Pierre Garcon, Rec: 6 - 65 - 0 (12 targets)

Kirk Cousins' presence did not change Washington's game script for its star wideout, as Garcon received the lion's share of targets in the passing game once again. Cousins targeted Garcon on a staggering twelve pass attempts, and the two hooked up for six catches and sixty-five yards through the air. Cousins looked Garcon's way in nearly all passing situations -- short, intermediate, and deep down the field, which bodes well for Garcon's production if Griffin continues to be sidelined. Garcon continues to put the foot injury that kept him off the field for many weeks, running with speed, physicality, and determination. The fifth-year man from Mount Union did draw a tough assignment in Browns cover corner Joe Haden, which explains Garcon's modest production given his target volume. Garcon did get an end zone pass from Cousins thrown his way, but coverage from Haden preventing Garcon from completing the catch.

WR Santana Moss, Rec: 5 - 57 - 0 (6 targets)

Moss caught five passes for fifty-seven yards working out of the slot for the Redskins. The veteran wideout ran short crossing routes, slants, and curls as a short option in the Washington passing game. Moss did fumble the ball late in the fourth quarter with the Redskins up ten, but Pierre Garcon recovered the fumble. Moss remains one of the Redskins' most accomplished route-runners, but at this point his career he is buried on Washington's depth chart.

WR Josh Morgan, Rec: 4 - 60 - 0 (4 targets)

The steady receiver posted his largest receiving yardage total since Week Four against the Buccaneers, catching four balls for sixty-yards. Half of Morgan's yardage total came on a crossing route that Morgan took down the field for thirty-yards. Morgan continues to post modest totals as one of the Redskins' primary receivers, though he does cede deep routes to Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson.

WR Leonard Hankerson, Rec: 2 - 56 - 2 (3 targets)

After Pierre Garcon, the Redskins' receiver hierarchy is a bit nebulous week-to-week. Joshua Morgan typically draws the start opposite Garcon, but the receiver that produces for the Redskins on any given Sunday is a crapshoot. Hankerson was Week Fifteen's lottery winner for Washington, catching two touchdowns passes for fifty-six yards on three targets. Hankerson's first touchdown reception came on a deep post-out route that quarterback Kirk Cousins placed well into his hands, despite Hankerson being triple-covered. Untouched by the three Browns defenders around him, Hankerson wriggled his way into the end zone for a fifty-four yard touchdown grab that replay later upheld. Midway through the third quarter, with the Redskins facing third-and-two at the Browns' two-yard-line, Hankerson ran toward the end zone, uncovered, and caught a pass off a play-action fake from Cousins for another Redskins touchdown. Granted, the volatile nature of the Redskins' receiving corps -- minus Garcon -- makes them, including Hankerson, unpredictable for fantasy purposes, but they, including Hankerson, make for an exciting game. 


TE Logan Paulsen, Rec: 4 - 47 - 0 (5 targets)

Paulsen continues to be a reliable short-yardage option in the passing game for the Redskins. The third-year man from UCLA caught four passes for forty-seven yards, his highest receiving yardage total since Week Ten against the Panthers. Primarily running curls and out routes to help Washington move the chains through the air, Paulsen impresses primarily through his ability to generate yards after the catch. Never one to be confused with Darren Sproles -- or even Tony Gonzalez -- Paulsen generates extra yardage much like a running back, by lowering his shoulders and slamming into defenders, churning his legs forward. Several of his forty-seven yards receiving came via this cleats-in-the-ground, hard-nosed fashion.


Cleveland Browns

QB Brandon Weeden, Pass: 21 - 35 - 244 - 1 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 9 - 0

Facing one of the league's worst pass defenses and most underwhelming -- nay, nonexistent -- pass rushes, the Browns opted for a pass-heavy game-plan that resulted in one impressive touchdown, two picks, and a whole heap of checking down from rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. Weeden completed twenty-one of his thirty-five pass attempts for two hundred and forty-four yards through the air. Benefiting from a spotless pocket and a Washington pass defense that seems to only know how to get penalized, Weeden threw two picks and one touchdown. The Browns' West Coast offense featured a slew of quick slants and crossing routes, as Weeden led his receivers in space to get yards after the catch. Weeden did make a few smooth throws here and there, including a thirty-yard pass to Greg Little off a bootleg, and twenty-eight yard pass to Jordan Cameron in which Weeden led his tight end into space quite well. The Oklahoma State product's one touchdown pass was a thing of beauty, a perfectly thrown ball to wide receiver Travis Benjamin on a sideline go route. Benjamin got separation easily from cornerback DJ Johnson, and Weeden hit his receiver in stride without a problem.

Aside from a few moments of brilliance, however, a casual football fan might have considered Weeden to be the starter in his first NFL game, not Kirk Cousins. Despite having time to scan the field on most all of his plays, the rookie quarterback opted to check down to outlet receivers that rarely got yards after the catch. His timing was off with one of his preferred weapons, Josh Gordon. Weeden also held onto the ball too long a few times, electing to pump fake again and gain rather than firing to a receiver. Given Cleveland's inability to run the ball against Washington, these difficulties moving the ball through the air helped to do Cleveland in against the Redskins. Both of Weeden's interceptions were his own doing. Weeden's first pick came on a short pass over the middle in which he did not see linebacker Rob Jackson, who easily caught Weeden's lob over the defensive line. Jackson returned the catch for seventeen yards, setting up an Alfred Morris touchdown run three plays later. Weeden's second interception came on a deep pass to Greg Little that the quarterback under threw, allowing linebacker London Fletcher to snag the pass. Fletcher returned the interception for eight yards to the Washington thirty-three yard line.

RB Trent Richardson, Rush: 11 - 28 - 2, Rec: 3 - 4 - 0 (4 targets)

Half of Richardson's yardage on the ground came on a fourteen-yard, powerful downhill run in which the 2012 first-rounder showcased his lower leg drive and nose for contact. Otherwise, the rookie from Alabama faced incredibly tough sledding against the immovable object that was the Redskins' defense in Cleveland. Richardson gained a baffling thirty-two yards on fourteen total touches against Washington, often being met in the backfield or getting stopped in his tracks at the line of scrimmage. The rookie's aforementioned lower leg drive did serve him well twice, as he moved mountains to score two touchdowns for the Browns. On a six-yard first-quarter run, the Redskins met Richardson just before the stripe, but the rookie carried a horde of defenders on his back and willed himself into the end zone. With the Browns down seven after the two-minute warning in the first half, Richardson again made an end-zone plunge, only to have it nullified after replay showed his knee went down inches in front of the goal line. Cleveland called Richardson's name once more and he found paydirt, giving the Browns a four-point lead before the end of the first half.

WR Greg Little, Rec: 5 - 74 - 0 (9 targets)

Little led all Browns receivers in catches, receiving yards, and receiving yardage, manhandling the weak Redskins' secondary on a bevy of pass routes. Catching five passes for seventy-four yards, including an impressive thirty-yard grab on a deep crossing route off a bootleg, Little looked to be the receiver most in sync with quarterback Brandon Weeden against Washington. Little was the intended target on Weeden's second interception of the day. Weeden severely under threw Little in Washington territory, allowing Redskins linebacker London Fletcher to snag the pass and return the ball for eight yards. Browns fans and fantasy owners alike should be encouraged by Little's performance, as Little had his best week since Week Four and continues to develop his rapport with Brandon Weeden.

WR Josh Gordon, Rec: 3 - 27 - 0 (8 targets)

Gordon tallied eight targets against Washington, but only reeled in three passes for an underwhelming twenty-seven yards through the air. Despite the favorable matchup in Washington's Swiss cheese secondary, Gordon and quarterback Brandon Weeden were unable to capitalize. Gordon has, without a doubt, emerged as a playmaker on the Browns' rookie-laden offense, but he and his quarterback were not in sync against Washington. 



WR Travis Benjamin, Rec: 1 - 69 - 1 (1 targets)

Benjamin roasted Redskins cornerback DJ Johnson for a sixty-nine yard touchdown on a sideline go route. Benjamin got several yards of separation from Johnson off the snap once Benjamin and Weeden caught Johnson peeking inward towards the ball. Weeden hit Benjamin in stride and Johnson glided down the field to bring the Browns to win ten points with ten minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.


TE Jordan Cameron, Rec: 3 - 34 - 0 (3 targets)

Cameron caught three passes for thirty-four yards on three targets as a tertiary option in Cleveland's passing game. The second-year man from USC did impress on a twenty-eight yard catch-and-run that brought the Browns into Washington territory in the third quarter, but quarterback Brandon Weeden got picked off on the next play from scrimmage.


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