The Washington Redskins have struggled enough this season with
their franchise player at quarterback. They’re going to give it a
try without him for the final three games.
In an effort to protect Robert Griffin III’s health, Kirk
Cousins takes over as the starter Sunday when the Redskins visit
the Atlanta Falcons in a matchup of 2012 division winners that now
share the worst record in the NFC.
Coach Mike Shanahan says the move is designed to keep Griffin
healthy as the Redskins (3-10) look to next year. Griffin has been
sacked 24 times during five straight losses, and Washington plays
two of its last three games on artificial turf, starting with this
Griffin will be the No. 3 QB and Rex Grossman will back up
“I want to make sure he’s healthy,” Shanahan said. “I think
that’s the most important thing going into the offseason, that he
has his first full offseason being healthy. And if he did play, and
something happened to him, I think it would set our franchise
Cousins has made six career appearances for the Redskins. They
won his only start, 38-21 at Cleveland on Dec. 16 as he threw for
329 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in Washington’s fifth
straight victory in a very different season.
“These are not the circumstances you necessarily want to be in
when you start the season, but good or bad I got to be ready to
go,” Cousins said. “I can’t control a lot of things going on, but I
can control my preparation and I can control how I lead this team
He replaced Griffin in a 45-10 home loss to Kansas City on
Sunday, going 7 of 16 for 59 yards against one of the league’s best
Atlanta (3-10) certainly isn’t among that group, ranking 29th in
points allowed (27.8) and 26th in yardage (379.4).
It hasn’t much mattered what caliber of defense the Redskins
have faced recently, however, as they’ve averaged 12.3 points the
last four weeks.
Kansas City led 31-0 with 9:45 remaining in the first half
“It’s a terrible game to be a part of,” Redskins linebacker
Brian Orakpo said.
The Falcons took a different route to similar disappointment in
a 22-21 loss at Green Bay on Sunday. Atlanta led 21-10 at halftime
before going silent.
Boasting an offense that was considered one of the most
dangerous in the NFL coming into the season, the Falcons have been
held to 18.4 points per game during a 1-6 stretch. Key injuries
combined with limited pass protection for quarterback Matt Ryan has
turned 2013 into a major letdown for a team that was one win from
the Super Bowl last season.
“It’s tough on everybody,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter
said. “Nobody has higher expectations for the Falcons than the
players and the coaches do. We haven’t lived up to expectations. We
haven’t played as well as we’re capable of on offense.”
Ryan’s 206 yards was his second-worst total of the year.
“It’s disappointing,” Ryan said. “We jumped out to an early
lead, the defense created some turnovers for us and we capitalized
on it, but we weren’t able to get it done offensively in the second
Ryan is an interception away from matching a career worst and
he’s been sacked a career-high 31 times. He has eight TDs and 10
interceptions in the last seven games.
Atlanta’s minus-11 turnover margin ranks second to last in the
Barring changes in the coming weeks, Griffin’s second season
comes to an end with 16 TD passes, 12 interceptions and an 82.2
rating in 13 games. He threw for 20 TDs with five picks and a 102.4
rating in 15 contests last year.
He’s also gained only 489 yards rushing without a score after
piling up 815 and seven in 2012, during which he suffered a torn
ACL and LCL in his right knee.
“Of course I want to be out there and finish the season with my
guys, see it through,” Griffin said. “And (Shanahan) explained to
me his reasoning. At the end of the day, Coach’s decision is what
we go with, and that’s what it’s always been. I have to do that. I
have to sit here and do whatever I can to help Kirk.”
The Falcons have won three straight against the Redskins, the
most recent a 24-17 victory Oct. 7, 2012 in Washington. Cousins
made his NFL debut and went 5 of 9 for 111 yards, a TD and two
interceptions after Griffin left with a concussion.