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12/16/2012 8:47 PM EST
Cousins leads Redskins over Browns 38-21
WASHINGTON 38, CLEVELAND 21

By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Redskins decided one game without Robert
Griffin III couldn't hurt.



RG3 disagreed, but after Kirk Cousins kept Washington's winning
streak and playoff hopes intact, Griffin understood.



First place has him feeling better.



Cousins threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns filling in for an
injured Griffin, leading Washington to its fifth straight win,
38-21 over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.



Cousins connected with Leonard Hankerson for both TDs in his
first career start and the Redskins (8-6) barely missed a beat
without the talented and multi-dimensional Griffin, who sat out
with a sprained right knee and wasn't happy about having to
stand on the sideline and watch his teammates play.



"I was not happy with the decision," said Griffin, who was
informed Saturday night of the plan to start Cousins. "That's
the decision they went with and I respect that. It doesn't mean
I have to necessarily like it. I feel like I could have played
this week, next week, the week after. But that's not my
decision."



Turns out, the Redskins (8-6) have more than one rookie QB who
can win.



Last week, Cousins came off the bench after Griffin got hurt
against Baltimore and rallied the Redskins to an overtime win.
Cousins was behind center from the start of this one and
delivered a performance that extended Washington's longest
winning streak since 2007 and moved the Redskins into a
three-way tie with the New York Giants and Dallas atop the NFC
East.



Afterward, Griffin expressed disappointment at not suiting up,
but Washington's win took out some of the sting.



"We're in first place in our division now, and it was a great
business trip for us," Griffin said. "I got healthier by not
playing, we won the game and put ourselves in position to
control our own destiny."



Rookie Trent Richardson had a pair of TD runs for the Browns
(5-9), who had their winning streak stopped at three and faint
playoff hopes snuffed out. Coach Pat Shurmur's fate may have
rested on the Browns winning out, but that won't happen and his
days in Cleveland could be dwindling quickly.



Shurmur said Griffin's absence didn't change Washington's
attack.



"They would have been doing all the same things, with the
addition of the option if RG 3 was in the game," Shurmur said.
"That looked like the Redskins offense. I'd like to credit Kirk.
He did a nice job."



Alfred Morris, a childhood rival of Richardson, had two
touchdowns for the Redskins.



Wearing a burgundy warmup suit instead of his No. 10 jersey,
Griffin, who sustained a mild sprain in the fourth quarter last
week, cheered from the sideline as Cousins kept the Redskins
moving toward the playoffs.



Griffin practiced all week and assumed he would start up until
he was informed by coach Mike Shanahan during a meeting.



"He wanted to play, but when I hear two of the best doctors
saying don't play him, I don't play him," said Shanahan, who got
his 173rd win, one behind Mike Holmgren for 11th on the career
list.



Cousins is no RG3, but the fourth-round pick from Michigan State
was efficient, accurate and only made one major mistake - an
early interception to set up Cleveland's first TD.



Cousins finished 26 of 37 as the Redskins improved to 5-0 since
their bye. They'll end the season with games against NFC East
rivals Philadelphia and Dallas, teams they beat in consecutive
weeks to start their streak.



If the Browns thought they were getting a break with Cousins, he
proved to be as challenging to stop as his more elusive and
hyped teammate.



Cousins admitted being nervous, but said going to bed knowing he
would start helped.



"It was good to have a definitive answer, but I've been
preparing to go all season as if I had to play knowing I'm one
play away, " said Cousins, who shook off the pick. "This isn't
my first rodeo. I did play a lot of football in the Big Ten. We
started slow, but you've got to have character to dig deep. We
didn't get spooked by a slow start."



Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden struggled from the
outset. He went 21 of 35 for 244 yards and two picks, both
leading to Washington TDs.



Cousins' second TD pass to Hankerson gave the Redskins a 24-14
lead. As Cousins came to the sideline, Griffin gave him a fist
bump and then sat on the bench with his backup, who for the past
two weeks has shown he too can lead the Redskins.



Before the game, Griffin gave Cousins some advice.



"I talked to him about being cool, calm and collected and not to
freak out," Griffin said. "He did a good job of staying poised
and staying confident in there."



Washington went ahead 31-14 on Evan Royster's 4-yard run.



Weeden came back with a 69-yard scoring strike to speedy rookie
Travis Benjamin to pull the Browns within 10, but Cousins calmly
took the Redskins down the field with Morris scoring to make it
38-21.



With Griffin out and inactive, Shanahan had to tweak his game
plan and Cousins ran it with precision.



"He was nervous and wanted to get out there so bad," nine-year
cornerback D'Angelo Hall said. "I told him to just go out and
play, we have your back. We saw him win last week. We knew if he
played a whole game he would do good things.



"It's good to see the car keys turned over to somebody else and
we win."



Richardson's second TD run gave the Browns a 14-10 lead with
1:11 left before halftime. Earlier, he broke Hall of Famer Jim
Brown's 55-year-old team rookie record for rushing TDs.



NOTES: Redskins K Kai Forbath made a 44-yard field goal and is
15 of 15, one shy of the NFL record to start a career. ...
Morris has nine rushing TDs, passing Skip Hicks (1998) for the
most by a Redskins rookie. ... Shanahan said OT Tyler Polumbus
has a concussion. ... Shanahan did not have any updates on
injuries to LB Lorenzo Alexander (shoulder) or OL Will
Montgomery (knee).



---



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