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Sunday, December 16, 2012
Halftime thoughts: Cousins up and down

By Dan Graziano

CLEVELAND -- With Robert Griffin III inactive due to a knee injury, fellow rookie Kirk Cousins got the start at quarterback here Sunday for the Washington Redskins. The results have been decidedly mixed. He looked uncomfortable and fidgety on his first two series, the second of which resulted in an interception that the Browns cashed in for a touchdown on the next play. But his comfort level appeared to improve as the first quarter moved along and the Redskins starting using more play-action and rolling him out. He hit Leonard Hankerson for a 54-yard touchdown that tied the game with 2:26 to go in the first quarter, and the Redskins would take the lead in the second quarter with a 44-yard field goal by Kai Forbath.

Cousins would finish the first half 11-for-19 for 146 yards, and again, tough to make a sweeping assessment. The throw to Hankerson was pinpoint. The interception was a bad-decision play on which he tried to force the ball to a covered Pierre Garcon. He's looked inaccurate on short and medium passes, throwing low to Garcon a couple of times and making it more difficult for his top receiver not only to catch the ball but to gain necessary yards. The Browns' defense is obviously keying on running back Alfred Morris and daring Cousins to beat them.

The Redskins were looking good, though, because of a defense that was flying to the ball and making excellent tackles in the open field. But the Browns made a second-quarter adjustment to use shorter routes and make the Redskins' linebackers chase, and it resulted in a 75-yard touchdown drive that gave Cleveland a 14-10 halftime lead.

All in all, a fairly entertaining game in which Cousins has shown good signs and the Washington defense has generally played as though it believes it's on them to win the game. If Cousins can look a little more sure of himself on his throws and the defense plays the second half the way it's played second halves the last two weeks, the Redskins have a big opportunity. The first-place Giants are down 24-0 in Atlanta.