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Don't just read the stat line when evaluating Kirk Cousins' "tryout" for the Broncos

Zac Stevens Avatar
December 25, 2017

LANDOVER, Md. — Donning a maroon Washington Redskins jersey, it wouldn’t be difficult to mistake Kirk Cousins for a fine wine, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon, especially on a Sunday during the holiday season.

Not because the six-year vet and a vintage Cab Sauv both have high-dollar price tags and similar colors, but they both do what every human can only dream of—age well.

In a game that many viewed as a first-hand audition for the potential soon-to-be free agent, Cousins felt the nerves—or at least his performance indicated that—early.

During the Redskins’ first three possessions, Washington had a total of 14 offensive yards and one first down.  It wasn’t until two minutes remained in the first quarter when the $24 million quarterback completed his first pass. In his first eight pass attempts, Cousins only had one completion for six yards.

A quarter of the way through the game, it looked as if the audition was too big for the 29-year old quarterback as it appeared he was going to stumble off the stage in front of John Elway and the rest of the Broncos’ brass.

But like a fine wine, as time drew on, he got better. Significantly.

“Kirk’s a great quarterback; I said that earlier in the week,” Von Miller said following the Denver Broncos’ 27-11 loss just outside the nation’s capital. “He just came out and played great. At first, he was a little shaky, but back to typical Kirk Cousins in the second half.”

Following the 1-for-8 start, Cousins closed out the half in his typical form: Going 7-for-11 for 97 yards and a touchdown, and more importantly leading his team to a 10-3 lead at the break.

In the second-half—outside of an ill-advised interception in the red zone—Cousins picked up right where he left off, on his way to an easy victory.

While his final stats were impressive on the surface—19-for-37 for 299 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception for a 94.3 passer rating—his performance was even better than they indicated.

Captain Kirk’s game that ended one passing yard shy of 300, wasn’t against a poor pass defense, or even an average one. It was against the “No Fly Zone,” which Von called “The best secondary in the league” after the game and—statistically—it was the second-best pass defense in the entire league, only giving up an average of 188 passing yards per game.

Cousins’ 299 yards through the air was the most by a single quarterback against Denver’s defense all season and only fell behind Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer’s combined 303 passing yards in Week 10.

One of the most important stats that flew under the radar was that Cousins wasn’t sacked a single time and he—not his offensive line—deserves most of that credit. After the game, Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph was very critical of his own offensive line, saying, “We couldn’t block them.” If Cousins was Joseph’s quarterback—as many people in the Mile High City would love to see in 2018—his performance would have likely covered up those deficiencies, something Brock Osweiler was unable to do.

If it weren’t for Cousins’ elusiveness escaping the pocket consistently and his ability to make plays under tremendous amounts of pressure, the game would have looked very different. But as all great franchise quarterbacks do, Cousins put the team on his shoulders and carried the weight of the offense for the final three quarters.

“Couldn’t get any pressure,” Miller said frustrated, pointing at Washington’s quarterback as the prime reason why. “Quick passes and [Cousins] was connecting—just on fire.”

On an impressive Christmas Eve, Cousins’ final play—fittingly for the wine comparison—stood out among the rest, and proved—if for some reason there were still any doubters—that he can make every single throw.

On 3rd-and-6, already up 17 points in the fourth quarter, Cousins avoided pressure, escaped to his left and threw an absolute dime across his body on the move that hit tight end Vernon Davis perfectly in stride, carrying him to six points.

With all doubt eliminated about how sought after Cousins will be this offseason, the only question that remained was just where will the Broncos will fall into the chase to get him.

If it was up to Von Miller, they would seemingly be in thick of it. When asked after the game, “Was there any point during this week, as you are preparing for the game, or even during the game, where you said Kirk Cousins would look good in a Broncos uniform?”

Von didn’t deny it.

“I’m with everybody else,” the Broncos’ face of the franchise said. “A lot of teams would literally kill to have a quarterback like that. The list is long, but we’ll cross that bridge whenever we get to it.”

As if the conversation hadn’t already started, after Sunday’s 16-point loss, the Broncos officially only have one game left until they have to cross the proverbial Kirk Cousins bridge.

If Sunday was any indication, they might just be first in line.


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