Redskins look for finishing kick similar to last year
Kirk Cousins carried the Washington Redskins to the playoffs last season with a magnificent four-game run to conclude the regular season.
The Washington quarterback just might need to equal last season's torrid stretch for the Redskins to make another postseason appearance this year.
Washington (6-5-1) is on the outside of the playoff picture with four games remaining and aims to record a much-needed victory when it visits the reeling Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX).
The Redskins lost their last two games and are in third place in the NFC East and trail the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a half-game for the final wild-card spot. The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers sit a half-game back of Washington so there is little margin for error.
But the Redskins only to need to reminisce about last season's strong finish when Cousins passed for 12 touchdowns against one interception during the final four games to know another late-season sprint is possible.
However, Cousins cautions that there are no guarantees.
"I don't like to believe that, 'Well, we did this, so I'm confident that it's going to work out.' I really feel you have to go back and earn it from the jump all over again," Cousins said on a conference call. "We were able to finish the season strong last year. It can be done again, but by no means do I feel any type of calm or comfort drawing on last year's finish.
"I think we have to do it all over again, and last year really has no bearing on whether or not we deliver this year."
The late-season heroics assured that Cousins would continue as Washington's starting quarterback and he has enjoyed a strong statistical campaign.
The 28-year-old Cousins ranks third in the NFL with 3,811 passing yards and has 21 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He has thrown for 300 or more yards on six occasions, including efforts of 458 (a career high) and 449.
Cousins is 3-1 in his career against the Eagles, throwing for 1,345 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.
"I think every game is its own entity and I don't know that the sample size is large enough really to say there's a correlation," Cousins said of his success against Philadelphia. "I just think that each game you see what can happen and you never know."
The Eagles are on the fringe of the playoff conversation despite three consecutive defeats by a cumulative 85-42. Philadelphia's stellar 3-0 start is nothing but a distant memory after seven losses in the past nine games.
Last Sunday's 32-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals led first-year coach Doug Pederson to question the effort of some players and that ruffled some feelings in the locker room.
Players like safety Malcolm Jenkins and linebacker Nigel Bradham shot down that rhetoric. Tight end Brent Celek did as well but he indicated that a higher work ethic is necessary.
"I think guys are giving effort, but I think that we can take it to another level," Celek said. "There's levels to that. You can go hard every single play. I think that's what he's trying to say is -- listen, we can do better."
Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz was the talk of the NFL when he led the Eagles to a 3-0 start, but he tossed a season-worst three interceptions against the Bengals and has been picked off eight times in the past five games.
Wentz has passed for 2,901 yards and 12 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He completed a season-low 50 percent of his passes (11 of 22) and threw for just 179 yards in a 27-20 loss to the Redskins on Oct. 16.
"You have to stay optimistic," Wentz said. "I know, obviously, the results are tough as of late, we're kind of on a skid, but like I've been saying, this is a good group of guys, a good locker room. Guys are in it until the end."
The Eagles hope to have running back Ryan Mathews (knee) back after a two-game absence. Leading receiver Jordan Matthews (57 catches, 686 yards) might also play after an ankle injury held him out of the loss to the Bengals.
Washington is monitoring the health of tight end Jordan Reed (shoulder), who missed last Sunday's 31-23 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Reed returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday.
The Redskins also will have standout left tackle Trent Williams back in the trenches after he served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
"It was a lot of anxiety, it was really tough," Williams told reporters. "One of the hardest things for me was watching the games on TV and feeling helpless."
One subplot involves Washington receiver DeSean Jackson (39 receptions, 644 yards), who spent his first six seasons with the Eagles before being released by former Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly following the 2013 campaign.
Jackson is slated to become a free agent after this season and there is heavy speculation that he craves a return to the Eagles.
Updated December 9, 2016