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CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 16: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #12 of the Washington Redskins passes under pressure from defensive end Jabaal Sheard #97 of the Cleveland Browns during the second half at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Redskins defeated the Browns 38-21. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
We hate to be that guy but, well, we're rarely right so we're bringing it up first thing: Remember when we said that if Robert Griffin III couldn't play and the other rookie, Kirk Cousins, got his first NFL start how the Redskins would be fine?
Turns out, there was nothing to worry about. Yes, it was the Browns, a team that had played well recently but are still the Browns, but it was also the most important game of Washington's season. And they went into Cleveland with their backup rookie signal caller -- one who everybody but Mike Shanahan was convinced was a wasted draft pick -- and didn't miss a beat.
By the time it was over, the 'Skins had outscored the Browns, 38-21, and found themselves in a three-way tie for the NFC East lead (but thanks to tiebreakers, currently the No. 4 seed in the playoff race).
Think about that for a second. Five weeks ago, Washington was 3-6 and everybody -- including Shanahan -- was thinking about next year. Now, through a series of events that no one would've believed as recently as last month, Washington controls its destiny.
For some perspective on just how improbable this all is, consider this: It's the first time since 1999 that the Redskins have had a share of the division lead and been two games above .500, this late in the season.
Cousins, whose style couldn't be more different than Robert Griffin III's, ran the offense like he'd been doing it all season. He finished 26 for 37 for 329 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INTs, and added 22 rushing yards for good measure.
“It’s a good feeling," Cousins said afterwards. "I said to my dad last night, it’s either going to highest of the highs if we win, or the lowest of the lows. We’re certainly feeling the highs right now.”
This might be the biggest understatement of the season.
“It’s great," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander told the Washington Post. "All the hard work and blood, sweat and tears that you put into this game, and being 3-6 and battling back, it’s very special. We just have to continue to work and have the same approach that we’ve had the last five weeks. Now we move on to Philly, and we have to focus on them. These next two are divisional games, and they’ll definitely be trying to stick it to us. We have to focus so we can achieve our goals.”
No word on RGIII's status, but given that he wasn't happy about being inactive against the Browns, we can safely assume that he'll try to be on the field against the Eagles Sunday. But that's a conversation for later in the week. For now, the Redskins are a playoff team. Whether that stands is completely up to them.