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NFL Washington Redskins

Five Reasons Why the Washington Redskins Beat the Cleveland Browns

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Kirk Cousins Gets It Done in Cleveland

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Redskins’ fans were disappointed to hear that quarterback Robert Griffin III would miss the Redskins’ Week 15 game with the Cleveland Browns. That meant rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins would get the start in an effort to guide Washington to its fifth consecutive victory.

While Cousins got off to a slow start, he eventually got comfortable enough to lead the Redskins to victory. With the New York Giants’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons earlier in the day, Washington found themselves in the unlikely position of holding a share of first place in the NFC East. Cousins’ efficiency eased the concerns some fans may have had about losing to the scrappy Browns.

Cleveland put forth a valiant effort against the Griffin-less Redskins, but it was a case of Washington having a little more talent on their sideline that made the difference. Browns’ rookie running back Trent Richardson did make his presence felt, with two touchdowns. However, the Redskins got a large enough lead in the second half to neutralize Richardson and the Browns’ running game.

Although the tough Cleveland defense held Washington’s NFL leading rushing attack in check for most of the game, the Redskins were able to control the ball most of the game. In the NFL, if you win the time of possession and turnover battle, you have a very good chance to achieve victory.

The Washington Redskins hope to continue their winning ways Week 16 against the Philadelphia Eagles. They also hope that Griffin III will be available to continue the Redskins’ improbable march to the playoffs. Washington will worry about Griffin III later. Right now, the Redskins are celebrating a victory over a tough Cleveland Browns’ team. With that said, here are five reasons the Washington Redskins beat the Cleveland Browns:

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Redskins' quarterback Kirk Cousins remains efficient.

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Remember when NFL fans raised their collective eyebrows at Washington drafting quarterback Kirk Cousins? Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: the Redskins’ front office looks like a bunch of geniuses after that selection.

After an early interception, Cousins settled down, efficiently guiding the Redskins’ offense. He hit a myriad of receivers, including two touchdowns passes to wide receiver Leonard Hankerson. Cousins even showed a little mobility on a few rollouts, as well as a scramble or two.

Redskins’ fans can’t wait for Griffin III to get back on the field. However, it’s great to know that Cousins is capable of leading Washington to victory. He proved his capabilities once again versus the Cleveland Browns.

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The Redskins' opportunistic defense comes through again.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The bend but don’t break Redskins’ defense once again provided opportunities for Cousins and the offense. The defense has given up many big plays on the ground and through the air in 2012. In recent weeks, however, the defense has come up with big plays when it was time to take a stand.

Washington linebacker Rob Jackson once again proved clutch for the Redskins, recording an early second half interception. On the ensuing possession, Washington scored a touchdown to take the lead for good. Linebacker London Fletcher also recorded an interception, and the Redskins score a touchdown on that ensuing drive as well. The defense is another reason why Washington was victorious.

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The tenacity of Redskins' receiver Pierre Garcon.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Washington wide receiver Pierre Garcon reinforced his position as the Redskins’ featured receiver. He was Cousins’ main target, catching passes over the middle in an effort to earn first downs for Washington. After several of his receptions, Garcon was fired up, getting into the faces of several Browns’ defenders.

Garcon’s foot injury suffered earlier in the season seems like a long time ago. He has become the go to receiver for both Griffin III and Cousins. He has brought an attitude and confidence to the Redskins that have been long overdue. While Garcon did not reach the end zone against Cleveland, his presence gave Washington the ammunition necessary to beat the Browns.

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Redskins’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In recent weeks, Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has thrown a trick play or two in the offensive game plan. Wide receiver reverses, zone reads, and an occasional flea flicker could be called by the young Shanahan at any point. Of course, a multidimensional superstar like Griffin III under center opens things up for these plays to work.

With Cousins under center, Shanahan resorted to a simplified offense. Handing off to running back Alfred Morris is always a viable option. Spreading the ball to his receivers and backs proved effective as well. Cousins even ran a few times when the opportunity presented itself. Kyle Shanahan constructed an excellent game plan to beat the Cleveland Browns.

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The absence of RG3.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It sounds silly to think that the Washington Redskins are good enough to win a game without Griffin III at quarterback. The man nicknamed “RG3” is responsible for single handedly resuscitating this once proud franchise. However, the Redskins have a lot of proud, talented players on both sides of the ball that needed to pick up the slack for their fallen leader.

While the Redskins’ chances of winning increase with Griffin III under center, his absence gives the opportunity for other players to shine. Cousins and Hankerson were those players against Cleveland, and they benefitted from RG3’s absences (as much as Washington could benefit with their franchise quarterback on the sidelines). As strange as it may sound, Griffin III’s absence is another reason the Redskins continued their winning ways.