Cousins guides Redskins past Browns

The SportsXchange

CLEVELAND -- The Redskins didn't just keep their playoff hopes alive Sunday by scoring 28 points in the second half.

Washington also moved into a first-place tie in the NFC East by beating the Cleveland Browns 38-21.

Backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, playing for Robert Griffin III, who was inactive due to a knee injury, baffled the Browns with play fakes and rollouts after a shaky start. He threw two touchdown passes to Leonard Hankerson, and Albert Morris rushed for two touchdowns to propel the Redskins (8-6) to their fifth consecutive victory.

In November, the Redskins were 3-6 and seemingly out of contention in the NFC East. Now they are tied with the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys for the division lead. The Redskins and Giants split their head-to-head matchups, as did the Cowboys and Giants. Washington won at Dallas last month, and the teams meet again Dec. 30 in Landover, Md.

"It's been a long time, and it's great to be back," Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss said about being in first place.

The loss was bitter for the Browns (5-9). They rode a three-game winning streak into their final home game of 2012 and had faint playoff hopes, but those were snuffed out on a day when Brandon Weeden threw two critical interceptions.

"It kind of spiraled on us in the second half," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "As happy as I've been the last three weeks talking about team victories, it's safe to day this was a team loss."

The loss guaranteed the Browns will finish with a losing record for the fifth consecutive season. They must win at Denver and at Pittsburgh to prevent their fifth straight season of double-digit losses.

Weeden's first interception occurred on the second play of the second half. Linebacker Rob Jackson jumped to pick off a pass intended for Greg Little and returned the ball 17 yards to the Browns' 15-yard line. Three plays later, Morris scooted into the end zone from the 3 to give the Redskins a 17-14 lead, and they never looked back.

"I didn't see him," Weeden said. "Greg threw his hand up. He had his guy beat. I didn't see (Jackson) because of the blockers in front of me."

Cousins threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hankerson to increase Washington's lead to 24-14 with 7:40 left in the third quarter. Evan Royster and Morris added rushing touchdowns for the Redskins in the fourth quarter.

"We go out here and lay it on the line for each other each and every game," Morris said. "We had to go out and win this game, and we did."

Washington held the Cleveland offense in check most of the day. The Redskins hounded Weeden with a heavy pass rush and swatted his passes at the line of scrimmage.

Despite Washington's domination, the Browns led 14-10 at halftime on two rushing touchdowns by Trent Richardson.

Cleveland's rookie running back scored on a 6-yard run after an interception and 37-yard return by T.J. Ward set the Browns up at the Washington 6.

The Redskins tied the game on a 54-yard pass from Cousins to Hankerson when Hankerson got behind the Browns defense. Washington took the lead on a 44-yard field goal by Kai Forbath.

The Browns stitched together their only sustained drive near the end of the second quarter when they moved 75 yards in nine plays. Richardson finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown run.

NOTES: Redskins center Will Montgomery was knocked out of the game with a knee injury. ... Richardson has 11 rushing touchdowns for the season, a franchise record for a rookie. ... Phil Dawson, the Browns' kicker since 1999, played his final game with the team in Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday unless he gets a new contract.
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