LANDOVER – Late in the fourth quarter during a tightly contested match between the Washington Redskins and the winless Cleveland Browns, the $75M man in Josh Norman stopped Cleveland’s possible scoring drive at the most opportune time.
Down by four and pinned on his own 2-yard line, Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler threw a pass toward Terrelle Pryor Sr. when Norman flashed in front and picked it off to tilt the scales in his team’s favor.
“I was trying to figure (Pryor) out,” Norman said. “I was figuring him out the whole first half. I was kind of, not getting frustrated with myself, but not really getting down either. Just know that my opportunity is about to come. I know it is coming, I know it is coming. When it does, make sure you execute. I came out of halftime and got in a whole different place.”
With the ball in Cleveland territory, Washington secured its second win of the season when running back Matt Jones plunged into the endzone to defeat the Browns 31-20.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins engineered a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive on the opening possession, capped off by an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Reed. Cousins only threw for 183 yards on the day, but tossed three touchdowns in the process. On Washington’s next possession, Cousins hooked up with Reed again for a 9-yard touchdown reception during an 80-yard drive.
The Redskins owned the first quarter of play, but Cleveland did not go down without a fight. Kessler relied on running back Isaiah Crowell to gash through Washington’s defensive unit for 23 yards until he hit paydirt on a 2-yard touchdown run to split the difference, 14-7.
It only took one play on the Redskins’ ensuing possession to change the tide of the game when Cousins threw an interception to Jamar Taylor. Kessler seized his opportunity to tie the game up. On third-and-seven, Kessler hit Pryor for a 9-yard touchdown to make it a game.
Nevertheless, Washington responded with a 49-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins to regain the lead with only 2:35 remaining in the second quarter. However, Browns kicker Cody Parkey nailed a 51-yard field goal as time expired to tie the game up at 17.
Kessler led another scoring drive when Parkey hit a 45-yard field goal to retake the lead at 20-17. In a back-and-forth battle, Cleveland threatened to score again late in the third quarter on Washington’s 16-yard line, that was until Browns fullback Malcolm Johnson fumbled away a scoring opportunity.
Cousins then put together a masterful drive. Down by three, Cousins led a 91-yard drive with the help of the bruising running game of Jones. Jones finished the contest with 117 yards and a touchdown, but backup running back Chris Thompson was the factor back and punched in a 5-yard touchdown reception to regain the lead.
“It felt good,” Jones said. “I felt like the line had a good scheme and they blocked their tails off for me. I just give all credit to them because they made big holes and I just did what I did on the second level, and God blessed me with the talent to make some people miss and get downhill. It felt good and just in the rhythm. As a back you want to get in the rhythm early and it felt good just to get downhill and just run over guys and look over your shoulder.”
Cleveland couldn’t muster any more points after Norman sealed the game defensively with the late interception, and Jones put the game away on the following drive to secure the Redskins’ second straight win.
Washington won’t have too far to travel as it takes on the Baltimore Ravens (3-1) on Oct. 9. The Ravens suffered a one-point loss to the Oakland Raiders this past weekend.
“I like the way we rebounded from being 0-2,” said Washington Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden. “Didn’t like being 0-2, but it’s good to get our first home win.
“I think there are a lot of positives that we can draw from our four-game start, and there’s a lot of things we can clean up. That’s probably going to be the case with every NFL coach out there now. So, it’s our job to keep them coached up and keep working, and it’s their job to want to come in and get better. That’s all we can do.”