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Kirk Cousins gushes over 'creativity' of Kyle Shanahan

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If Washington plans to upset the Falcons on Sunday, a sneaky-talented Redskins defense must stay one step ahead of Atlanta play-caller Kyle Shanahan.

No simple task, according to Redskins starting passer Kirk Cousins.

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"When you look at creativity and the ability to not be predictable, I was on the Redskins with Kyle, knew the system and didn't know what was coming," Cousins said this week, per ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure. "I don't mean to say he was pulling stuff out of left field. The ability to be thinking of the next play and being a step ahead, I think there's a level of having the innate ability to do it that requires a quick mind. Kyle has that."

We've seen proof of that in Atlanta, where the new-look Falcons are pounding opponents for 113.5 rushing yards per game, up nearly 20 yards from last season. It starts with the line, where Shanahan's proven zone-blocking scheme has milked better play out of a cast of blockers that struggled before Shanny's arrival in 2014.

The more balanced attack has helped Atlanta churn out 34.3 points per game, third best in the league. That success is naturally anchored to the play of quarterback Matt Ryan and star wideout Julio Jones, but the team's NFL-leading 33 third-down conversions channel back to Shanahan's ability to catch defenses sleeping.

"I remember our very first game against the Saints, when Robert Griffin and I were rookies," said Cousins. "I remember calling my dad after the game and saying, 'I cannot believe how well-called that game was.' They kept the Saints on their toes the whole game. They had no idea what was coming next. All of it was positive plays that put (Griffin) and the offense in a good situation to be successful. So, that was kind of my first taste of how good of a play-caller Kyle really was."

Credit first-year Falcons coach Dan Quinn with nabbing one of the league's finest in-game play-callers, and one who played a major in helping the wayward Browns to a 7-4 start last season before the wheels fell off. Cleveland's loss is Atlanta's gain.

The question is whether Shanahan will last for long with the Falcons. If he keeps this up, the head-coaching offers should come sooner than some expected.

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