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Kirk Cousins-led Washington Redskins control NFC East

Robert Griffin III brought them here, but the Washington Redskins grabbed control of the NFC East on Sunday behind the play of Kirk Cousins.

The rookie backup quarterback overcame a rough start to pull out a 38-21 win over the Cleveland Browns. With the New York Giants (8-6) stumbling hard against the Atlanta Falcons, the Redskins (8-6) now own the division and have Cousins to thank.

The Browns came out hell-bent on shutting down the run and forcing Cousins to make throws. The plan worked early. Cousins tossed a first-quarter interception and opened 1-of-6 passing.

Then Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan did something wise: He showed remarkable confidence in Cousins, dialing up an aggressive downfield strike on which the rookie weaved the ball through coverage to Leonard Hankerson for a 54-yard touchdown. That started a 7-of-7 streak for Cousins, who finished 26-of-37 passing for 329 yards and two scores.

"This isn't my first rodeo," Cousins told reporters after the game. "I played a lot of football in the Big Ten, and I had games like that where you start slow -- and you gotta have character, and you gotta find it within yourself to dig deep. And that's what we did, and that's what I'm proud of our team for, the way we didn't get spooked by a slow start."

The Redskins employed a heavy dose of bootlegs and play-action passes to buy Cousins time to find his targets. His work through the air forced the Browns to respect the pass.

This is a smart young quarterback who settled down and made the most of a golden opportunity. The Redskins now control the NFC East because of what Cousins accomplished Sunday.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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