GLENDALE, Ariz. - The pressure came, and it never left quarterback Kirk Cousins's sight. The Washington Redskins' offensive line has fared well in pass protection throughout the season, but it couldn't sustain its season-long performance against the Arizona Cardinals' front seven.
Cousins didn't have a clean pocket all game, and it proved too much to overcome during the final possession in Washington's 31-23 loss at University of Phoenix Stadium. Trailing by one possession on the final drive, Cousins was intercepted by cornerback Patrick Peterson to hand Washington consecutive losses for the first time since the first two weeks of the season, when it fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys.
Cousins threw behind Jamison Crowder, who was open, on the blitz and the ball fell into Peterson's lap. Cousins finished 21 of 37 for 271 yards with two total touchdowns.
The Redskins trailed 10-6 at halftime, but were fortunate they didn't face a larger deficit heading into the locker room. Washington struggled offensively against a Cardinals secondary that ranked second in pass defense entering the game, but it was due to self-inflicted wounds. All five Redskins penalties in the first half were mental errors by the offense: four false starts and an illegal shift that totaled 25 yards.
Each penalty was as costly as the next. Tight end Derek Carrier was called for an illegal shift on first and goal at the 1-yard line. Washington gained the five yards back on the following play, but it couldn't gain a yard on running back Rob Kelley's rush and Cousins's fade pass to DeSean Jackson. The Redskins settled for a field goal, one of three in the game.
Washington trailed throughout the first 30 minutes of the game following a disastrous start on both sides. Arizona's opening drive lasted more than eight minutes, lasting 15 plays for 75 yards that ended on a one-yard touchdown from running back David Johnson. The Redskins' offense responded with a three-and-out on its first drive, finishing the series with a yard lost on three plays because of two false start penalties and a sack.
The offense came to life in the second half, scoring touchdowns on two of its first three drives. The Redskins took the lead after the first series in the third quarter on Cousins's one-yard sneak. They reached the goal line on the five-play, 74-yard drive because of a beautiful pass from Cousins to Jackson for 59 yards that set up Washington's first touchdown.
The Redskins squandered an opportunity to take a commanding lead in the third quarter. Cardinals place kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed a 53-yard field goal to give Washington great field position, but Cousins fumbled on the second play of the ensuing drive. Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell manhandled left guard Shawn Lauvao to force the sack fumble, which was recovered by outside linebacker Markus Golden. Arizona scored three plays later on Michael Floyd's six-yard touchdown reception to take a 17-13 lead.
The two teams exchanged leads twice more. Cousins responded with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Crowder, who was wide open in the slot, to regain the lead on an eight-play, 75-yard drive. The Cardinals retaliated with a 25-yard touchdown reception to Johnson to go up for good. Johnson recorded 175 total yards, his 12th straight game more than 100, on 18 carries and nine receptions. He had two touchdowns.
Washington fell to 6-5-1 with its latest loss and out of the sixth seed in the NFC wild-card picture with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeating the San Diego Chargers. The Redskins are now a half-game game behind the Bucs for the final wild-card spot with four weeks remaining.
Master Tesfatsion covers the Washington NFL team for The Washington Post. He previously covered the Minnesota Vikings for the Star Tribune for two seasons before joining The Post in 2015. When he's not writing or tweeting about the Washington NFL team, he loves to discuss music, fashion and his alma mater – Arizona State.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Master Tesfatsion