The Redskins decided one game without Robert Griffin III couldn’t hurt.
The star rookie quarterback disagreed, but after backup Kirk Cousins kept Washington’s winning streak and playoff hopes intact, Griffin understood.
First place has him feeling better.
Cousins threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns filling in for an injured Griffin, leading Washington to its fifth straight win, 38-21 over the Browns Sunday in Cleveland.
Cousins, drafted 100 spots after Griffin last spring, connected with Leonard Hankerson for both scores in his first career start and the Redskins (8-6) barely missed a beat without the talented and multidimensional Griffin, who sat out with a sprained right knee.
‘‘We’re in first place in our division now, and it was a great business trip for us,’’ Griffin said. ‘‘I got healthier by not playing, we won the game and put ourselves in position to control our own destiny.’’
Last week, Cousins came off the bench after Griffin got hurt against Baltimore and rallied the Redskins to an overtime win. Cousins was behind center from the start Sunday and delivered a performance that extended Washington’s longest winning streak since 2007 and moved the Redskins into a tie with the Giants and Cowboys atop the NFC East.
Rookie Trent Richardson had a pair of touchdown runs for the Browns (5-9), who had their winning streak stopped at three and faint playoff hopes snuffed out. Coach Pat Shurmur’s fate may have rested on the Browns winning out.
Wearing a burgundy warm-up suit instead of his No. 10 jersey, Griffin cheered from the sideline as Cousins kept the Redskins moving toward the playoffs. The fourth-round pick from Michigan State was efficient, accurate, and only made one major mistake — an early interception that set up Cleveland’s first TD.
Cousins finished 26 of 37 as the Redskins improved to 5-0 since their bye. They end the season with games against division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas, teams they beat to start their streak.
Broncos 34, Ravens 17
Denver cruised to its ninth straight victory — and Peyton Manning’s ninth consecutive win over the Ravens — with a surprising blowout in Baltimore. Chris Harris returned an interception 98 yards for a momentum-turning touchdown 15 seconds before halftime and Manning helped the Broncos (11-3) put it away after the break. However, the Ravens (9-5) still clinched a playoff berth thanks to Pittsburgh’s loss.
Manning was 17 of 28 and threw for 204 yards and a score, finding Eric Decker eight times for 133 yards. They connected on a 51-yard touchdown in the third quarter for a 24-3 lead.
In their first game under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, the Ravens committed two costly first-half turnovers. Trailing, 10-0, in the final minute of the half, Joe Flacco had first and goal at the 4 when Harris picked him off and outraced Baltimore’s quarterback to the end zone.
Flacco was 20 of 40 for 254 yards, 2 TDs, and the interception, and also lost a fumble that led to an early Denver field goal.
Packers 21, Bears 13
James Jones was on the receiving end of all three of Aaron Rodgers’s touchdown passes and Green Bay’s defense limited the Bears to just 190 total yards in Chicago. The win was the Packers’ sixth straight over their NFC North rivals and clinched the team’s second straight division crown.
Rodgers finished 23 of 36 for 291 yards and led Green Bay (10-4) from a 7-0 deficit to a 21-7 advantage. Linebacker Clay Matthews, playing for the first time since Week 9 because of a hamstring injury, registered a pair of sacks.
Chicago (8-6) has lost five of six and is in danger of missing the playoffs after starting 7-1.
Cowboys 27, Steelers 24
At Arlington, Texas, Brandon Carr intercepted a pass by Ben Roethlisberger in overtime and returned it 36 yards to set up Dan Bailey’s 21-yard field goal, and Dallas (8-6) moved into a three-way tie for the NFC East lead. Pittsburgh (7-7) lost for the fourth time in five games.
The interception ruined a strong game by Roethlisberger, who was 24 of 40 for 339 yards with two touchdowns. The Cowboys’ Tony Romo was equally effective, finishing 30 of 42 for 341 yards and two scores. On his 24-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant in the third quarter, Romo went over 25,000 yards passing for his career. Bryant extended his touchdown streak to six games while playing with a broken left index finger.
Saints 41, Buccaneers 0
Drew Brees made easy work of Tampa Bay’s league-worst pass defense by throwing for 307 yards and four touchdowns, and host New Orleans (6-8) recorded its first shutout in 17 years.Continued...