LANDOVER, Md. — Cashing in with four red zone touchdowns and taking the ball away at crucial moments allowed the Washington Redskins to win a game they could’ve easily lost to the Cleveland Browns.
Kirk Cousins threw three touchdown passes, including two to tight end Jordan Reed, and the Redskins forced three second-half turnovers to complete a 31-20 victory Sunday that kept the Browns winless on the season.
“It’s just what we needed to do,” said Cousins, who was 21 of 27 for 183 yards and also had an interception. “The defense did a great job at getting us momentum with those turnovers. We ran the ball well. … I think being able to run the ball effectively certainly got us going.”
Washington (2-2) scored more touchdowns in the red zone against Cleveland (0-4) than it did in the first three games of the season, when it was 3 for 14 . Cousins connected with Reed for 8- and 9-yard touchdowns, Chris Thompson for a 5-yard score, and running back Matt Jones scored from 1 yard out as part of his 117-yard performance.
“We just found a way to execute, found some mismatches,” Thompson said. “The run game is key. Matt had a great day today and it was able to help out our pass game, help Kirk out.”
The Redskins blew a 14-0 lead and fell behind 20-17 before shutting down Cleveland’s running game and taking the ball back. Linebacker Will Compton forced a fumble by fullback Malcolm Johnson — on the first carry of his career — late in the third, Ziggy Hood knocked the ball out of Duke Johnson’s hands early in the fourth and Josh Norman picked off Cody Kessler to set up Jones’ touchdown.
“We’ve got to get stuff corrected,” Compton said. “But we won the game. We made big plays when we needed to make big plays.”
Browns running back Isaiah Crowell ran for 112 yards and a touchdown, and Kessler was 27 of 38 for 215 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
NEED FOR REED: With his 8-yard touchdown in the first quarter, Reed became the fastest tight end in NFL history to 200 career receptions. Reed hit the 200 mark in his 38th game, one faster than Pro Football Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow Sr., and had his fifth multi-touchdown game.
Reed made nine catches for 73 yards.
WHO RECOVERED?: Shortly after Duke Johnson’s fumble, he stood up and raised the ball, but the Redskins were given possession. The Browns weren’t exactly sure the call was the right one.
“Within half a second, Duke stood up and held it up in his hand. I think the ref was still trying to find out where the ball was,” Kessler said. “And Duke was yelling, ‘Hey, I got it right here! It’s right here!’ And unfortunately the call didn’t go our way.”
For his part, the running back said he was sure he had recovered the ball but blamed himself for losing it in the first place, not the refs for possibly ruling incorrectly.
PUT IT IN PARKEY: After missing three field goal attempts last week, including a 46-yarder at the end of regulation that could have won the game, Browns kicker Cody Parkey bounced back in a big way. In his second game with Cleveland, Parkey was good from 51 and 45 yards out.
REDSKINS DEFENSIVE BLOWS: Already without cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and DaShaun Phillips, the Redskins’ defense lost three more players against the Browns. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan left in the second quarter with an elbow injury, linebacker Su’a Cravens in the third with a concussion and safety David Bruton in the fourth with a concussion.
Coach Jay Gruden said Kerrigan would have an MRI on his elbow.
On the Cleveland side, center Austin Reiter injured his left knee, and tight end Randall Telfer injured his ankle.
JACKSON’S CLEATS: Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson wore cleats with a design of yellow police “caution” tape to “start dialogue about the senseless killings of both citizens and police.” Originally set to wear them just in warmups, Jackson said he felt it important to wear the cleats during the game, too.
“I felt like I’ve been silent long enough,” Jackson said. “Whatever the response is, that’s what it is, but I feel it’s time for me to make a stance.”
PRYOR CHANNELS LEBRON: After his first career touchdown catch, Terrelle Pryor mimicked LeBron James’ famous chalk celebration, throwing the ball into the air. He earned a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his trouble.
Redskins cornerback Will Blackmon on Norman, penalized for a bow and arrow celebration following his interception: “I didn’t know they got him for that, and Josh did it like way off the sideline too. Josh. Josh is a honey-baked ham.”
Browns running back Duke Johnson: “That’s what’s most upsetting: We’re knocking on the door. … We’re just not finishing.”