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ARLINGTON (AP) — Kirk Cousins wanted to keep the momentum he built late in the season even though the finale was meaningless for the playoff-bound Washington Redskins.
That is, until a Dallas defensive player rolled into his shins on a play not long before he came out of a 34-23 victory against the Cowboys on Sunday.
“You kind of sensed in the moment, the possible risk of injury when he rolled up into me, so I thought, we got to be smart here,” Cousins said. “Though you want to get into a rhythm, you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize your team.”
Besides, he had already extended a two-week groove unlike any previous Washington quarterback, throwing three touchdowns in the first quarter as the Redskins built a 24-0 lead.
“It was perfect,” tight end Jordan Reed said. “He came out there hot, got it over with and got out.”
The Redskins (9-7) won four straight to finish the season, their longest streak since winning the last seven the last time they made the playoffs in 2012. The NFC East champions will be the No. 4 seed on wild-card weekend and will host Green Bay (10-6) next Sunday.
The statistical target for Cousins — or maybe more for the teammates who wanted him to have the record — was Jay Schroeder’s 1986 franchise mark for passing yards in a season.
Cousins got it on his second throw of the second quarter — a 28-yarder to Jamison Crowder after he had already thrown all of his TD passes. He finished with 176 yards for the game and 4,166 for the season, just the third 4,000-yard performance in team history.
Had the game mattered, he might have threatened Sonny Jurgensen’s 48-year-old team record of 31 touchdown passes, instead settling for 29.
Kellen Moore had 435 yards passing and three touchdowns after throwing an interception and losing a fumble on a snap to help dig a quick 21-0 hole for the Cowboys (4-12).
It’s the most losses for Dallas since going 1-15 in 1989, the year owner and general manager Jerry Jones bought the team.
The stunning reversal for last year’s 12-4 division champion in a season mostly without quarterback Tony Romo because of a twice-broke left collarbone put the Cowboys back at .500 (152-152) going all the way back to 1997.
“It’s probably been as difficult as any season we’ve been a part of,” said 13th-year Dallas tight end Jason Witten, who scored his first touchdown since getting two in the opener. “It makes for a long offseason, and you really can’t put into words how you feel coming off last year.”
Things to consider as the Redskins start preparing for just the franchise’s fifth playoff appearance in the past 23 seasons:
GARRETT’S FUTURE: Jones left no question about whether Garrett will return after his record sunk to 46-44, including a 1-1 playoff mark. He’s 40-40 in his five full regular seasons that included three consecutive 8-8 records from 2011-13. “Let me be real clear: There’s no thought of replacing Jason. At all,” Jones said while adding that Garrett will make decisions regarding the coaching staff.
COUSINS’ ROLL: Cousins became the first to throw at least one scoring pass in all 16 regular-season games on a 5-yarder to Ryan Grant. He’s likely to lead the NFL with a 69.8 completion percentage after going 12 of 15. Jurgensen was the only other Washington quarterback to do that, in 1970.
FITTING: Dallas running back Darren McFadden epitomized the Cowboys’ loss. He fumbled into the end zone on his way to an easy fourth-quarter touchdown, the last of four turnovers without a takeaway for the NFL’s worst team in turnover margin (minus-22).
INJURY SCARES: Redskins cornerback Dashaun Phillips was taken to a hospital after being taken off the field on a cart with his head immobilized. He had movement in his extremities. Gruden said he had a cervical stinger but tests indicated he would be OK.
Safety Kyshoen Jarrett left the game with a concussion in the first quarter after a jarring collision with McFadden. He was getting an MRI on his neck.
SOUNDS BETTER: The finale had the look of a preseason game with plenty of empty seats at the $1.2 billion home of the Cowboys, and the feel of one with plenty of Washington subs in the second half. The Redskins cruised to the victory anyway.
“9-7 sounds a lot better than 8-8,” Cousins said. “In addition to that, we felt that it was important to go into the postseason with some momentum and on a rhythm.”
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