ASHBURN, Va. — Kirk Cousins doesn’t let criticism of his play bother him, probably because he doesn’t hear it.
A four-game winning streak will do that for a quarterback.
The Washington Redskins’ starting QB has taken plenty of heat over time for interceptions, missed throws and other mistakes. Yet in a prove-it year playing with the franchise tag, Cousins has led the Redskins out of and 0-2 hole and has them on a four-game winning streak — drowning out a lot of the white noise.
Cousins said he’s “pretty ignorant” of what’s said about him, which is part of his recipe for success.
“Talking to Kirk, he doesn’t read it at all, so it doesn’t really get to him,” coach Jay Gruden said. “When you play quarterback in the National Football League, unless you’re one of the greatest of all-time — like Tom Brady or somebody — you’re going to have some negative criticism. … Really the only substitute and the only antidote is winning football games.”
Cousins won nine games in 2015 and led Washington to the playoffs in his first full season as an NFL starter. After throwing three interceptions in the Redskins’ two losses to open this season, Cousins has eight touchdowns to just three picks over the past four weeks.
As much as Cousins acts like he doesn’t hear anything from the outside, even wide receiver DeSean Jackson was critical of his quarterback last week. Jackson said he needed an “assist” from Cousins to do well and hoped that assist was coming sooner or later in the form of the ball being thrown his way more.
Cousins followed the game plan of throwing to Jackson more as part of his two-touchdown, 263-yard performance in a 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
“You’re going to have mistakes,” Jackson said Wednesday. “You’re going to have things that go wrong. But it really just (matters) how you respond to that. And I think he’s doing a good job of responding to what people said about him or ‘He wasn’t playing good’ or whatever. He’s bounced back.”
Cousins has completed 65 percent of passes and put up a QB rating of 97.0 during this four-game streak. With the help of a strong running game, Washington’s offense has been balanced enough to give Cousins time to breathe and consider his many options through the air.
On and off the field, teammates say Cousins handles big situations and navigates the team through them. To the 28-year-old Michigan State product, it’s just part of the job.
“I don’t walk into the huddle and say: ‘OK, guys, we’re going to stay poised. Nobody panic.’ We just go about our business,” Cousins said. “I haven’t been around this league forever, but in five years I’ve learned that things can change pretty quickly. You never try to get too high or too low and just don’t ride the roller coaster and be mature about it.”
Cousins’ maturity helped him outlast being Robert Griffin III’s backup and got him through previous years’ controversies. Now he goes into his first real hometown game at the Detroit Lions riding high because of the team’s success and his own play.
“I just think he needs to continue to go out and prove it to himself and everybody, and he’s doing that,” Gruden said. “At the quarterback position, I don’t think you can ever lack confidence. He has got to be confident in himself and the players around him. He’s just gaining momentum as the season goes on.”
It would be easy to let outside criticism — like Stephen A. Smith calling the Redskins “losers” on ESPN’s “First Take” — infiltrate the Redskins’ locker room, and some players fired back on Twitter about the derisive remark. But Cousins hasn’t seemed bothered by it.
“He has to be doing an exceptional job at it because I’m not really aware of any outside criticism that he incurs,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “When you play this game, somebody’s going to criticize you at some point, whether right, wrong or different. It just happens. As a professional, it’s almost your duty to not let the outside criticism affect what you do.”
Cousins joked that if he knew what was said or written about him, he probably wouldn’t be as friendly when talking to the media. He’s happy to put his headphones on and zero on, and the recent results have shown that to be an effective strategy.
“He’s been playing pretty good, and that’s what we need,” Jackson said. “However he plays is going to be (where) he takes us. He’s our guy, so we need him to take us as far as he can.”
Notes: Jackson was held out of practice Wednesday with a sore shoulder. Jackson expects to play against the Lions. … TE Jordan Reed wore a yellow noncontact jersey and was limited in practice after missing the Eagles game with a concussion. Reed didn’t want to get “too excited” about playing in Detroit, but Gruden hasn’t ruled him out. Reed said he knew he had a concussion in the third quarter Nov. 9 at Baltimore but didn’t tell anyone.
AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich contributed.