Landover, Md. — There were plenty of reasons for Kirk Cousins and Washington to believe this game was not going to go their way.
Washington trailed by 24 points in the second quarter, a deficit the team never had overcome in a victory. Cousins hadn’t thrown more than one touchdown pass in any game this season.
At halftime, coach Jay Gruden — who had pronounced Sunday’s matchup against the Buccaneers a “code red” situation — lit into his players.
Something finally clicked. Cousins threw for three second-half TDs, including the go-ahead score to Jordan Reed with 24 seconds left, and Washington came back to stun the Bucs 31-30 for the largest comeback in franchise history.
“Everybody was pretty upset. Jay was livid,” left tackle Trent Williams said about a loud halftime locker room. “You rarely every see him in that state. But he was on the gas.”
Cousins (Michigan State) also ran for an 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter, making it 24-7 after two quarters.
“It was a good lesson: Just keep playing and you never know what can happen,” Cousins said.
There were those wondering whether his time as the starting QB might be coming to an end. But he got a pair of 3-yard scores in the third quarter — one to Ryan Grant, the other to Reed — sandwiched around an onside kick, to make things interesting.
There is a clear pattern to Washington’s season so far: In the team’s three wins, Cousins has not thrown a single interception; in each of the four losses, he has been picked off twice.
This was the fourth-year QB’s second last-minute comeback win this season, both at home. Cousins led Washington past Philadelphia in Week 4.
This time, trailing 30-24, Washington got the ball at its 20 with a little less than 21/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Cousins threw on every play, going 9 for 11 for 75 yards, capped by the 6-yard toss to Reed on a slant.
Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, was 21 for 29 for 297 yards and two first-half touchdowns that helped Tampa Bay (2-4) build its massive lead. Doug Martin ran for 136 yards on 19 carries, but it was 5 yards he didn’t gain that might have swung the outcome.
With 4 minutes remaining, Martin broke off a 49-yard run up the right sideline and appeared set to score, until cornerback Bashaud Breeland tracked him down, catching up to make the tackle at the 5. Breeland injured his right hamstring on the play and left the game.
“They score there,” Gruden said, “the game’s over.”
Instead of a TD, Tampa Bay wound up settling for Connor Barth’s third field goal.
(At) Miami 44, Houston 26: The Dolphins became the first team since at least 1940 to score four offensive touchdowns of at least 50 yards in a half. Miami (3-3) led 41-0 at halftime.
“I always said this team had the players and playmakers and talent to play like we have the last two weeks,” said Ryan Tannehill, who completed his first 18 attempts and threw for four scores.
Dan Campbell is the fifth interim coach of 26 since 2000 to win his first two games.
Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett missed the team flight and made the trip on his own.
“You’ve got to be on time,” Mallett said. “That’s not the leadership role I need to exhibit. I need to be better.”
(At) N.Y. Giants 37, Dallas 20: Dwayne Harris sped 100 yards with a kickoff return against his former Dallas teammates seconds after the Cowboys had tied Sunday’s game.
Harris spent four seasons in Dallas without running back a kickoff for a score. But he tied a Giants record set in 1994 by romping untouched to the end zone.
New York (4-3) ended a five-game slide against Dallas (2-4). Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two interceptions, returning one 58 yards for a touchdown.
The Cowboys, losers of four in a row, got a big game from Darren McFadden, who rushed for 152 yards and a TD.
(At) St. Louis 24, Cleveland 6: Todd Gurley rushed for 128 yards and two TDs, from 1 and 16 yards, for the Rams.
“He’s a playmaker,” teammate Kenny Britt said. “He can change the game and he’s going to really help us out.”
St. Louis (3-3) had four sacks and recovered four fumbles.
The Rams scored 10 points off miscues on Cleveland’s first two series, a 17-yard fumble recovery by Rodney McLeod and a field goal after the first of William Hayes’ two sacks and strips of Josh McCown on the day.
McCown has lost to the Rams for three straight seasons with three different teams. He was with Chicago in 2013 and Tampa Bay last year.
New Orleans 27, (at) Indy 21: Drew Brees threw for 255 yards and one touchdown, Khiry Robinson ran for two scores and the Saints held off the Colts’ late comeback try.
New Orleans (3-4) has won three of its last four. Indy (3-4) leads the AFC South despite losing its second straight.
Brees finished 28 of 44 and was helped by a running game led by Mark Ingram, who ran for 143 yards and one score as New Orleans took a 27-0 lead.
But Andrew Luck and the Colts wouldn’t go away. He threw TD passes of 87 and 46 yards to T.Y. Hilton and an 8-yard TD pass to Donte Moncrief with 3:46 left to make it 27-21. Indy could not recover an onside kick and Brees ran out the clock.
“When we had them at zero, we needed to keep them at zero,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “We can’t get excited about shutting out a team for a half. We still have to finish the game.”
Oakland 37, (at) San Diego 29: Derek Carr threw three touchdown passes, including a 52-yarder to Amari Cooper, and the Raiders turned two interceptions of Philip Rivers into 10 points.
It was the first meeting of the Raiders (3-3) and Chargers (2-5) since their owners announced plans to build a $1.7 billion stadium in an industrial Los Angeles suburb if they can’t get new stadiums in their home markets.
Atlanta 10, (at) Tennessee 7: Matt Ryan threw for 251 yards and a touchdown pass, and Devonta Freeman ran for 116 yards for the Falcons.
The Falcons (6-1) bounced back from their first loss this season by grinding out a road win and overcoming two interceptions.
“At the end of the day, a win’s a win,” Ryan said. “When you go on the road in this league and get it done … that’s rewarding.”
The Titans (1-5) lost their fifth straight and ninth consecutive on their home field dating back to last season. They played without rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and two starters in their secondary.
But Zach Mettenberger was intercepted by Falcons safety Robenson Therezie with 1:31 left to seal Atlanta’s victory.
Jacksonville 34, Buffalo 31: In London, Blake Bortles threw a touchdown pass to Allen Hurns with 2:16 remaining for the Jaguars.
Bortles’ second TD pass of the game came a short time after Buffalo safety Corey Graham intercepted a pass and returned it 44 yards to put the Bills ahead.
The Jaguars (2-5) won their first game in London after losing in each of the past two seasons at Wembley.
(At) Carolina 27, Philadelphia 16: Cam Newton took another step toward rewriting the NFL record book, and the Panthers improved to 6-0 for the first time. Newton threw for a touchdown and ran for another, marking the fourth time this season he has accomplished that feat in a game and 28th time in his career — three behind Hall of Famer Steve Young for the league record.
Jonathan Stewart ran for 119 yards and Mike Tolbert scored two touchdowns for Carolina, which has won a franchise-record 10 straight regular-season games dating to last season.
Ryan Mathews ran for 97 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown, but the Eagles (3-4) were only able to convert three interceptions by Newton into six points.
The Panthers held Sam Bradford to 205 yards passing and sacked him five times, including twice by Jared Allen.