Reporting Chuck Carroll
NEW ORLEANS (CBSDC) — Robert Griffin III didn’t need a rookie learning curve Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
The Heisman Trophy winner looked anything but inexperienced as the Washington Redskins survived a late scare and ushered in a new era with a 40-32 upset victory.
It was their highest point total since they scored 52 points against the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 23, 2005.
Griffin’s stat-line was all the Redskins could have hoped for — 19-for-26, 320 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 139.9. He also rushed for 42 yards.
The Baylor product became the first rookie to post a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the first half since at least 1970. He was only the 35th player overall to accomplish the feat.
Griffin didn’t throw an incomplete pass until 19 minutes had elapsed in the game. Back-to-back incompletions didn’t come until there was just over one minute remaining in the third quarter.
And while the rookie-lead offense was opening eyes, Jim Haslett’s defensive unit held the high-powered Saints largely in check for the better part of three and a half quarters before starting to bend.
Trailing 33-17 at the time, Drew Brees led the Saints on a six-play, 58-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore with 6:25 remaining in the game.
Less than three minutes later, New Orleans again would have the ball.
On their next possession, second-year safety DeJon Gomes returned a Brees interception 49 yards to the New Orleans three-yard line. Rookie Alfred Morris rushed for his second touchdown on the next play to again push the lead back to double-digits.
Brees and company answered back on their next possession. The Pro Bowl quarterback perfectly orchestrated a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive that took just 53 seconds off the clock and finished with a two-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles.
Washington chewed two minutes off the clock on their final possession and held on for the win after a last-second Hail Mary attempt was intercepted by Reed Doughty to seal the win.
The Redskins forced five three-and-out drives against an offense that had the fewest in football last season.
Brees completed 24 of 52 attempts for 339 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener. He was also sacked by Ryan Kerrigan and DeAngelo Hall and finished with a 70.9 passer rating.
After six season with the Minnesota Vikings, Cedric Griffin played well in his Redskins debut. The cornerback saved a would-be Saints touchdown late in the first half by stripping Marques Colston of the ball at the goal line. The ball rolled through the end zone, resulting in a turnover.
It wasn’t just Robert Griffin III ushering in a new era for the Redskins.
Shanahan, in his third season as head coach, is hammered home ‘the future is now’ mentality by starting rookie running back Alfred Morris ahead of Roy Helu.
Morris answered the call, rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.
In addition, veteran quarterback Rex Grossman was deactivated for the season opener, leaving fifth-round draft pick Kirk Cousins as Griffin’s backup.
Washington will next travel to St. Louis to face a Jeff Fisher led Rams team that nearly upset the Detroit Lions in their opener.
NOTES: X-rays on wide receiver Pierre Garçon were negative after he suffered an undisclosed injury to the top of his foot. Long snapper Nick Sundberg broke his left arm on a first half blocked punt, but was able to finish the game. Rookie safety Jordan Bernstine was carted off the field with a knee injury.