In his first regular season NFL start, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III drove the Washington Redskins offense over the New Orleans Saints, building and holding onto a 40-32 lead Sept. 9 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Griffin III completed 19-of-26 for 320 yards and two touchdowns, and did not turn the ball over. The performance marked the first time the Redskins scored more than 30 points in the first week of the regular season since defeating the Arizona Cardinals 31-23 in 2002.

The Redskins clinched the season-opening victory when:
Saints quarterback Drew Brees tossed a last-resort pass to the end zone that was intercepted by ‘Skins defensive back Reed Dougherty as time expired. A touchdown pass could have led to a tie game and overtime, but Washington’s defense held him off for the 40-32 victory.

Outstanding Player of the Game:
No one outshined Griffin III, who was as good as the Redskins hoped when they drafted him with the second overall pick in this year’s draft. He came out early in shotgun formations, the same formation he ran comfortably as a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Baylor University. The shotgun-based formation allowed RGIII to survey the field and connect with two different receivers for scores.

Griffin’s first career touchdown, an 88-yard pass, was thrown to speedy wide-out Pierre Garcon in the first quarter. He later hooked up with receiver Aldrick Robinson on a short five-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

Those were Griffin’s only touchdown passes of the game, but he still led an offensive unit that scored 40 points, becoming the first rookie quarterback to do so in 62 years.

Unsung Hero of the Game:
While RGIII will get most of the credit for Washington’s scoring explosion, it was veteran kicker Billy Cundiff who accounted for 12 of the team’s points. Cundiff converted all four of his field goal attempts, including a tough 45-yarder during the fourth quarter.

Cundiff, who was signed by the Redskins just a week before the season began, has a reputation as a reliable kicker, but is still trying to prove he can bounce back from a dramatic failure last season. As the kicker for the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots, Cundiff missed a short field goal which would have tied the game.

Some Ravens fans still blame him for keeping the team from reaching the Super Bowl, which may have been one of the reasons Baltimore cut him during the final week of the preseason, allowing the ‘Skins to pick him up.

More Game Notes:
The Redskins’ defensive unit did a decent job containing Brees and the Saints’ high-powered offense. Brees completed 24-of-52 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns, but he also tossed two interceptions. Brees was sacked twice by Washington, once by second-year linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and once by blitzing defensive back DeAngelo Hall.

Washington recorded 464 total yards while the Saints finished with 358 yards. Both teams scored four touchdowns, but the ‘Skins’ field goals made the difference while New Orleans’ two turnovers did them in.

The Redskins also dictated the time-of-possession battle, holding the ball for 40 minutes compared to just 20 minutes for the Saints. Washington was able to manage the game clock well with its running game; running back Alfred Morris led the team with 96 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Griffin added 42 rushing yards of his own on 10 carries.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor