Virtually no one outside of Redskins Nation truly believed that the Redskins could march into the Superdome on Sunday and come out with a win over the New Orleans Saints.
Although the odds-makers picked New Orleans as the seven-point favorite, nearly every single so-called football expert predicted that the ‘superior’ Saints would trounce the ‘inferior’ Redskins by a lot more than a touchdown.
In one of the boldest prognostications, NFL.com’s Adam Schein said “the New Orleans Saints will pound
Schein went as far as to say the game was over months ago, congratulated Griffin III for starting his career 0-1 and said that it’ll be a game that he’ll never forget.
At least Schein’s last prediction proved true, and for all the right reasons.
Washington was dominant in two out of three facets of the game and Robert Griffin III and the Redskins were victorious in their season opener on the road, 40-32, snapping the Saints’ eight-game home winning streak in regular season play.
Minus two special teams gaffes—a blocked punt resulting in a Saints touchdown and a mishandled snap that earned two separate penalties—the underdog Redskins played near-perfect football and convincingly outperformed the favored Saints.
Griffin III became the youngest quarterback to start a game for the Redskins since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger at 22-years and 210-days old. He earned his debut against arguably the loudest and most hostile environment in the league, and was hot right out of the gate.
He completed his first eight passes for 149 yards and a touchdown before throwing his first incompletion—all in the second quarter.
Numerous pundits have noted that most of those completions were short screen passes on the team’s opening drive, but ignore the fact that it got Griffin III in a rhythm that carried him all day in a tough road atmosphere.
They also forget that those screens opened up the middle of the field, where Griffin III hit
Griffin III completed a historic 19-of-26 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns in his first NFL game. He finished with a passer rating of 139.9, a record for rookie debuts. The young signal caller became the first player in NFL history to compile 300-plus passing yards, two or more passing touchdowns and no interceptions in an NFL debut.
'A GAME HE WON'T FORGET':
Many people, including the entire FOX pre-game panel, predicted that the Redskins’ offense couldn’t match Drew Brees and the potent Saints’ arsenal that led the league in total offense a season ago.
The Redskins scored a steady 10 points in each quarter and outgained the Saints by more than 100 yards in the game, 464-358. Washington also controlled the clock, holding the ball for 39:10 to New Orleans’ 20:50.
Perhaps most importantly, the Redskins didn’t commit a turnover for the first time in 30 games, and only the third time in Mike Shanahan’s 33-game head coaching era in Washington.
This degree of offensive production was unexpected by most, especially considering the Saints’ defense was supposedly angry about the way the league handled the whole Bountygate situation, and at the same time driven by the overturning of player suspensions late last week.
Also, the Saints hired defensive guru Steve Spagnoulo as defensive coordinator in January to improve a New Orleans defensive unit that finished ranked 24th in 2011.
The defense that appeared angry and driven on Sunday, however, was that of Redskins’ defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
The Saints’ 358 yards of offense was the team’s lowest yardage output since compiling 283 yards against St. Louis in Week 8 of last season.
The Redskins’ defense forced a three-and-out by the Saints on three of the Saints’ first four drives. New Orleans had the fewest three-and-outs per possession in the NFL last year.
Redskins’ coaches and players attribute this dominant performance to all the hard work that the entire organization has put in both on and off the field this offseason, while some would like to point to the fact that suspended head coach Sean Payton wasn’t on the Saints’ sidelines on Sunday.
The young, aggressive Redskins team that we all saw on Sunday would’ve won regardless of who was at the helm for the Saints.
Payton is no defensive guru for sure, and the porous Saints’ defense had no answers for Griffin III and the motivated Redskins’ offense. Even if New Orleans’ had tacked on a safety and scored the 34 points that they averaged per game last season, the Saints still would’ve lost by a touchdown.
So the haters will continue to hate and make pointless excuses, but the great thing about it is that the Redskins are poised to give them a lot to hate on his season.