Redskins.com’s Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon’s regular season kickoff game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:
The career of franchise quarterback
Disregarding the final score, the Redskins took a monumental step forward today, and gave the NFL the first glimpse of a very bright future. This is a Saints team that has not lost at home since the reserves lost to Buccaneers in the final week of the 2010 season, and have not lost a home opener since 2007. The Redskins scored a total team victory and drastically re-wrote the predictions for 2012.
It wasn’t a scoring play, but Griffin III’s first completion to tight end
PLAY OF THE GAME
Robert Griffin III started the game with a perfect passer rating through the first two drives: seven-for-seven for 123 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target early was Garçon, who found a crease on a 20-yard pass and won a foot race to the end zone for an 88-yard score. No receiver on the roster last year could have made that catch, and certainly no one had the speed to elude the defensive backs for the next 60-plus yards.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
The story of the week was Robert Griffin III, and he backed it up with a performance not befitting the youngest quarterback in the NFL. He was the player of the game in New Orleans, and should receive consideration as the NFL Player of the Week, starting eight-for-eight for 149 yards, and finishing 19-for-26 for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
Redskins left tackle
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--The Redskins offseason: This was the first time that head coach Mike Shanahan has had a normal offseason in Washington, and maximized his resources and preparation time. The team revamped the offense and answered a lot of questions about what they’re capable of. All things considered, a road win in Griffin III’s debut, against one of the best teams in the NFL cannot be overstated.
-- The Redskins defense had a monster day, forcing the Saints into an early hole and helping take the enthusiasm out of the New Orleans crowd. The Saints made it a game in the fourth quarter, but the defense’s execution kept the pressure off of Griffin III and the offense.
--Stolen homecoming: Saints fans packed the Superdome for the home opener to celebrate New Orleans football and show solidarity after a tumultuous offseason. The Redskins were never given a chance in this game, but they by-and-large held their own and stole the storylines in the Bayou.
--Pierre Garçon validated his free agent payday, hauling in 109 yards and touchdown in the first quarter, before a foot injury sidelined him for the rest of the game. This was his seventh 100-yard game of his career, and his first in Washington. More than half of his yards came after the catch, a statistic that Redskins receiver lacked critically last season.
--Veteran Redskins receiver
--Alfred Morris could be the bruising physical back that the Redskins have missed since the days of Ladell Betts in Washington. Morris runs with an upright style that leaves him open to big hits, but his red zone and goal-line ability gives the Redskins running game a dimension that they’ve missed in recent years
--Kicker Billy Cundiff won the Redskins kicking battle from 40 miles north in Baltimore, and has been on the team for less than two weeks. Despite his lack of cohesion with the special teams unit, he worked to perfection today, keeping his kickoffs away from Darren Sproles and nailed each of his three field goal attempts.
--Redskins receiver Brandon Banks may not be a prototypical offensive threat, but head coach Mike Shanahan is committed to him as a playmaker. Banks handled all return duties today, and was targeted in the first quarter on a screen pass. Just like in the return game, Banks is better with blockers, but can cut harder than defenders in the open field.
--If Hall’s team-leading stat was odd enough, defensive end
WHAT WENT WRONG
--After not allowing a blocked punt against
The Redskins stay on the road and indoors next week, paying a visit to the Rams in St. Louis for the third-consecutive season. Griffin III will be matched by Sam Bradford and the new-look Rams under head coach Jeff Fisher. The Redskins will not return to FedExField until Week 3, when they host the Cincinnati Bengals.
With his 11-for-13, 182 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Griffin III became the 35th quarterback since the NFL merger to post a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the first half (with 10-plus attempts). Of those, he is the first to do it in his first NFL game, and the first rookie quarterback overall. He did not lose his perfect 158.3 rating until late in the third quarter.
The Redskins stood toe-to-toe with one of the most-prolific offenses in NFL history, and ultimately knocked off the giant. The coaching staff utilized all of Griffin III’s talents to pass, run and extend the play. Griffin III used all of his weapons, and adjusted well when he lost Garcon early on.
The Redskins will ultimately lead the league in time of possession after Week 1, holding it for a ridiculous 39:20. The last time the Redskins scored 40 or more points in game at home against the 49ers on Oct. 23, 2005. The last time they scored 40 points on the road was in a 40-10 victory in New Orleans on Dec. 30, 2001.
On the other side of the ball, the defense weathered an onslaught by Brees and company that took the game down to the wire. The Redskins dominated on third-down, holding the Saints to two conversions in 11 attempts. It was the classic metaphor of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, and the Redskins objectively came out on top.