NEW ORLEANS (Sports Network) – Robert Griffin III had the best seat in the house as Pierre Garcon scampered 88 yards for Griffin’s first NFL touchdown.
Making his NFL debut, Griffin threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns on 19- of-26 efficiency as the Washington Redskins held off the New Orleans Saints, 40-32, on Sunday.
Late in the first quarter, Griffin took a big hit from safety Malcolm Jenkins before releasing the football downfield on a play-action pass to an open Garcon over the middle at the 30-yard line.
Griffin sat on the turf with both arms raised as Garcon, who caught four passes for 109 yards before exiting with a right foot injury, streaked down the left sideline for the score.
Griffin added 42 yards on 10 carries for Washington (1-0), which failed to score 30 points in any game a year ago.
“I think everybody was comfortable with the gameplan that we had coming in. We did a lot of things that we had not shown in the preseason,” Griffin said.
The Saints (0-1), playing in their first regular season game since the fallout from the bounty program, were led onto the field by interim head coach Aaron Kromer. He’s taking over for Sean Payton, who is banned for the entire 2012 campaign for failing to put a stop to the Saints’ scandal overseen by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Joe Vitt will take over the head coaching duties following his six-game suspension.
On Friday, a three-team collective bargaining agreement panel overturned the suspensions for four players connected in the program, two of which are current Saints. Defensive end Will Smith started Sunday, while Jonathan Vilma, who continues to heal from a serious knee injury, watched from the sideline. Vilma was originally suspended for the season, while Smith had a four-game ban.
Fresh off a new five-year, $100 million deal and one of the most prolific seasons in league history, during which Drew Brees established new NFL marks with 5,476 passing yards and a career-best 46 touchdowns, he completed 24- of-52 passes for 339 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
“Our fans deserved more than what we gave them today,” Kromer said. “And let’s credit the Redskins now. Let’s be honest, this team came in and played well.”
The Saints, who tallied an NFL low 23 three-and-outs in 2011, had four on their first six possessions before finally finding an offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 33-17 midway through the fourth quarter, Brees connected with Lance Moore in the back-left corner of the end zone for a 33-yard score and Darren Sproles ran it in for the two-point conversion, which made it 33-25.
New Orleans’ defense then forced the Redskins to punt, but Brees’ first pass was intercepted by DeJon Gomes and he returned it 49 yards to the Saints’ 3-yard line.
Morris ran it in the following play for a 40-25 spread with 3:23 to play, but the Saints countered with a brisk 10-play, 80-yard, 53-second trek, which was capped on Sproles’ 2-yard TD catch for a 40-32 game with 2:29 left.
The Redskins picked up a first down before punting the ball back to New Orleans, which took over at their own 20-yard line with 22 seconds to go.
Brees hooked up with Moore for gains of 15 and 26 yards before spiking the ball at the Washington 39-yard line with two ticks remaining. But Brees’ Hail Mary pass was intercepted by Reed Doughty in the end zone to seal the win for the Redskins.
Earlier, although he didn’t throw a pass past the line of scrimmage, Griffin was 6-of-6 for 35 yards on Washington’s opening 12-play, 49-yard drive, which was capped when Billy Cundiff snuck a 37-yard field goal just inside the right upright for a 3-0 Redskins lead.
The Saints countered on their ensuing series when Brees found Jimmy Graham for a 20-yard score in between two Washington defenders, which concluded a seven- play, 80-yard march, but the Redskins scored the next 17 points.
After Garcon’s 88-yard score, Griffin flipped a five-yard TD pass to Aldrick Robinson on Washington’s next offensive touch, and Cundiff added a 41-yard field goal midway through the second for a 20-7 Redskins advantage.
New Orleans, though, got within 20-14 after Martez Wilson blocked a Sav Rocca punt, and Courtney Roby scooped up the loose ball for a 4-yard touchdown.
Washington established a 16-point cushion in the third when Morris capped off its opening second-half, 77-yard trek with a 1-yard TD plunge. Following a Saints three-and-out, Cundiff booted through a 37-yarder for a 30-14 margin.
Hartley and Cundiff then traded field goals, 21 and 45 yards, respectively, which made it 33-17 early in the fourth.
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