Robert Griffin III directed four touchdown drives, threw for 320 yards and led the visiting Washington Redskins to a stunning upset of the New Orleans Saints.
There was only one miserable failure Sunday for the young quarterback.
He flopped at looking like a rookie.
Playing in the city where both of his parents were raised, Griffin had the ease and aplomb of a seasoned pro in a 40-32 victory at the Superdome, where no visiting team had won since the 2010 season.
On a pick-fest of a day for the other rookie quarterbacks — Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden had four passes intercepted, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Miami’s Ryan Tannehill had three each, all in losing efforts — Griffin played turnover-free football. In a late game at Arizona, rookie Russell Wilson had the Seahawks on the doorstep of victory, but Seattle lost, 20-16, on three end-zone incompletions from the four-yard line.
Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall draft pick, made good on all of the hype surrounding him, throwing for more yards than any rookie in a season opener except for Cam Newton, who rolled up 422 yards last year in a Week 1 loss at Arizona.
Griffin completed his first eight passes, including one to Pierre Garcon for an 88-yard touchdown, the Redskins’ longest pass play in 35 years. His passer rating was a gaudy 139.9, and he triumphed on a day when the Saints’ Drew Brees threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’ve won a high school state championship and a bowl game in college,” said Griffin, who also threw a five-yard scoring pass to Aldrick Robinson in the second quarrter. “But to play in the NFL, the pinnacle of it all, and to win your first game against a Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, it’s at the top.
“After the game, [Brees] told me he was proud of me. That’s big for him to say after he just lost the game.”
With the regular game officials still locked out, replacements worked the games with varying levels of effectiveness.
An official threw — then picked up — a flag at Green Bay when Packers returner Randall Cobb ran back a punt 75 yards for a touchdown. The call appeared to be for a block in the back by the Packers and would have nullified the touchdown. When the flag was picked up, San Francisco Coach Jim Harbaugh looked as if his head might pop.
In Tennessee, the Titans weren’t happy about three non-calls on what they thought should have been pass interference. Coach Mike Munchak said there will always be calls that aren’t made by officials, whether the regulars or replacements are on the field.
In Houston, referee Don King drew laughter when he called a penalty on “Texas,” but that could happen to anybody.
Shannon Eastin became the first woman to officiate a regular-season game, working as a line judge in the Rams-Lions game.
Hello, Canton. Clear a space for David Akers’ shoe.
The San Francisco kicker booted a 63-yard field goal at Green Bay, the ball doinking the crossbar and just popping over, to tie the league record shared by Tom Dempsey, Jason Elam and Sebastian Janikowski.
The kick was a good omen for the 49ers, who won at Lambeau Field, 30-22, in what could be a preview of the NFC championship game.
Quote of note
San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis, to NBC, on the 49ers’ beating the Packers: “People thought they were going to beat us by all these touchdowns. But I don’t know who they think we are, man. We’re on a mission.”
The first-team offense of the New York Jets went three-quarters of the exhibition season without scoring a touchdown but made up for that Sunday in a 48-28 rout of Buffalo. Mark Sanchez threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns, and the Jets effectively sprinkled in Tim Tebow with the wildcat package. Tebow had five carries for 11 yards, and recovered an onside kick.
That will quiet the circus talk, for a week at least.
“Vindication, chip on our shoulder, maybe that’s not the right things,” Coach Rex Ryan said. “We were just excited to play.”
You can’t spell dynasty without “nasty,” and that’s the way the Philadelphia Eagles looked throughout most of their 17-16 victory at Cleveland.
Why the Eagles kept letting Michael Vick fling it is anybody’s guess, especially with so many of his throws looking so haphazard. He threw 56 passes, four of which were picked off. And it’s not as if his team couldn’t run. Philadelphia averaged 5.0 yards in 30 carries.
Vick, remember, said this summer that the Eagles have dynasty potential.
With the way Vick played, it’s no secret why Andy Reid was angling to be a player in the Peyton Manning derby this off-season.
“I thought he was rusty,” Reid said of Vick. “But he kept competing, kept shooting. He’s our quarterback and he has to work through it.”
Winning ugly 2
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford had three passes intercepted in the first half against St. Louis, including one that Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan returned for a touchdown. Like Vick in Cleveland, Stafford came back in the second half to throw the winning touchdown pass.
The first backup quarterback to replace a starter this season was the Titans’ Matt Hasselbeck, who had cleanup duty in Jake Locker’s starting debut. It was a rough one for Locker, who was sacked twice and fumbled twice. He left in the fourth quarter after suffering a shoulder injury while making a tackle on a fumble return.
“I’m not going to let a guy run into the end zone,” said Locker, who conceded he’s sore but expects to play Sunday at San Diego.
Tom Brady might have come away with a broken nose after a hard sack by Tennessee defensive end Kamerion Wimbley. The New England quarterback and GQ cover boy was wearing a white bandage on his nose after the Patriots’ 34-13 victory.
Joked Brady: “I need some scars.”
Uncool play of the day
Lions receiver Calvin Johnson had his helmet knocked off on a big catch, and a small jaw pad fell onto the turf. Finnegan picked up the pad after the play and, instead of handing it back to Johnson, tossed it over to the St. Louis sideline.
That’s Finnegan. No wonder normally reserved Houston receiver Andre Johnson snapped on him a couple of years ago and pounded him with a flurry of punches.
Dunks for nothing
Tony Gonzalez poured the foundation for his Hall of Fame-worthy career in Kansas City. Still, Chiefs fans didn’t appreciate it when the Atlanta tight end dunked the football over the crossbar, his traditional celebration, after scoring a touchdown upon his return to Arrowhead Stadium. He was booed.
In Green Bay, the reaction was more guffaws when San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis tried to pull the same stunt. He mistimed his jump and was rejected by the bar.
Davis is a freakish athlete, one of the best in scouting-combine history, so he probably surprised himself. Still, it’s a fair question:
You call that a Lambeau Leap?