NEW ORLEANS — Robert Griffin didn't see the defender coming. He let the ball fly toward Pierre Garcon and absorbed the hit.
By the time the Washington Redskins rookie got up, he saw Garcon racing toward the end zone and put his arms in the air. It was worth the pain for the biggest play of the day.
And Griffin's debut was worth every bit of the hype and expectations hoisted onto him since being the second pick in the draft. Flashing brilliance on the ground and in the air, Griffin led the Redskins to a stunning, 40-32 upset victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
The Redskins expected much of Griffin, but even this had to come as a surprise. He was 19-for-26 for 320 yards and two touchdowns and added 42 yards rushing.
Using zone read handoffs and plays he excelled with at Baylor, Griffin was in the spotlight all afternoon. His 88-yard touchdown pass to Garcon was part of a stellar beginning; he started out 8-for-8 and became the first rookie since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to put up a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the first half.
The Saints had no answers for Griffin's dual-threat abilities. He helped the Redskins put up the most points under coach Mike Shanahan.
The Redskins' defense managed to keep Drew Brees and a potent Saints offense under control until a fourth-quarter rally. When DeJon Gomes picked off Brees in the waning minutes, Alfred Morris put the exclamation point on Griffin's first NFL victory with a 3-yard touchdown run.
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