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Redskins 40, Saints 32

The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- So much for a steep learning curve.

Showcasing an amazing athletic package of speed and accuracy, Robert Griffin III toyed with a dazed New Orleans Saints defense to power the Washington Redskins to a 40-32 victory Sunday in a spectacular NFL debut at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Except for a kneel-down at the end of the first half, Griffin led the Redskins to scores on seven of Washington's first eight possessions to spark the victory.

Griffin completed 19-of-26 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns, and the Saints never seemed to lay a glove on him even when they came with an all-out blitz.

Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan decided to ease Griffin in on his first NFL series, calling for a series of quick hitches to allow the rookie to settle in. Not that he needed it. Griffin completed all six passes for 35 yards, and Billy Cundiff's 37-yard field goal put Washington up 3-0. Cundiff had four field goals on the day, the others coming from 41, 37 and 45 yards.

Drew Brees answered with a gorgeous 20-yard TD strike over the middle to tight end Jimmy Graham, who used his 6-foot-7 frame to make a leaping reception over linebacker London Fletcher. That put the Saints up 7-3, but that turned out to be their only lead of the game.

On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, With Washington backed up on its 12-yard line following an illegal block on the ensuing kickoff, Griffin found Pierre Garcon open over the middle on a slant pattern. Safety Roman Harper was out of position, giving Garcon the freedom to motor the length of the field for an 88-yard score and a 10-7 lead.

At that point, Griffin was 7-of-7 for 123 yards.

After another Saints' three-and-out, Griffin took the Skins 57 yards on 12 plays to widen the lead to 17-7. Griffin flashed his dual-threat nature on the big play of the drive, rolling left and then throwing back across the field for a 26-yard completion to wide open tight end Fred Davis. The scoring pass was an easy five-yard flip to Aldrick Robinson.

Griffin made another big play with his feet on the Redskins' next possession, rolling left and throwing a 27-yard bullet to Santana Moss on third-and-6. That led to a 41-yard field goal by Cundiff and a 20-7 lead.

Griffin was nearly perfect in the first half, and his first-half statistics -- 11-for-13 for 182 yards and two TDs -- actually earned him a "perfect" QB rating of 158.3. Griffin also kept the Saints' defense off balance with play action and naked bootlegs, and he added 30 yards on nine carries.

Scoring two field goals and two touchdowns on their first four possessions, the Redskins dominated the Saints throughout the first half and led 20-7 a minute before halftime. But defensive end Martez Wilson broke through to block a Sav Rocca punt, and Courtney Roby scooped up the ball at the Washington 5 and scored to draw the Saints within 20-14.

Trailing 33-17 midway through the fourth quarter, Brees threw a 33-yard TD strike to Lance Moore and Darren Sproles converted the two-point conversion with a run off left to narrow the deficit to 33-25.

But DeJon Gomes picked off a Brees overthrow with 3:23 left, returning it 49 yards to set up Morris' 3-yard TD run for the 40-25 margin. Brees' 2-yard pass to Sproles with 2:25 left made it 40-32.

Notes: Brees' 20-yard touchdown strike to Graham in the first quarter gave him a TD pass in 44 consecutive regular-season games, three shy of Johnny Unites' all-time NFL record. ... Griffin's parents are New Orleans natives, and Griffin had about 50 extended family members in the Superdome, which was about a 12-minute walk from his family's former home. ... Garcon left the game shortly after his 88-yard TD catch with a leg injury.
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