Best and worst moments from the Redskins’ 40-32 season-opening win over the Saints in New Orleans.
Best Stats: The Redskins didn’t score 30 points once in the 2011 season. They hadn’t scored 30 points in a season opener since 2002. They hadn’t scored 33 points in Mike Shanahan’s entire tenure. They hadn’t hit 40 since Joe Gibbs retired. They hadn’t reached 40 in a season opener since September of 1991. Hmmm. That was an interesting season.
Best Other Stats: According to Fox, no rookie quarterback had led his team to at least 40 points since 1950.
Best Other Other Stat: Also according to Fox, Robert Griffin III’s 320 passing yards were the second-most ever from an NFL rookie in week 1. And according to Neil Greenberg, the last time a Redskins rookie had a QB rating over 135 while also passing for at least 200 yards was Norm Snead in 1961.
Best Score-by-Quarters: I’m not into numerology or anything, but 10-10-10-10 is pretty cool.
Best Beginning, Part I: RGIII went 6-for-6 for 35 yards on his first career drive. The drive lasted 12 plays and more than seven minutes and ended with a field goal and three points. The Redskins scored on just three of their 16 first drives in 2011.
Best Beginning, Part II: But that was nothing. Because by the end of the first quarter, Griffin was 7-of-7 for 123 yards with a touchdown, and Washington had the lead. Rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to do that, on the road, in a dome, in their NFL debuts.
Best Beginning, Part III: But that was nothing. Because by the end of the first half, Griffin was 11-for-13 for 182 yards and two touchdowns, without a turnover. Griffin ended the half with a perfect passer rating, the first time a rookie QB with at least 10 attempts had done that since at least 1970.
Best Tweet: From @BurgundyBlog: “I’m ready to call the Rams back and offer more.”
Best Play: Forget the touchdowns. Forget the scrambles. The play that gave me chills came in the second quarter, when Griffin rolled left, avoided traffic, surveyed the field, and drilled a ball from sideline to sideline, directly into Fred Davis’s arms as the tight end tiptoed in front of the line. It went for 26 yards, and it was a play no Redskins quarterback in forever has made. Not like that.
Best Youth Movement: For better or worse, the future arrived Sunday afternoon, with a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back on the field together. NFL PR noted that RGIII and Morris were the first rookie RB/QB duo to start a game for the Skins in the Super Bowl era.
Best Defensive Start: I would not have predicted that the Saints would gain zero yards in their first possession against a supposedly spotty secondary. Nor would I have predicted three false starts or motion penalties and three three-and-outs before the end of the first half.
Best Aggression: The Redskins went on 4th-and-short twice. They converted both, the first on a run, the second on a pass interference call in the end zone. And sure, it’s easy to praise the calls after you know the result, but I liked the calls before I knew the results. I swear.
Best Aggression, Part II: Mike Shanahan surprised everyone by throwing on 2nd-and-long as the two-minute warning approached. Griffin surprised everyone even more by finding Logan Paulsen for 22 yards and a first down that essentially clinched the win.
Worst Officiating Decision: Tough call. Was it the weird forward-progress call on Jimmy Graham, negating what sure seemed to be a fumble. Of was it the ticky-tack pass interference call against Roman Harper in the end zone, or the equally ticky-tack call against DeJon Gomes later in that third quarter?
Best Yards-After-Catch: Pierre Garcon’s first-quarter 88-yard touchdown catch was really about a 15-yard catch and a 73-yard run. This is the exact thing the Redskins said they were looking for from their prized free agent acquisition. It was tied for the second-longest TD pass by a rookie in his NFL debut, and it was Washington’s longest non-strike touchdown pass in 571 games, dating to Billy Kilmer in 1975.
Worst Drops: Fred Davis for the offense. A third-quarter pass from Griffin was right in his hands. Brian Orakpo for the defense. A fourth-quarter pass from Drew Brees was right in his hands.
Best Catch: Graham’s one-handed grab over the middle in the first half was absurd. Yes, he plays for the Saints, but it was the best catch in the game, and it had people wondering how the Redskins would deal with him. Answer: just score 40 points, no big deal.
Best Other Debut: Aside from Griffin and Garcon, how about Billy Cundiff? The team’s new placekicker, who had all of one preseason game with Washington, was 4-for-4 on field goals, all from at least 37 yards. He also had six touchbacks; on two other kickoffs that were returned, the Saints failed to reach the 20.
(Second)-Best Griffin: Cedric Griffin took a lot of heat during the preseason, but he made a crucial play on Sunday, stripping Marques Colston as the Saints receiver headed inside the 10-yard line. He also blanketed Colston during a third-quarter pass down the sidelines, and broke up a pass to Joe Morgan in the end zone.
Worst Momentum Changer: Everything was going Washington’s way when they prepared for their first punt late in the first half. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown turned a 13-point game into a one-possession game, and got the crowd back into it. Though I guess that momentum didn’t result in much of anything.
Worst Commentary: “This is shocking to me to see in a Danny Smith-coached team,” Daryl Johnston said, after that blocked punt. I mean, I don’t have the stats in front of me, but I’m pretty sure the Redskins had 5,000 kicks blocked last season.
Best Defensive Play: London Fletcher, now 90 years old and living part-time in a nursing home, showed some young-man speed on a crucial 3rd-and-goal, arriving in time to break up a pass to Darren Sproles, a man 65 years his junior.
Worst Mixed Feet: At the worst possible time, Griffin and Morris tangled feet late in the fourth quarter, leading to a nine-yard loss and, ultimately, a punt.
Worst Penalty, Part I: No late hits from safety LaRon Landry? Fine, let’s replace those with late hits from safety DeJon Gomes. Giving 15 yards and a first down to Drew Brees seems like a poor idea. Gomes’s first-quarter hit extended a New Orleans drive and led to the Saints’ first touchdown.
Worst Penalty, Part II: Jarvis Jenkins turned a Saints 2nd-and-20 into a first down with an illegal hands to the face in the third quarter. The Saints drove for a field goal after the call.
Worst Blunder: The Saints negated a Redskins punt with 12 men on the field late in the third quarter. That’s something losing teams do. They also committed 12 penalties for 107 yards, although the Redskins were penalized 12 times for 127 yards.
Worst Preseason Storyline: Hey, it’s early, but the preseason storyline — in my mind, too — was offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. That will not be the storyline after week 1.
Best Turnover Ratio: The Saints had two turnovers. The Redskins had zero. Repeat: the Washington Redskins did not turn the ball over. Not once. The team had turned the ball over at least once in 30 straight games, which was the longest streak in the NFL.
Worst Media Momentum:Uh, remember the first-place Washington Nationals? Yeah. It’ll be ok in the playoffs, but until then, good luck guys.
Best Amazing Recovery of a Fumble Leading to an Amazing Rugby Punt That Was Called Back Due to Illegal Touching: Sav Rocca.
Best Debut: Stephen Strasburg or Robert Griffin III? Honestly, I’m not sure. And I never thought it would be a question.
(Many thanks to Post contributor Neil Greenberg for many of these stats.)