Redskins 40, Saints 32
Robert Griffin III brought his Heisman Trophy swagger to New Orleans and made his NFL debut look like a Big Easy.
Showing a veteran’s composure by scrambling only when necessary, the dynamic Redskins rookie quarterback tormented New Orleans’ defense with 320 yards passing and two touchdowns, and Washington held to beat the Saints on Sunday.
“I’ve won a high school state championship and a bowl game in college, but to play in the NFL, the pinnacle of it all, and win your first game against a hall of famer in Drew Brees, it’s at the top,” Griffin said while cradling the game ball he had just been given. “After the game, [Brees] told me he was proud of me. That’s big for him to say after he just lost the game.”
Opening with several short, quick throws, Griffin completed his first eight passes. His seventh pass, released just before he was leveled on by blitzing safety Malcolm Jenkins, hit former Mount Union standout Pierre Garcon in stride over the middle for an 88-yard touchdown, tying the second-longest scoring pass by a quarterback making his NFL debut.
Griffin finished 19-of-26 with no interceptions and a passer rating of 139.9. He also scrambled for 42 yards.
“Robert did an unbelievable job to play the way that he did in his first game in the National Football League,” said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, marveling at “the poise that he played with and some of the throws that he made.”
Rookie Alfred Morris rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Aldrick Robinson, a second-year pro making his NFL regular-season debut, had a 5-yard touchdown catch among four receptions for 52 yards.
The Saints pulled to 40-32 on Darren Sproles’ 2-yard reception.
But when Washington required a first down to all but put the game away, Griffin delivered a 22-yard strike to tight end Logan Paulsen.
After that, the Redskins ran the clock down to 22 seconds before the Saints got the ball back. Brees’ desperation pass was intercepted by Reed Doughty near the Redskins’ goal line as time ran out.
Brees still finished with 339 yards and three touchdowns, including scoring passes of 33 yards to Lance Moore and 20 yards to Jimmy Graham. That might have been enough if not for Griffin, a former Baylor star selected second overall in the draft.
The Saints might not have been pleased with the officials, but it was mostly their own mistakes that cost them — they were penalized 12 times for 107 yards.
The Saints were still without coach Sean Payton and assistant head coach Joe Vitt, both suspended as a result of the NFL’s bounty probe. Coaching duties were handled by offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, an experienced assistant, but new to the role he will serve for the first six games.
Bears 41, Colts 21
Jay Cutler threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns and Michael Bush added two scoring runs to spoil quarterback Andrew Luck’s debut in Chicago.
Brandon Marshall had nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in his first game since being reunited with Cutler, and Matt Forte ran for 80 yards and a score.
Luck finished his first NFL game 23-of-45 for 309 yards with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery early in the fourth quarter. He also was intercepted three times — twice by Tim Jennings — in an up-and-down effort as he steps in for the departed Peyton Manning.
Reggie Wayne caught nine passes for 135 yards. But it was a familiar result for a team with new management and a new coach in Chuck Pagano.
49ers 30, Packers 22
San Francisco’s defense smothered Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense for most of the game, then made one last stand to stop a late rally in Green Bay, Wis.
The Packers rallied from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and pulled within eight points when Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to James Jones with 6:05 left, but the 49ers’ defense held the Packers in the final minute to come away with a big win to open the season.
Randall Cobb’s 75-yard punt return for a touchdown and a two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter cut the 49ers’ lead to 23-15.
But Rodgers threw an interception to linebacker NaVorro Bowman, and Frank Gore ran for a 23-yard touchdown.
David Akers tied an NFL record when he kicked a 63-yard field goal to the end the first half, with the ball bouncing off the crossbar and going through the uprights.
Vikings 26, Jaguars 23
Rookie Blair Walsh kicked four field goals, including a 55-yarder as regulation time expired and another one in overtime, and Adrian Peterson returned from a left knee injury to lift the Vikings in Minneapolis.
Peterson ran 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings, who led for most of the second half until Blaine Gabbert’s 39-yard touchdown heave with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter put the Jaguars back in front.
For the first time since the NFL’s new overtime scoring rule was installed last season, the first team on the board didn’t immediately run off the field a winner.
After Walsh’s 38-yard kick, the Vikings had to play defense again while the Jaguars had their chance to match. But Gabbert was hurried into a fourth-down overthrow, spoiling the debut for Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey.
Lions 27, Rams 23
Matthew Stafford threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Smith with 10 seconds left.
Stafford made up for a shaky game by leading an 80-yard, nine-play, game-winning possession that included three passes of at least 18 yards in Detroit.
Sam Bradford directed a go-ahead drive that set up Greg Zuerlein’s 46-yard field goal and put the Rams ahead 23-20 with 1:55 left. But coach Jeff Fisher’s debut ended with a loss, because the Rams could not shut down Stafford in the end.
Stafford had three interceptions before halftime for the first time in his four seasons. Cortland Finnegan had a 31-yard interception return for a TD that gave the Rams a 13-7 lead late in the first half.
Jets 48, Bills 28
Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes, including two to rookie Stephen Hill, and the Jets eased concerns about their offense in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Jets sprinkled in their wildcat package with Tim Tebow, who was mostly quiet but recovered a late onside kick by Buffalo, and Jeremy Kerley had a touchdown catch and a punt return for a score. Antonio Cromartie also took one of New York’s three interceptions of Ryan Fitzpatrick to the end zone.
It was the most points the Jets have scored in a season opener. That’s from a team that had many wondering what to expect after the first-team offense failed to score a TD in the first three games of the preseason.
Meanwhile, Mario Williams, the Bills’ big free-agent signing, was quiet as the Jets’ offensive line protected Sanchez all game.
Texans 30, Dolphins 10
Arian Foster had two touchdown runs, Matt Schaub threw a TD pass to Andre Johnson, and Houston’s defense dominated rookie Ryan Tannehill and Miami in Houston.
Tannehill threw three interceptions in a 6-minute stretch late in the first half, and the Texans opened impressively in what they believe can be a Super Bowl season.
Schaub threw for 266 yards in his first action since fracturing his right foot in Week 10 last year, and Johnson finished with 119 yards receiving. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt deflected two passes that resulted in interceptions and also had 1½ sacks.
Marcus Thigpen returned a punt 72 yards for Miami’s touchdown. The Dolphins gained only 275 total yards in coach Joe Philbin’s coaching debut.
Patriots 34, Titans 13
Tom Brady threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and the defending AFC champions won easily in Nashville, Tenn.
Brady may have suffered a broken nose when he was sacked in the second quarter by Kamerion Wimbley, but he didn’t miss a play.
The Patriots ruined Jake Locker’s debut as Tennessee’s starter, sacking him twice and forcing two turnovers. Rookie Dont’a Hightower returned Locker’s fumble 6 yards for a TD in his own debut, and Stevan Ridley ran for 125 yards and a TD.
Also, Locker came out of the game after hurting his left shoulder when tackling safety Patrick Chung on a fumble return. He was replaced by Matt Hasselbeck.
Falcons 40, Chiefs 24
Matt Ryan threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, one of them to Tony Gonzalez in his return to Kansas City.
Ryan also ran for a TD, while Julio Jones caught six passes for 108 yards and two scores.
The Falcons took advantage of the Chiefs’ defense missing four starters. Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali was suspended for an unspecified violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy, and three others were injured.
Kansas City matched Atlanta most of the first half, trailing 20-17 at the break. But a missed field goal by Ryan Succop early in the third quarter proved to be the turning point.
Matt Cassel finished with 258 yards passing for Kansas City, but also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Buccaneers 16, Panthers 7
Tampa Bay’s rejuvenated defense came up with two interceptions against Cam Newton, and the Buccaneers won their debut under coach Greg Schiano in Tampa, Fla.
Josh Freeman threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams and Connor Barth kicked three field goals to help the Bucs stop a 10-game losing streak that prompted the firing of former coach Raheem Morris.
Schiano came to Tampa after he spent the past 11 seasons transforming Rutgers from one of the losingest programs in college football into a Big East contender.
Newton threw for 303 yards and one touchdown.
Cardinals 20, Seahawks 16
Kevin Kolb replaced injured John Skelton and led Arizona on the deciding touchdown drive, throwing 6 yards to Andre Roberts for a score with 4:59 to play in Glendale, Ariz.
Aided by two pass-interference penalties, Seattle drove to the Arizona 4 in the final seconds. But rookie Russell Wilson threw three consecutive incompletions, and the Cardinals held on.
Adding to the confusion, Seattle appeared to have called a timeout when it had none remaining, but that turned out to be a mistake by the replacement officials working the game.