NEW ORLEANS — Robert Griffin III brought his Heisman Trophy swagger to New Orleans on Sunday 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 the Saints with 320 yards passing and two touchdowns, and Washington held on for 40-32 victory.
"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. "After the game, (Brees) told me he was proud of me. That's big for him to say after he just lost the game."
New Orleans hoped to open the season with a defiant show of force after the bounty scandal that overshadowed its offseason.
But the Saints spent much of the game trying to keep up with a Redskins offense powered by youth. Opening with several short, quick throws, Griffin completed his first eight passes. His seventh pass, released just before he was leveled by blitzing safety Malcolm Jenkins, hit 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.
"It's great for any quarterback to get a couple of easy passes at the beginning of a game so you can get into a rhythm," Griffin said.
Griffin finished 19 of 26 with no interceptions and a passer rating of 139.9. He also scrambled for 42 yards.
Rookie Alfred Morris rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Aldrick Robinson, a second-year pro in his NFL regular-season debut, had a 5-yard touchdown catch among four receptions for 52 yards.
Brees quickly dismissed the idea that disruptions from the bounty probe, which resulted in a seasonlong suspension for coach and offensive mastermind Sean Payton, was to blame.
In fact, his expectations for 2012 hardly seem diminished.
"We lost the first game of year last year and finished 13-3," Brees said. "So there's no doubt that we can do it and we have the mentality and the guys to do it."