September 9, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) celebrate with fans following a win over the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Redskins defeated the Saints 40-32. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
We examine the top five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' 40-32 upset of the New Orleans Saints this past Sunday. The top spot isn't surprising.
Catch your breath yet?
It seems that's what Washington D.C. is having a tough time doing right now, even two days after the Redskins shocking 40-32 upset victory over the New Orleans Saints. It was a performance that's been the talk of the NFL universe this week, as Robert Griffin III's pro debut left many pundits around the country stunned.
And with that as the backdrop, let's take a look at the top five takeaways from this Sunday's win:
1. RGIII exceeded all rational expectations- It's hard to start anywhere else but at quarterback.
What can you say about Robert Griffin III's professional debut that hasn't already been said? It's all anyone around town has been talking about the last 24 hours. But even a couple days later, it's still hard to compile the full list of superlatives that would do it justice.
While other rookie quarterbacks around the league struggled, this first-year passer didn't welt under the immense pressure placed on him playing his first professional game in perhaps the NFL's toughest venue, the Louisiana Superdome. He showed poise, calmness, and extreme comfort with the offensive gameplan laid out by Mike and Kyle Shanahan.
What was most impressive was Griffin's toughness in the pocket. Many feared he would take too many hits because his ability to run the ball. But on Sunday, some of the biggest hits he suffered were from inside the pocket. On the 88-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon, Griffin stared down the gun barrel as Saints safety Roman Harper blitzed, but still fired the ball downfield to Garcon, who took care of the rest. The play was as explosive as it was stunning, staking the Redskins to a lead they would not relinquish throughout the afternoon.
In all, Griffin finished 19 of 26 for 320 yards and two touchdown passes, with a 139.9 passer rating.
For sure, this was a virtuoso performance. But it's just one game. Defensive coordinators around the league now have tape on Griffin, and will surely make adjustments down the road. He'll have days in the future where he makes typical rookie mistakes.
But Sunday was not that day. It was an auspicious start to what the Redskins organization and its starved fanbase believe could be a long, successful tenure in Washington.
2. The Redskins have found their starting running back...for the moment - Mike Shanahan said before the season that he would ride the hot hand at the running back position. If that's the case, Alfred Morris is clearly the guy for the foreseeable future. The 6th round rookie out of Florida Atlantic showed everything you'd want to see from a prototypical Shanahan back. He's a patient, one-cut runner who fits the zone scheme to a tee. In his pro debut, he finished with 96 yards on 28 carries for two touchdowns.
But perhaps the biggest thing Morris brings to the table is his physicality, which was best exemplified on his second score. What he did to Saints linebacker David Hawthorne was, to say the least, unkind. Morris took the handoff from the three-yard line, met Hawthorne near the goal-line, and lowered his shoulder as he plowed through the fifth-year veteran for the score, giving the Redskins a comfortable 40-25 lead.
Shanahan confirmed in his day-after press conference Monday that Morris is indeed the starter, for now. That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment for a first year player few Redskins fans knew much about before training camp opened.
3. So far, so good for the defensive front seven - Heading into this season, most observers believed the Redskins defensive front seven was easily the strongest unit on the team. Through one game, they reaffirmed that belief as they made life difficult for Drew Brees and the Saints offense.
For starters, they made New Orleans one dimensional; the Redskins limited the Saints to just 32 yards rushing on the afternoon, putting the game on the right arm of Brees.
And while the stat sheet says Washington compiled only two sacks, that doesn't tell the whole story. The Redskins generated constant pressure on Brees all afternoon. They rushed him into throwing earlier, batted down his passes at the line of scrimmage, and forced errant throws downfield. From Brian Orakpo, to Stephen Bowen to Ryan Kerrigan, it seemed nearly every member of the Redskins defensive front contributed in trying to contain last season's Offensive Player of the Year.
To perform the way they did against a quarterback who's as nimble and savvy inside the pocket as Brees is, it has to be a huge confidence booster going forward for Jim Haslett and the Redskins defense.
4. The Redskins have a speedster on offense not named Griffin or Garcon - One of the unsung heroes on offense was yet another player making his regular-season NFL debut. This time, it was second-year wide out Aldrick Robinson, who was active in a game for the first time in his career.
To put Robinson's performance in perspective, consider this: After being drafted last year out of SMU, he struggled to make the roster in training camp and preseason, and thus was released and signed to the practice squad. He stayed there throughout majority of last season, and the only reason he was promoted to the 53-man roster in Week 17 was because the Redskins feared another team would sign him.
Fast-forward to this past Sunday - after Robinson had a solid training camp and preseason -- and not only was he active, but he was pressed into duty after Pierre Garcon's foot injury in the first half.
He played more than admirably, catching four passes for 52 yards and a score. His performance mirrored his successful preseason; showing off his speed, route running ability, and gaining yards after the catch. He also drew a critical (albeit questionable) pass-interference call on fourth down to set up a touchdown early in the third quarter. Not too shabby.
With Robinson, Garcon, and Griffin, suddenly the Redskins have speed on offense.
5. Nick Sundberg is a tough guy - It's pretty hard to overstate this: Redskins long-snapper Nick Sundberg broke his arm in the middle of Sunday's game, and was still able to finish it. Long snappers aren't often lauded for their toughness (or...anything, really), but it's hard to use any other word to describe Sundberg's effort on Sunday.
However, Sundberg's injury does make things a little complicated for the Redskins roster moving forward. He's sure to be out for a few weeks, and the team needs to sign a long-snapper in the meantime. The problem is, they don't want to put Sundberg on injured reserve, because it appears the severity of his injury doesn't warrant that. As a result, Sundberg will stay on the roster while his replacement fills in for a few weeks, meaning there's one less roster spot for someone else.
It's a tricky situation to have to navigate, and it'll be interesting to see who on the Redskins roster might be on the chopping block to make room for Sundberg's temporary fill-in.