(Reuters) - Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III made an instant impact throwing for two touchdowns and 320 yards to lead the Washington Redskins to a surprise 40-32 win at the New Orleans Saints in the National Football League on Sunday.
Another Redskins rookie, running back Alfred Morris, also had an outstanding debut, rushing for two touchdowns and 96 yards as Washington, 5-11 last season, showed they are a very different team this year.
A Jimmy Graham touchdown on a 20-yard pass from Drew Brees had put the Saints 7-3 up but the first sign that Griffin had settled in perfectly came with his maiden touchdown, a smart pass down the middle to Pierre Garcon, who romped into the end zone to complete an 88-yard score.
Griffin’s five-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson in the second quarter gave the Redskins a firm grip on the game.
Griffin was the second pick in this year’s draft and the quarterback who was selected above him, Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, had more of mixed start to life among the professionals.
Luck, stepping into the shoes of Peyton Manning, who made his debut for the Denver Broncos later on Sunday, threw for 309 yards and a touchdown but also gave up three interceptions as the Colts fell 41-21 to the Chicago Bears.
The Bears banked a lot on teaming up quarterback Jay Cutler with wide receiver Brandon Marshall and the pairing delivered. Cutler threw for two touchdowns and 333 yards and Marshall collected one of those scores as he put up 119 yards receiving.
Two other rookie quarterbacks had tough baptisms.
Brandon Weeden threw four interceptions (0 touchdowns, 118 yards) in the Cleveland Browns’ 17-16 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ryan Tannehill’s NFL debut as the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback was predictably hard work as the team fell 30-10 in Houston with the rookie throwing three interceptions.
Philadelphia’s Michael Vick also threw four picks in the game with Cleveland but he redeemed himself by leading the game-winning drive which resulted in a four-yard touchdown pass to Clay Harbor.
While Tannehill will be given plenty of patience from Miami fans with low expectations, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is under pressure right from the off-set this season.
The Jets’ decision to bring in Tim Tebow as back-up has created intense media interest but Sunday’s opener could not have gone better for the starter Sanchez.
The fourth-year quarterback threw for three touchdowns and 266 yards as New York blew away the Buffalo Bills 48-28 while Tebow played bit-part roles in a variety of positions including tight end and on kickoff returns as well as quarterback.
Super Bowl runners-up New England looked in good shape on both sides of the ball in their 34-13 win at the Tennessee Titans with quarterback Tom Brady finding tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez with touchdown passes.
The new regular season overtime rules were used for the first time as the Minnesota Vikings beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 26-23 with Blair Walsh proving the game-winning field goal.
Reporting By Simon Evans; Editing by Gene Cherry