NEW ORLEANS — 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 on for 40-32 victory over 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."

New Orleans hoped to open the season with a defiant show of force in the wake of the bounty scandal that overshadowed its offseason. The Saints also got a boost Friday when a three-member appeals panel reinstated defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jon Vilma, who had been suspended for their roles in the Saints' alleged pay-for-pain bounty program.

Smith started, while Vilma, deemed unfit to play after offseason knee surgery, received a rousing ovation when he walked onto the field to lead the Saints' traditional pregame "Who-dat" chant.

Instead of riding that emotional high, 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 on 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. "They were giving us those looks and I took advantage of them."

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.

Brees quickly dismissed the idea that disruptions from the bounty probe, which resulted in a season-long suspension for coach and offensive mastermind Sean Payton, was to blame for New Orleans shaky start.

"Not at all. It's the NFL. You better bring it every week," Brees said. "We knew the type of team they were. We knew the type of defense they were. They just came in and played better than we did, made fewer mistakes than we did, made more plays than we did."

In fact, Brees' expectations for what remains of the season hardly seemed 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."

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.

That marked the second interception for Brees, who in 2011 completed a single-season record 71.2 percent of his passes, but managed to hit on only 46 percent (24 of 52) against Washington.

"That makes you angry," Brees said, raising his eyebrows and shaking his head as he talked about completing less than half of his passes. "We're better than that and we're going to be better than that."

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, the former Baylor star selected second overall in the draft.

The Texas native, whose family is from New Orleans, had been to Saints games in the dome before and seemed unfazed by the noise.

In the second quarter, he danced out of the pocket to avoid pass rushers before rifling a pass across the field to tight end Fred Davis for a 26-yard gain. He punctuated another scramble with a 27-yard pass to Santana Moss, setting up Billy Cundiff's second field goal, which made it 20-7.

Griffin finished the first half with a perfect 158.3 passer rating, the first time a rookie had done so with 10 or more attempts.

Still, the Saints got back within one touchdown before halftime.

Marques Colston fumbled a reception inside the Redskins 5 and the ball squirted out of the end zone for a touchback. But Martez Wilson blocked Sav Rocca's punt and Courtney Roby scooped up the ball for a touchdown to make it 20-14.

Washington responded, aided by a pass interference call against safety Roman Harper on a long pass into the end zone. The Saints vigorously disputed the call with the replacement officials, but to no avail.

Morris scored easily from the 1.

The Saints might not have been pleased with the officials, but it was mostly their own mistakes that cost them – penalized 12 times for 107 yards.

"Today the difference was penalties," said Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer. "It was third-and-long way too many times."

NOTES: The Saints started the game thin in the secondary when Jabari Greer (groin) was a pregame scratch. It got worse when Johnny Patrick hurt his right leg breaking up a pass in the second quarter. ... WR Devery Henderson left the game in the second half after taking a shot to the head. ... Saints LB Scott Shanle left the game with an unspecified leg injury. ... Garcon went out with a right foot injury. ... Redskins S Jordan Bernstine hurt his right knee on kick coverage. ... Washington's 40 points were its most since Shanahan took over in 2010.

___

Online: and

Links:


Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Pittsburgh Steelers v Denver Broncos

    DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers meet at mid field after the Broncos defeated the Steelers 31-19 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 9, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

  • Tom Brady, Karl Klug, Mike Martin

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) scrambles away from Tennessee Titans' Mike Martin (93) and Karl Klug (97) in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. The Patriots won 34-13. (AP Photo/Joe Howell)

  • Cam Newton

    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throws a pass during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

  • Michael Vick

    Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick tosses a ball to a fan after a 17-16 win over the Cleveland Browns in an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

  • San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith (99) sacks Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers (12) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

  • Donovan Briggans

    Referee Donovan Briggans (12) seperates Detroit Lions defensive tackle Corey Williams, left, from St. Louis Rams fullback Brit Miller as Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) tries to get up from the field after the final play of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. Detroit won 27-23. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh argues a call with referee David White during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

  • Ronde Barber

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber (20), making his 200th career start for the Buccaneers, carries the team flag onto the field before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

  • Adrian Peterson

    Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson celebrates as he run off the field after his team's 26-23 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Minneapolis.(AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)

  • Andrew Luck

    Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) watches from the bench in the closing minutes of the Colts' 41-21 loss to the Chicago Bears in an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

  • A New Orleans Saints fan holds an image of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

  • Drew Brees

    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes in the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • Matt Ryan

    Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes to running back Jacquizz Rodgers (32) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. The Falcons won the game 40-24. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Larry Fitzgerald, K.J. Wright

    Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) pulls in a pass as Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright (50) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

  • Cam Newton, Aqib Talib

    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib (25) during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

  • Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is seen during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

  • Russell Wilson, Reggie Walker

    Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) escapes the reach of Arizona Cardinals linebacker Reggie Walker (56) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Green Bay Packers' Jermichael Finley celebrates after a touchdown catch during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

  • San Francisco 49ers' Donte Whitner (31) and Perrish Cox (20) break up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers' Jermichael Finley (88) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

  • San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers is congratulated by teammates after kicking a 63-yard field goal during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. Akers tied an NFL record with the 63-yard field goal.(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

  • Dwight Lowery, Chris Kluwe, Blair Walsh

    Jacksonville Jaguars strong safety Dwight Lowery (25) sits on the field as Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe (5), left, congratulates kicker Blair Walsh (3) on his go-ahead field goal during overtime in an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Minneapolis. The Vikings won 26-23. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

  • Robert Griffin III, Spike Lee

    Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) poses for a photo with director Spike Lee, center, after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

  • Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma

    New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith (91) shakes hands with linebacker Jonathan Vilma in the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. The Saints won 40-32. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

  • Cortland Finnegan

    St. Louis Rams defensive back Cortland Finnegan walks to the locker room after an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. Detroit won 27-23. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • San Francisco 49ers' Randy Moss reacts after catching a touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

  • Art Modell is seen on the scoreboard at Lambeau Field during a moment of silence before the first half of an NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

  • Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow

    New York Jets quarterbacks Mark Sanchez, left, and Tim Tebow celebrate after a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

  • Brian Moorman

    Buffalo Bills punter Brian Moorman watches his team play against the New York Jets during the second half of an NFL football game at MetLife Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Kevin Vickerson, Derek Wolfe, Ben Roethlisberger

    Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is pressured by Denver Broncos defensive tackle Derek Wolfe (95) and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (99) during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Peyton Manning

    Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning celebrates a touchdown during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews (52) reacts after sacking San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. The 49ers won 30-22. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

  • Kevin Kolb

    Arizona Cardinals' Kevin Kolb tosses a hat into the stands in celebration leading the Cardinals win over the Seattle Seahawks after an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 20-16. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • A Seattle Seahawks fan watches the closing moments of their loss to the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 20-16.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • John Skelton, Larry Fitzgerald

    Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald, right, pauses as he puts a hand on injured quarterback John Skelton, on ground, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 20-16. Skelton was carted off the field and replaced by Kevin Kolb. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Steve Smith, Ronde Barber

    Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber (20) after a reception during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers won 16-10. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

  • Aqib Talib, Brad Nortman

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib (25) blocks a fourth-quarter punt by Carolina Panthers punter Brad Nortman (8) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers recovered the punt. (AP Photo/Margaret Bowles)

  • Curtis Martin

    Hall of Famer Curtis Martin poses with his bust as he is honored at halftime of an NFL football game between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

  • Tom Brady

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady watches from the sideline in the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. Brady threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns as the Patriots won 34-13. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

  • Tim Jennings

    Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings (26) reacts after his second interception against the Indianapolis Colts during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. The Bears defeated the Colts 41-21. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • Planes fly over Lambeau Field after the national anthem before an NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

  • Rodger Saffold

    St. Louis Rams tackle Rodger Saffold (76) is loaded into an ambulance after getting injured in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Sept, 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

  • Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers waits to be introduced before the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

  • Josh Wilson, Marques Colston

    Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson (26) breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew

    Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, right, hugs Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew after his team's 26-23 overtime victory in an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)

  • Ryan Tannehill, Tim Jamison, Earl Mitchell, Brooks Reed

    Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is sacked by Houston Texans defensive end Tim Jamison (96) as Brooks Reed (58) and Earl Mitchell (92) join the tackle during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Houston. The Texans won 30-10. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Alshon Jeffery, Vontae Davis

    Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) makes a 42-yard touchdown reception past Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (23) during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

  • Rodger Saffold

    St. Louis Rams guard Robert Turner (59) kneels as team officials help tackle Rodger Saffold after he sustained an injury during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Stevan Ridley, Robert Johnson

    New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) moves past Tennessee Titans defensive back Robert Johnson (32) in the third quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Joe Howell)

  • Stephen Hill

    New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill, left, scores a touchdown during the first second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. Bills cornerback Aaron Williams, right, looks on. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • J.J. Watt

    Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) celebrates after sacking Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)