Griffin III, Morris give ’Skins punch against N.O.
NEW ORLEANS — Saints safety Roman Harper summed up his defense’s play in a 40-32 loss to the Redskins with three words: “Just bad ball.”
That’s a good way to explain the unit’s output Sunday, when two rookies turned in sterling debuts and the Saints made costly mistakes.
In their first starts, Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris paced the visitors to 464 yards of offense, outdoing New Orleans’ high-powered attack and trailing for only 21 seconds.
“It’s going to be a good year for (Griffin),” safety Malcolm Jenkins said.
Griffin connected on 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns, and Morris, a sixth-round draft pick, ran 28 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns. But while both were impressive in their debuts, Harper was more focused on his unit’s errors.
“It’s about us,” Harper said. “It’s not about any other team. It never will be with the talent we have here and the home-crowd advantage. It’s about us. Give credit to Washington. They won the game today and outplayed us. They definitely did that, but at the end of the day we have to be better.”
They can start by minimizing major mistakes. The first came on a first-quarter crossing route, which Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon snagged and then found 72 yards of open field to race through for an 88-yard touchdown. The next big miscue was on Harper, who, on a fourth-and-1 early in the third quarter, was flagged for pass interference in the end zone.
Instead of the Saints getting the ball at their 33-yard line with a chance to take the lead, Washington lined up at the 1 and punched in a rushing touchdown one play later to go ahead 27-14.
Afterward, Harper diplomatically disagreed with the penalty.
“I just played the ball, and I don’t know exactly what I — I’m not going to blame the ref,” he said. “The ref sees something and makes his call, and I’m not going to harp on it. It is what it is. I wish I could come talk to him and say, ‘Hey, what do I need to do to improve my technique, or what exactly caused you to throw the flag?’ ”
Mistakes aside, credit did have to go to Griffin, who had the Saints on their heels from the get-go.
He completed six screen passes on his first drive, which covered 49 yards and led to a field goal. When the playbook opened up, he excelled, throwing the 88-yard touchdown, followed by touchdown and field goal drives that gave the Redskins points on their first four possessions.
Once they took the lead, Washington was able to dictate the game, mixing in Griffin’s arm with his legs on bootleg plays and giving Morris a steady diet of touches.
And while Griffin was prone to a few rookie moments, like botching a handoff and tripping in the backfield, the Saints were never able to force him into the kind of major mistakes you’d expect from a first-timer in a hostile environment, which Griffin called the loudest place he’d ever played in.
“We had a few opportunities that we let slip by, but they did a good job of protecting the ball as well,” Jenkins said. “We’ve got to get the ball out, though. We have to create those turnovers and give ourselves a chance.”
The surprising Week 1 loss didn’t leave any happy faces in the Saints’ locker room — especially not on the defense — but if the performance held any positives, one was that it’d be hard to imagine playing “bad-der ball” next week against the Panthers.
“At the end of the day, we should improve from this,” Harper said. “They always say the biggest improvement is from the first to second game, and we have to be an example of that.”