ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — In an era when hype is overdone to be the point of being almost meaningless, a couple of rookies in the nation's capital have done the remarkable. They debuted with longsuffering teams amid lofty expectations, yet they managed to exceed them.
Stephen Strasburg induced goose bumps when he struck out 14 batters in his first game with the Washington Nationals in 2010.
The feeling was eerily similar Sunday when Robert Griffin III set new standards for a first NFL start: 320 yards passing, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a rating of 139.9 in the Washington Redskins' 40-32 upset of the New Orleans Saints.
"He definitely went beyond the hype," Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "You had people thinking he was going to do maybe 10 for 15 with 150 yards. I think he outdueled Drew Brees, arguably one of the best quarterbacks of his era, in his own house, with all that noise, that 'Who Dat' nation. He went beyond what people was expecting."
The Redskins went into statistical overload listing RG3's achievements — "Griffin III's passer rating was the highest by a rookie with no professional football experience," said the game notes — but the meaning of the day was more psychological than numerical.
Griffin, like Strasburg, has given fans a much-needed dose of hope, one that even some of his teammates didn't think would come so quickly.
"To go into that environment and to be as successful as he was, and as calm, cool, collected as he was, I'm a little bit surprised," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "I'm a little bit surprised that everything went as well as it did. I'm surprised, I'm impressed, and I'm happy for him. The way he works, the way he prepares, he deserves it."
It had been seven years since the Redskins posted 40 points in a game. They didn't even reach 30 last year. Yet, there was Griffin celebrating after the final whistle posing with Spike Lee — even though the movie director was wearing a New York Giants hat and T-shirt — and hearing teammates tell him he's "not a rookie anymore." The rookie who owns a Heisman Trophy held on to the ball saved from his first touchdown pass, an 88-yarder to Pierre Garcon, as if it were a gold bar from Fort Knox.
Those are precious moments for a team that's finished last in its division for four straight years.