It takes a lot to win on the road in the NFL, especially if you're in a notoriously tough place to play and against a team hoping to open the season with a profound statement performance following an offseason-long "bounty" scandal. Oh, and for good measure, it was a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start in such a hostile environment who made the most emphatic declaration during Week 1.
Greatest on the road ...
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
Football fans have expected a heaping helping of awesome from the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner ever since the Redskins made a blockbuster trade to select RG3 at the No. 2 overall spot in the 2012 NFL Draft. What transpired inside the Superdome on Sunday was nothing short of amazing. Thanks to Griffin's historic debut, the Redskins dropped a 40-burger on the New Orleans Saints in the 40-32 win. It all started with a bang: An 88-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon. Griffin finished the day with a passer rating of 139.9, the highest for any Week 1 debut since Fran Tarkenton helped the expansion Minnesota Vikings win their inaugural game in 1961. That 88-yard scoring strike was the longest for a rookie quarterback on opening day since 1940. More importantly, RG3's Redskins started the season victorious, ended the Saints' eight-game home winning streak, and is giving real hope to the fans of what was once one of the NFL's most successful franchises.
"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 following his first NFL win. "After the game, (Brees) told me he was proud of me. That's big for him to say after he just lost the game."
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers' red-zone issues a season ago were well-documented and debated ad nauseum. The 49ers' losing skid to the Green Bay Packers at legendary Lambeau Field, which dated back to 1990, was a little less regarded but still noteworthy. Smith carefully engineered scoring drives on the 49ers' first five possessions. The 49ers' first two trips into the red zone -- a real bugaboo of a situation for San Fran a season ago -- resulted in touchdowns on Sunday. Those scores gave the 49ers control of a game they ultimately won, 30-22.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
The Dirty Bird could be back in Atlanta, thanks to the team's MVP-capable quarterback and an emerging explosive playmaker. Ryan's first touchdown of the season came on the Falcons' first drive and was capped by a touchdown by said playmaker, Julio Jones, who celebrated the moment with the classic jig from the team's enchanted 1998 Super Bowl run. Ryan finished the day with three touchdown passes and another touchdown via the ground as the Falcons got a key opening-day win in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.
Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.