Rex Grossman celebrated his first touchdown pass with a giddy backward trot toward the sideline, then turned around and kept running for another 20 yards or more along the Washington Redskins bench.
He didn’t have to mope over any interceptions. There was more Good Rex than Bad Rex in his first Week 1 start since 2007.
Grossman completed 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards Sunday with two touchdowns, no interceptions and one lost fumble — mostly avoiding the type of negative play that has so often defined his career — as the Redskins opened the season with a 28-14 win over the New York Giants.
Grossman’s performance, at least for a week, justifies coach Mike Shanahan’s decision in a quarterback competition against John Beck that lasted the entire preseason. After an 0 for 4 start, Grossman started spreading the ball around against a short-handed Giants defense. Anthony Armstrong had one touchdown reception and set up another with a diving catch at the 1-yard line. Fred Davis had a career-high 105 yards on five catches.
A stadium of burgundy and gold became red, white and blue — in color and in spirit — during pregame ceremonies for the game featuring the cities hit by the terrorists attacks 10 years ago. Chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” greeted former Secretary of State Colin Powell as he walked onto the field to perform the coin toss, and the fans — most holding miniature American flags — chanted again after a national anthem during which players from both teams helped hold an enormous version of the Stars and Stripes that covered the entire field.
The Redskins fans kept cheering as their team ended a six-game losing streak against the Giants, beating their NFC East nemesis at home for the first time since 2005. The score was tied at 14 at halftime, but Washington first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan swung the momentum early in the third quarter when he batted Eli Manning’s pass into the air, caught it, returned it 9 yards and found himself jumping up and down over a go-ahead touchdown in his NFL debut.
Manning completed 18 of 32 passes for 268 yards and was sacked four times by a Redskins defense that ranked 31st in the league last year but has been retooled around former Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield.
Grossman’s solid day came against a Giants defense that can’t seem to go more than a few days without losing a player. Defensive end Justin Tuck was inactive with a lingering neck injury, adding to a lengthy list that already included defensive end Osi Umemyiora (knee), cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot), linebacker Jonathan Goff (knee) plus several others from training camp. Rookie sixth-round draft pick Greg Jones started at middle linebacker.
Grossman was far from perfect. There were a couple of near-interceptions, and his fumble on a sack near midfield with the score 21-14 gave the Giants an opening to tie the game. But New York’s drive stalled, and Washington blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt with 10:57 remaining.
Grossman then took the Redskins 70 yards, capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney that provided a two-touchdown cushion with 5:04 to play.
An important sequence came late in the first half, when Grossman answered Manning drive-for-drive. After the Giants quarterback when 4 for 4 for 58 yards on an 85-yard possession to give the Giants a 14-7 lead, Grossman responded by going 5 for 5 for 80 yards to get the score tied again at the half.
A key target with Armstrong, whose diving 18-yard grab at the 1-yard line set up Washington’s first touchdown. His 6-yard reception in tight coverage — he barely got both feet down in the end zone — accounted for the Redskins’ second score.