Robert Griffin III was the last player announced during pregame ceremonies. He emerged from the tunnel, through the large inflatable Washington Redskins football helmet and onto the field, raising both arms to pump up a crowd eager for his first head-to-head matchup with Andrew Luck.
Like everything else about the rookie, Griffin was doing something new — but looking as if he’d done it before.
"I’ve never had my own introduction ever, high school or college, so that was extremely fun with the smoke and everything," Griffin said. "It was like you’re in a movie."
In many ways, Saturday’s game was promoted like a movie opening, the curtain raiser for a budding quarterback rivalry between the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the draft. The co-stars responded with a display of A-list poise and promise as Griffin’s Redskins defeated Luck’s Indianapolis Colts 30-17.
Top pick Luck completed 14 of 23 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown to fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton. Heisman Trophy winner Griffin went 11 for 17 for 74 yards and a scoring throw to veteran Santana Moss.
Both quarterbacks played one series into the third quarter in the teams’ dress rehearsal for the regular season, with the Redskins ahead 14-7 when the subs took over.
"I haven’t had any overall bad performances for myself. … I thought he did a good job out there as well," Griffin said. "They blew this up as a head-to-head, and we’ll see what happens next."
Barring an incredible pair of Super Bowl runs from two teams rebuilding from bad seasons, the first Luck-RGIII encounter that really counts won’t come until the 2014 regular season.
Still, the comparisons will continue.
"It’s not something you can just push away or put aside," Griffin said. "It’s everywhere. It’s going to be there for our entire careers."
The game was marketed to the hilt, offering a ground-floor glimpse at two players given the burden of reviving proud franchises. The Colts are coming off a 2-14 season as they embark on the post-Peyton Manning era, while the Redskins went 5-11 last year for a fourth consecutive last-place finish in the NFC East.
Even so, it was merely a preseason game. The atmosphere in the stadium was far from electric — attendance was announced as 60,047 — and the offenses were still running basic schemes, saving the more creative stuff for their regular-season openers in two weeks.
And while Griffin gave himself good marks for his performance, Luck was more downcast despite putting up decent numbers.
"I’m not happy," Luck said. "But I realize a preseason game is a chance to learn."
Luck’s touchdown was an impressive moment. He stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush, then put a deep ball down the left side into the arms of third-round pick Hilton for a 31-yard touchdown, wrapping up an 80-yard drive.
Griffin responded on the next drive, which also went 80 yards. He took a high-and-wide shotgun snap and drifted to the right to find Moss for a 4-yard score.
Through three preseason games, Luck is 40 for 64 for 514 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 90.2 rating. Griffin is 20 for 31 for 193 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 103.2 rating — not to mention an approving coach.
"He keeps on getting better and better," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said, "more comfortable with the system, with what we’re trying to do."
Meanwhile, someone forgot to tell Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris that the game wasn’t all about him. The sixth-round draft pick, getting the start because of a rash of injuries, ran for 107 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Evan Royster (knee) and Roy Helu Jr. (Achilles) both sat out, while Tim Hightower was limited to five carries in his first game since tearing the ACL in his left knee last season.
The game got predictably messy after Luck and Griffin departed. Seventh-round pick Chandler Harnish was whistled for delay of game on his first Colts series, then was tackled for a safety by linebacker Chris Wilson on the next play.
Rex Grossman, who started 13 games last season, was welcomed with a smattering of boos when he ran onto the field to replace Griffin. He answered by going 8 for 8 for 127 yards and two touchdown passes, a 13-yarder to Joshua Morgan and a 12-yarder to Dezmon Briscoe.
One thing that was clear early: Luck and Griffin will need better protection to succeed anytime soon. Griffin never got sacked, but he was under severe pressure twice in his first drive. Luck was sacked twice on one series and had another drive thwarted by a clipping penalty.
"We’ve got to keep him clean," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.
The Colts had a laundry list of injuries. NT Brandon McKinney (knee) and CB Jerraud Powers (knee) will have MRIs on Sunday. CB Korey Lindsey and WR Jabin Sambrano took shots to the heads and will be evaluated. WR Griff Whalen was on crutches after aggravating a left foot injury from his college days; he will also have an MRI. Hilton left the game with a shoulder injury. QB Drew Stanton missed the game after flying home Saturday morning when his wife went into labor. … Redskins NT Chris Baker suffered an ankle injury but returned to the game.