LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Rex Grossman and Chris Cooley drove to Vienna, Va., to have dinner the night before the Washington Redskins' season opener. The friends spoke about their optimism for the season and openly shared their mutual jitters.
"I said, 'I'm so nervous and I'm so excited. I'm so nervous about myself,'" said Cooley, who has been nursing a knee injury. "He said, 'I feel the same.' It was a relief that we were both on the same page and feeling the same thing. I'm so proud of the way he stepped up and played."
Making his first start since 2007, the quarterback so maligned in Chicago justified — at least for now — his new No. 1 gig. 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 — and Washington dominated the second half of a 28-14 win over the New York Giants.
A stadium of burgundy and gold became red, white and blue — in color and in spirit — during pregame ceremonies for the opener 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.
"Any typical kickoff weekend, your emotions are high," Grossman said. "Being it's Sept. 11, 10th anniversary, Colin Powell's in the locker room giving you the pregame speech, and then coming out and the fans are chanting, 'U-S-A.' I was overwhelmed. It was a fun day. It's a day I'll never forget."
The Redskins 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.
"I just remember not really being able to see anything," said Kerrigan, the No. 16 overall pick from Purdue, "as I was getting mauled by my teammates."
Grossman's performance, at least for a week, justifies coach Mike Shanahan's choice in a quarterback competition against John Beck that lasted the entire preseason. After an 0-for-4 start, Grossman began spreading the ball around against a short-handed Giants defense. Fred Davis had a career-high 105 yards on five catches.
"He's more precise with his decision-making, quicker with his decision-making," said Anthony Armstrong, who caught a touchdown pass and set up another score with a diving grab at the 1-yard line. "And it's showing on the field right now."
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. New York generated only 102 yards in the second half, going 0 for 6 on third down conversions.
"Both sides of the ball have got to do their part," Manning said. "I thought our defense played really good tonight. They did a lot of good things and got us a turnover and stopped Washington for a good part of the game.
"We've got to do our part."
The Giants' defense could be forgiven for having a rough go, given that it can't seem to go more than a few days without losing a player. Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck was inactive with a lingering neck injury, adding to a lengthy list that already included Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee), cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot), linebacker Jonathan Goff (knee) plus several others from training camp. Sixth-round pick Greg Jones started at middle linebacker.
"You seen who was out there," said New York running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who had a 6-yard touchdown run in the first half. "We don't have our whole team. In the end, it didn't matter. They played better than us. They beat us."