Peyton Manning made a successful NFL return from a year's sabbatical, leading the Broncos past the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19 in his Denver debut Sunday night.
The four-time MVP coming off four neck surgeries completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns.
He got a big assist from another free agent, cornerback Tracy Porter, whose 43-yard interception return of Ben Roethlisberger's pass with 2 minutes left sealed the win.
Manning, jettisoned by the Indianapolis Colts in March after missing all of last season with a nerve injury that weakened his throwing arm, hit Demaryius Thomas with a 71-yard touchdown toss for his first score as a Bronco. It was his 400th career TD toss.
He threw the 400th touchdown pass of his career on a 71-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas in the third quarter. Manning joins Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420) as the only NFL quarterbacks to reach that milestone. He also needed the fewest games to do so.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — San Francisco's defence smothered Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offence for most of the game, then made one last stand to stop a late rally as the 49ers beat the Packers.
Randall Cobb got the Packers close with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, and a 2-point conversion cut the lead to 8. But Rodgers threw an interception to linebacker NaVorro Bowman and Frank Gore ran for a 23-yard touchdown.
Rodgers threw a touchdown to James Jones, again cutting the lead to eight, but the 49ers held the Packers in the final minute.
Things went so well for the 49ers that when David Akers tried a 63-yard field goal at the end of the first half, it bounced off the crossbar and then kept going through the uprights to tie an NFL record.
49ers quarterback Alex Smith was 20 of 26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns while Gore rushed for 112 yards.
Randy Moss scored a 14-yard touchdown in the second quarter, a familiar — and painful — sight for Packers fans.
NEW ORLEANS — Robert Griffin III began his NFL career by connecting on 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns, and the Washington Redskins handed the Saints a loss in their first game since the bounty scandal that overshadowed New Orleans' off-season.
Griffin completed his first eight passes, including an 88-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon, tying for the second-longest scoring pass by a quarterback making his NFL debut.
Rookie running back Alfred Morris rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Aldrick Robinson, making his NFL debut, had a touchdown catch among four receptions for 52 yards.
Drew Brees uncharacteristically struggled with accuracy, completing only 46 per cent of his throws with two interceptions. But his 339 yards passing and three TDs kept the Saints in the game until his last desperate pass was picked off by Reed Doughty near the Redskins' goal line.
MEADOWLANDS, N.J. — Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes, including two to rookie Stephen Hill, and the New York Jets eased concerns about their offence with a rout of the Buffalo Bills.
The Jets sprinkled in their wildcat package with Tim Tebow, who was mostly quiet but recovered a late onside kick by Buffalo, and Jeremy Kerley had a touchdown catch and a punt return for a score. Antonio Cromartie also took one of New York's three interceptions of Ryan Fitzpatrick to the end zone.
It was the most points the Jets have scored in a season opener. That's from a team that had many wondering what to expect after the first-team offence failed to score a touchdown in the first three games of the preseason.
Meanwhile, Mario Williams, the Bills' big free agent signing, was quiet as the Jets' offensive line protected Sanchez all game.
NASHVILLE — Tom Brady threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and the defending AFC champion New England Patriots routed the Tennessee Titans 34-13 for their ninth straight season-opening win Sunday.
The Patriots ruined Jake Locker's debut as Tennessee's starter, sacking him twice and forcing two turnovers. New England rookie Dont'a Hightower returned Locker's fumble 6 yards for a TD in his own debut, and Stevan Ridley ran for 125 yards and a TD.
New England even knocked Locker out of the game in the fourth quarter. He hurt his left shoulder tackling safety Patrick Chung on a fumble return officials should have whistled dead as an incomplete pass to Titans receiver Nate Washington, who also was hurt on the play. Matt Hasselbeck replaced Locker.
The best Tennessee could do was bloody Brady's nose when defensive end Kamerion Wimbley sacked the two-time NFL MVP in the second quarter.
KANSAS CITY, MO. — Matt Ryan threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, one of them to Tony Gonzalez in his return to Kansas City, and the Atlanta Falcons pounded the short-handed Chiefs 40-24 on Sunday.
Ryan also ran for a TD, while Julio Jones caught six passes for 108 yards and two scores.
The Falcons took advantage of a Chiefs defence missing four starters. Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali was suspended for an unspecified violation of the league's substance-abuse policy, and three others were injured.
Still, Kansas City matched Atlanta most of the first half, trailing 20-17 at the break. But a missed field goal by Ryan Succop early in the third quarter proved to be the turning point.
Matt Cassel finished with 258 yards passing for Kansas City, but also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The Falcons turned all three turnovers into points.
DETROIT — Matthew Stafford threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Smith with 10 seconds left, lifting the Detroit Lions to a 27-23 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Stafford made up for a shaky game by leading an 80-yard, nine-play game-winning possession that included three passes of at least 18 yards.
Sam Bradford directed a go-ahead drive that set up Greg Zuerlein's 46-yard field goal and put the Rams ahead 23-20 with 1:55 left. But coach Jeff Fisher's debut ended with a loss because the Rams could not shut down Stafford in the end.
Stafford had three interceptions before halftime for the first time in his four seasons. The Rams scored 13 points off Stafford's turnovers, including Cortland Finnegan's 31-yard return for a TD that gave them a 13-7 lead late in the first half.
CLEVELAND — Michael Vick overcame four interceptions by throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Clay Harbor with 1:18 left as Philadelphia opened the season with a nerve-racking victory.
Before Vick rallied his team, the superstar played poorly and showed major rustiness after playing just 12 snaps during the exhibition season because of injuries. Vick went 29 of 56 for 317 yards and two TDs, his first going to Jeremy Maclin.
Browns rookie Brandon Weeden threw four interceptions, the last to Kurt Coleman with 1:05 remaining, as the Browns fell to 1-13 in season openers since 1999.
LeSean McCoy rushed for 110 yards for Philadelphia, which trailed 16-10 in the fourth when Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson returned Vick's fourth pick 27 yards for touchdown.
Vick got lucky on the play before his TD pass when Browns rookie linebacker L.J. Fort couldn't hold a potential interception in the end zone.
The Browns had one final chance, but Weeden overthrew his target and was picked off by Coleman.
Cleveland rookie running back Trent Richardson had 19 carries for 39 yards. Phil Dawson kicked field goals of 43, 42 and 22 yards for the Browns.
MINNEAPOLIS — Rookie Blair Walsh kicked four field goals, including a 55-yarder as regulation time expired and another one in overtime, and Adrian Peterson returned from a left knee injury to lift the Minnesota Vikings to a 26-23 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Peterson ran 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings, who led for most of the second half until Blaine Gabbert's 39-yard touchdown heave with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter put the Jaguars back in front.
For the first time since the NFL's new overtime scoring rule was installed last season, the first team on the board didn't immediately run off the field a winner.
After Walsh's 38-yard kick, the Vikings had to play defence again while the Jaguars had their chance to match. But Gabbert was hurried into a fourth-down overthrow, spoiling the debut for new Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey.
HOUSTON — Arian Foster had two touchdown runs, Matt Schaub threw a TD pass to Andre Johnson, and Houston's defence dominated rookie Ryan Tannehill and Miami in the Texans' 30-10 win over the Dolphins on Sunday.
Tannehill threw three interceptions in a stunning 6-minute stretch late in the first half, and the Texans opened impressively in what they believe can be a Super Bowl season.
Schaub threw for 266 yards in his first action since fracturing his right foot in Week 10 last year, and Johnson finished with 119 yards receiving. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt deflected two passes that resulted in interceptions and also had 1 ½ sacks.
Marcus Thigpen returned a punt 72 yards for Miami's touchdown. The Dolphins gained only 275 total yards.
CHICAGO — Jay Cutler threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns, Michael Bush added a pair of scoring runs and the Chicago Bears spoiled Andrew Luck's debut in beating the Indianapolis Colts 41-21 Sunday.
Brandon Marshall had nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in his first game since being reunited with Cutler. Matt Forte ran for 80 yards and a score, and also had 40 yards receiving.
Luck finished his first NFL game 23 of 45 for 309 yards with a four-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery early in the fourth quarter. He also was intercepted three times — twice by Tim Jennings — in an up-and-down debut for a quarterback with huge shoes to fill.
The No. 1 pick in the draft is stepping in for four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, who missed last season with a neck injury and now plays for Denver.
Reggie Wayne caught nine passes for 135 yards. But it was a familiar result for a team with new management and a new coach in Chuck Pagano after winning just two games last season.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Quarterback Kevin Kolb replaced the injured John Skelton and led Arizona on the deciding touchdown drive in the Cardinals 20-16 win over Seattle.
The Seahawks drove to the four-yard line in the final seconds, but rookie Russell Wilson threw three straight incompletions and the Cardinals held on.
Replacement officials made a mistake by awarding the Seahawks an extra timeout in the closing seconds.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called timeout with 30 seconds left, but the officials had announced two plays earlier Seattle used its last one when receiver Doug Baldwin was injured.
After huddling, then meeting with two different people from the sideline, the officials determined the previous stoppage had been on an incomplete pass, so the Seahawks were not charged with a timeout.
Under NFL rules, teams are required to use a timeout for an injured player in the final two minutes, whether the clock is running or not.
The mistake didn't end up having an impact on the game as Seattle failed to score.
TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay's rejuvenated defence came up with two interceptions against Cam Newton and the Buccaneers won their debut under coach Greg Schiano over the Carolina Panthers.
Josh Freeman threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams and Connor Barth kicked three field goals to help the Bucs stop a 10-game losing streak that prompted the firing of former coach Raheem Morris. Schiano came the Tampa after spent the past 11 seasons transforming Rutgers from one of the losingest programs in college football into a Big East contender.
Newton threw for 303 yards and one touchdown. But the Panthers were shut out in the first half, and the interceptions he threw thwarted Carolina's chances of overcoming the slow start.