Demarus Dye| BKD TV Insiders
Welcome to the fourth season of BKD TV’s weekly recap on every NFL game for Week 1, this is the first edition of Tuesday Morning (or Afternoon) QB, thanks to Associated Press for there articles & photo assistance in this piece. Tomorrow I will be back with what have we learned after Week 1 of the 2017 NFL Season.
Bye: Buccaneers, Dolphins
Chiefs 42, Patriots 27
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — So much for another stab at 19-0.
Seven months after shutting down the Atlanta Falcons late in a dramatic Super Bowl comeback win, the New England Patriots defense couldn’t find the brakes Thursday night, giving up 28 second-half points in a stunning 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It was the most points allowed by New England under coach Bill Belichick, with Kansas City piling up 537 yards on offense.
The Patriots also lost starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower to a knee injury. The defense was already weaker up front following the retirement of veteran linebacker Rob Ninkovich and the departure of defensive end Chris Long in free agency, so Hightower’s absence could be an especially destabilizing blow.
Long strikes proved the biggest problem, including a 75-yard touchdown catch by Tyreek Hill to give Kansas City its first lead early in the third quarter, and a 78-yard touchdown catch by Kareem Hunt in the fourth quarter that put the Chiefs back in front for good.
The secondary blundered throughout. Cornerback Malcolm Butler’s pass interference in the end zone set up Hunt’s 3-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Stephon Gilmore also badly blew a coverage on Hill’s long touchdown. And with Hightower sidelined, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive end Cassius Marsh allowed Hunt to get behind the defense on his 78-yard romp.
“It was different things on each one,” safety Devin McCourty said. “I gave up one where I could have definitely played better. But we gotta watch it and see.”
It was a particularly humbling debut for Gilmore, who signed a five-year, $65 million contract as a free agent this offseason. The Patriots hoped he and Butler would make a formidable duo.
Instead, they both looked pedestrian Thursday, with both caught at times seeking help over the top that didn’t come.
“You gotta play with a hungry attitude, and I don’t think we did that as a team,” Gilmore said.
The Patriots offense looked as expected at times, scoring two early touchdowns and taking a 17-7 lead with quick-strike drives and Brady spreading the ball around the field.
Other times they were stagnant, including getting stopped twice on fourth-down runs.
But tight end Rob Gronkowski said the shortcomings were hardly just a defensive problem. He said everything about the loss was “a wakeup call.”
They were left with nothing to do but look forward to their Week 2 trip to New Orleans.
“When they score 42 points and beat you on opening night, there aren’t really any positives,” safety Duron Harmon said.
RARE COMPANY: Since Belichick’s first season in New England in 2000, only two quarterbacks have passed for at least 300 yards and four touchdowns without an interception: Drew Brees in 2009, and now Alex Smith, who passed for 368 yards and four scores.
SUPER BOWL TURNAROUND? The last three times the Patriots lost their opener they went on the win the Super Bowl. They bounced back to win the championship in 2001, 2003, 2014.
BERRY OUT: Chiefs safety Eric Berry left the game with what coach Andy Reid feared was a torn Achilles tendon that would keep him out for the rest of the season. But the coach said the injury didn’t spoil the mood in the locker room.
“Eric’s not going to allow that to happen,” Reid said, adding that the four-time Pro Bowl selection would remain part of the team. “I told him to get his coaching career started.”
BANNER NIGHT: Patriots fans came to celebrate the unveiling of a fifth Super Bowl banner and to boo Commissioner Roger Goodell, still angry about the interminable “Deflategate” scandal that resulted in Brady’s four-game suspension.
But few in the crowd remained when the Chiefs celebrated at the end of the game.
“You can’t take for granted how talented, how well-coached, how skilled and how tough teams are,” Patriots offensive lineman Nate Solder said. “We’ve got to give everything we’ve got to win a game.”
SIGNS OF AGING? In his first game as a 40-year-old, Brady completed 16 of 36 passes for 267 yards and zero touchdowns. His .444 completion percentage was the sixth-worst in his 272-game career (including playoffs).
“We had it handed to us on our own field,” he said. “It’s a terrible feeling, and the only people that can do something about it are in that locker room. We’ve got to dig a lot deeper than we did, because we didn’t dig very deep tonight.”
Falcons 23, Bears 17
CHICAGO (AP) — All Matt Ryan was trying to do was make something out of a broken play when he saw tight end Austin Hooper wide open near midfield.
He wound up throwing a huge touchdown pass to help Atlanta squeeze out a season-opening victory.
Ryan connected with Hooper on an 88-yard TD and led two fourth-quarter scoring drives, and the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons held on to beat the Chicago Bears 23-17 on Sunday.
The butt of jokes following their epic Super Bowl collapse against New England, the Falcons survived as the Bears missed several chances to score a touchdown in the final seconds.
“Can we play better? Absolutely,” Ryan said. “Are we gonna try to work on that? For sure. But we’ll take a win any day.”
The Bears had a first down at the Atlanta 5 in the closing minute. Glennon’s pass to a lunging Josh Bellamy on first down hit off the receiver’s hands, and Jordan Howard then dropped a simple catch at the 1.
After another incompletion on third down, Glennon got sacked by Brooks Reed to end the drive.
Atlanta was clinging to a 13-10 lead early in the fourth when a scrambling Ryan fired to a wide-open Hooper near midfield. The second-year tight end from Stanford raced up the right side and stiff-armed Quintin Demps on the way to the end zone to make it a 10-point game.
The Bears then went 75 yards, with Glennon hitting rookie Tarik Cohen for a 19-yard TD midway through the fourth to cut it to 20-17. Earlier Cohen had a 46-yard run on a toss that he turned back the opposite direction.
Atlanta’s Matt Bryant answered with a 37-yard field goal, making it 23-17 with 3:24 left.
Hooper, a second-year player from Stanford, felt like he “lived a lifetime” as the ball approached him.
“I think I blacked out for a part of it. Then I caught it and I felt like it was almost auto-pilot.”
Ryan was nervous, too.
“When people are covered, your brain just goes off and you throw it and you cut it loose,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re open, it can be the most difficult.”
For the Bears, it was an all-too-familiar result after going 3-13 and finishing last in the NFC North.
“It burns,” tight end Zach Miller said. “It burns inside because it’s close. We had ample opportunity.”
Coming off an MVP season, Ryan was 21 of 30 for 321 yards and a touchdown.
Hooper had two catches for 128 yards. Julio Jones added four receptions for 66 yards receiving and Bryant kicked three field goals.
In his Bears debut, Glennon didn’t silence fans who would rather see No. 2 overall draft pick Mitchell Trubisky. He was 26 of 40 for 213 yards and a TD.
Cohen absorbed several big hits in an impressive debut, finishing with 66 yards rushing and 47 receiving. He reversed field on a 46-yard run, helping set up Howard’s 4-yard touchdown near the end of the half.
WHITE HURT AGAIN
Receiver Kevin White found himself in a familiar position, walking off the field with an injury. He had two catches for six yards before hurting his shoulder. White was limited to four games in his first two seasons after being drafted seventh overall in 2015.
Falcons: “Last year was last year. … We just got in there and got back to work. We just got the win today. We just put our head down and continued to work.” — Jones on opening with a win coming off the Super Bowl loss.
Bears: “We could easily have been 1-0 right now standing up here. I think the enthusiasm would be a little bit different, I would think. You know, I think we’re capable of getting better as we go.” — Bears coach John Fox.
Bears: LG Kyle Long — coming back from right ankle surgery — was inactive. Former Falcon Tom Compton started in his place. … LB Jerrell Freeman was in the concussion protocol after the game. … RB Benny Cunningham Jr. hurt his ankle blocking on a pass play early in the second quarter.
Eagles 30, Redskins 17
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Carson Wentz put on a magic act evading pressure, the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense ratcheted up its pass rush and the result was the end of a losing streak against the Washington Redskins and a Gatorade bath for coach Doug Pederson.
Behind two touchdowns from Wentz and four sacks of Kirk Cousins, the Eagles beat the Redskins 30-17 on Sunday in a sloppy, mistake-filled season opener between the NFC East rivals.
Wentz threw for 307 yards and also had an interception returned for a touchdown but made fewer errors than Cousins, who was picked off at the goal line and fumbled twice.
Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor, the recipient of a 58-yard TD pass from Wentz after he avoided being sacked by Jonathan Allen and Preston Smith, called the second-year quarterback “a magician.”
“I don’t know how the guy does it,” left tackle Jason Peters said of Wentz, who was 26 of 39. “He’s just got a knack for feeling pressure coming and he rolls out of it, he gets out of it and makes a play down the field.”
Cousins finished 23 of 40 for 240 yards with an interception and two fumbles, the second of which was forced by Brandon Graham and returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Fletcher Cox in the final minutes, putting the game away.
Cousins had a TD pass to third-down back Chris Thompson, but much of the afternoon was done in by drops and other offensive blunders.
“I think we’re better than that up front, better than that at receiver, better than that at quarterback,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.
The Eagles snapped a five-game skid against the Redskins going back to Sept. 9, 2014, and won at FedEx Field for the first time since 2013.
“We’ve been talking all week about kind of getting the monkey off our back down here and really against the Redskins,” Pederson said. “It was just the old setup on the sideline, and I got the bath. Appreciate it, but a little sticky.
NO RUNNING GAME: Gruden and Pederson avoided the running game, in part because it was having little effect for each team. Cousins, in the second straight season of being franchised by Washington, tied as the Redskins’ leading rusher with 30 yards on four carries; they finished with 64. The Eagles had 59 yards on 23 carries, including several handoffs on a clock-draining fourth-quarter drive.
“I think Washington just had a good game plan, but at the end of the day we made enough plays to win,” Wentz said.
DARBY DOWN: The Eagles lost cornerback Ronald Darby to what looked like a serious right ankle injury early in the second quarter. Darby’s ankle bent the wrong way as he was running in coverage with Washington tight end Jordan Reed, and he was carted off.
Pederson said Darby would be evaluated when the team returns to Philadelphia.
“It’s tough because he’s playing lights-out, and I want him to be a part of this party we’re about to have on this field,” Graham said. “I’m hoping it’s nothing major.”
Kicker Caleb Sturgis, who made three field goals, was injured late in the game, which led Pederson to go for two after the Eagles’ final touchdown.
PICK-SIX TIMES THREE: When Redskins linebacker Kerrigan picked offWentz and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown, he added to his unique career history with interceptions. All three times Kerrigan has had an interception in the NFL, he has returned it for a touchdown. This was his first since 2012.
NO DOCTSON IMPACT: Despite going into the game as a projected starter , Redskins 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson was a limited part of the game plan with no targets as Ryan Grant filled in as the third receiver. After missing almost all of his rookie season with sore Achilles tendons, Doctson was bothered by a sore hamstring during the preseason, but was full go in practice this week, but Gruden said the Redskins were easing him back in.
Eagles: Visit the Kansas City Chiefs, who upset New England on Thursday night.
Redskins: Visit former offensive coordinator Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams.
Cardinals 23, Lions 35
DETROIT (AP) — Matthew Stafford was forced to play defense after his first pass of the season, and failed to stop an opponent from returning his interception for a touchdown.
Like the rest of the Detroit Lions, he knows how to bounce back.
Stafford threw two of his four touchdown passes to rookie Kenny Golladay in the fourth quarter, helping Detroit rally to beat the Arizona Cardinals 35-23 on Sunday.
“We just have to get out of our own way earlier,” Stafford said.
Detroit got in the way of a few of Carson Palmer’s passes.
Palmer was picked off three times and one of his interceptions was returned by Miles Killebrew for a score in the fourth quarter. To make matters worse for the Cardinals, star running back David Johnson was knocked out of the game after fumbling in the third quarter.
“You’re not going to beat anybody turning the ball over that many times,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said.
Detroit opened the season with another comeback after setting an NFL record last year by rallying to win eight games after trailing in the final quarter.
The Cardinals scored the first 10 points of the game and led 17-9 late in the third quarter before giving up 26 straight points.
“We played pretty well for three quarters, but that’s a good team,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “And, it is always going to be tough to stop them for 60 minutes. ”
Stafford’s first pass was returned 82 yards for a touchdown by Justin Bethel , but the player with the richest contract in the NFL was undeterred. He was 29 for 41 yards for 292 yards and threw 45- and 10-yard TD passes to Golladay , along with short passes to Theo Riddick and Marvin Jones for scores.
Palmer was 27 of 48 for 269 yards with three interceptions, one shy of his career high, and threw a 1-yard TD pass to J.J. Nelson in the final minutes. Johnson, who led the league with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns last season, was limited to 23 yards rushing on 11 carries and had six receptions for 68 yards.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Golladay ran past Bethel and fully extended to catch a long TD pass with 4:13 left in the game, putting Detroit up by 11 points.
“That’s a receiver’s dream,” he said. “The quarterback leads you and you get a chance to lay out and make a play. You just focus on getting your hands under the ball and bringing it in.”
The Lions botched their first extra point as holder Jake Rudock bobbled the snap and ended up running. That was one of their many miscues in a sloppy first half.
“It was not a fake,” Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. “There weren’t too many things that happened in the early part of the game were fake. You wished they were.”
Cardinals: Johnson left with a wrist injury and Arians didn’t have an update on his condition. Early in the game, starting left tackle D.J. Humphries left the game with a knee injury.
Lions: Kasey Redfern’s NFL debut didn’t last long and his season may be over after he had what Caldwell described as a significant injury. The punter, filling in for injured Sam Martin, hurt his knee in the first quarter when he dropped a snap in the end zone, picked up the ball and tried to run it out. Placekicker Matt Prater punted the next four times for Detroit, marking the first time he has done that since he was a junior at Central Florida.
“I practice a little, but after all these years, I never really thought it was going to happen,” Prater said. “When I saw them load Kasey onto a golf cart and drive him away, I realized it was about to happen.”
Raiders 26, Titans 16
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Derek Carr showed the advantage of having a year of experience and a better supporting cast in a season opener pitting two of the NFL’s rising, young quarterbacks.
Carr threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns, and Oakland beat Tennessee 26-16 to give Carr his third straight win over Marcus Mariota and his Titans in as many years.
“It was fun to be back out,” Carr said.
Amari Cooper caught a TD pass as the Raiders made the Titans pay for opening the season with an onside kick they couldn’t recover.
Marshawn Lynch also looked very refreshed after his year away from football. Lynch finished with 18 carries for 76 yards — 10 in the fourth quarter.
“We’re one for one with that,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said of using Lynch late. “And that’s the idea to be able to close these things, and we did that very well.”
Giorgio Tavecchio kicked field goals of 20, 52, 52 and 43 yards in his NFL debut. He was signed Friday to fill in for the Raiders’ all-time leading scorer and 18-year veteran Sebastian Janikowski, who’s on injured reserve with a bad back.
Both Carr and Mariota broke their right leg hours apart on Christmas Eve for season-ending injuries. Carr finished his third season by tying Ezekiel Elliott of Dallas for third in voting for the AP MVP award after leading Oakland to a 12-4 season, while Mariota led the Titans to a 9-7 mark in just his second season.
Mariota looked healthy in running for a 10-yard TD and threw for 256 yards.
While Mariota was healthy for training camp, the Titans’ top offseason additions of rookie wide receiver Corey Davis and veteran Eric Decker weren’t. The Titans had to settle for a pair of Ryan Succop field goals after driving inside the Oakland 10.
“When you play against a good team like Oakland, you have to hit on all cylinders, and unfortunately we didn’t make enough plays,” Mariota said.
The Titans became the first team since 2009 to open a season with an onside kick. The Minnesota Vikings were the previous, and they also didn’t recover the kick. Ryan Succop’s kick went to Shalom Luani. Carr completed three passes, Lynch rumbled 14 yards on his first carry, and Cooper finished the drive with an 8-yard TD catch for a quick 7-0 lead .
Titans coach Mike Mularkey defended his decision to open with an onside kick, saying he wanted the ball for his offense. No, he didn’t second-guess himself. “Not for a second,” Mularkey said.
Lynch took the first carry of the game for Oakland and rumbled right over Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey on the Raiders’ final scoring drive on one of his six rushes to set up the clinching field goal.
Lynch accidentally interrupted Del Rio’s postgame interview and told a team official he had been available for three minutes. “They didn’t holler at me. I’m good right?” Lynch said to laughter before closing the door and leaving.
After Lynch picked up a first down on fourth-and-1 inside the Titans 5, the Raiders didn’t give him the ball again with Carr throwing three straight passes to Cooper.
The wide receiver dropped the first, Titans rookie Adoree Jackson got a hand in breaking up the second and Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo got his right fingers on the third that Cooper couldn’t pull in at the back of the end zone.
Carr complimented Jackson’s play while also blaming himself for not making better throws. “I’m completely fine with saying I screwed up,” Carr said. “I did a couple times. It always happens in a Week 1, but when you win you can sit back and realize that we could’ve had so much more.”
The Raiders led the NFL in 2016 in the fewest sacks allowed and went 10 games allowing one sack or fewer. The Titans sacked Carr on back-to-back plays early in the second quarter with Wesley Woodyard, then Derrick Morgan taking the quarterback down. Tennessee didn’t get to Carr again.
Steelers 21, Browns 18
CLEVELAND (AP) — For Pittsburgh’s first road game, Antonio Brown wore a bow tie and purple and black suit embroidered with fire-breathing gold dragons. He completed his outlandish outfit with ruby red-sequined sneakers.
The flashy look was both dazzling and jaw-dropping — just like Brown’s game.
The All-Pro wide receiver made a crucial, leaping catch with less than three minutes left and Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to tight end Jesse James as the Steelers, with minimal help from Le’Veon Bell, opened the season by holding off the Cleveland Browns 21-18 on Sunday.
Roethlisberger improved to 21-2 in his career against the Browns, who led by rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer gave their rivals all they could handle — a positive sign for coach Hue Jackson and Cleveland fans after a horrid 1-15 season.
But the Browns couldn’t stop Brown. With the Steelers clinging to their 3-point lead, he somehow caught and held onto Roethlisberger’s throw in traffic for a 38-yard gain with 2:26 left to seal Pittsburgh’s win. Brown finished with 11 receptions for 182 yards.
“I’ve watched him make unbelievable plays like that from the stands,” said Steelers rookie running back James Conner, who played at Pitt and grew up rooting for Pittsburgh. “So to be out there with him when he does it is crazy. He’s an amazing football player.”
Kizer, who ran for a TD and threw a scoring a scoring in an impressive debut, had pulled the Browns within three on a 3-yard TD pass to Corey Coleman followed by a 2-point conversion with 3:36 left.
With Pittsburgh needing a big play, Brown delivered one — as usual.
Roethlisberger rolled left to buy some time and lobbed his deep pass near Pittsburgh’s sideline toward Brown, who went up over defensive back Jason McCourty and hauled in the game’s biggest catch. Jackson challenged the call, but it held up after a video review and the Steelers improved to 32-6 against the Browns since 1999.
“It’s not our first rodeo,” said Roethlisberger, who passes for 263 yards. “I see AB go and I’m going to take that shot. I’ve got all the trust in the world in him, he’s got it in me. I don’t think there are any two guys who have worked together more than him and I do.
“So, it’s fun to watch him play and be on the same team with him.”
The Browns have lost 13 straight openers, but they showed some promise, especially with Kizer and a vastly improved defense that played well despite not having top overall pick Myles Garrett, who injured his ankle earlier this week.
Bell, who skipped training camp in a contract dispute, ran tentatively and gained just 32 yards on 10 carries. He rejoined his teammates last week and signed his $12.1 million franchise tag, far less than he feels he deserves.
The Steelers sacked Kizer seven times, two by rookie T.J. Watt, the younger brother of Houston star J.J. Watt. The first-round pick also had an interception in a memorable debut.
With the Browns driving late in the third, Watt picked off Kizer.
“I was dropping back in coverage and it came right to me,” Watt said. “Once I caught it, I just tried not to fumble it.”
Steelers CB Joe Haden began the day looking for the visitors’ locker room. He ended it holding the game ball.
Released recently by Cleveland, Haden faced the team he played with for seven seasons. He exchanged jerseys with Browns LB Christian Kirksey at midfield following the game and got some good-natured kidding by his new teammates for finally winning an opener.
Haden said he doesn’t hold a grudge with Jackson.
“Me and the coach have a really good relationship. “It’s strong.”
In a show of unity, the Browns ran from their tunnel and onto the field before the game accompanied by Cleveland police officers, firefighters, military personnel and emergency workers.
After being criticized for kneeling in prayer during the national anthem before an exhibition, several Browns players, who felt their gesture had been misinterpreted, met with owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam to discuss ways to help Cleveland — and the nation — heal during a time of division. As part of better connecting to the community, the Browns asked to be joined by the public servants.
They all stood together for the national anthem and were joined on the sideline by the Haslams and Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams.
“We love our police department and our military and everything they do for us, and we respect what they do,” Jackson said. “We showed that today, and we showed that we are all together in this.”
Jets 12, Bills 21
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The new-look Buffalo Bills might be better than advertised under rookie head coach Sean McDermott.
The Jets, however, opened the season playing well below even their meager expectations.
Tyrod Taylor showed no lingering signs of a concussion that sidelined him for two weeks by throwing two touchdowns in a 21-12 win on Sunday. The Bills never trailed after opening the scoring on Taylor’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay 3 1/2 minutes into the second quarter.
Andre Holmes also scored on a 1-yard catch and Mike Tolbert scored on a 1-yard run.
Buffalo’s defense had three interceptions, including linebacker Ramon Humber picking off Josh McCown’s pass to thwart a 2-point conversion in the third quarter. Safety Micah Hyde sealed the victory by intercepting McCown at Buffalo’s 41 to end the Jets’ final series.
“It was big for coach McDermott and big for us as a team,” Taylor said, who completed 16 of 28 for 224 yards and an interception.
McDermott was pleased with the performance from a team that featured just 26 players who had been on the roster a year ago. And yet the former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator was also quick to temper his emotions.
“This is one win, let’s keep things in perspective,” said McDermott, who was hired in January after Rex Ryan was fired in the final week of last season. “I’m extremely proud of it. That said, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
For one week at least, the Bills can lay claim to leading the AFC East after the Patriots lost to Kansas City on Thursday and the Miami Dolphins’ opener was postponed due to Hurricane Irma.
The Jets face an uphill climb to be respectable.
New York couldn’t run and couldn’t stop the run, which were supposed to be two of the team’s strengths.
The running back tandem of Bilal Powell and Matt Forte combined for 38 yards rushing. The defense gave up 190 yards rushing, including 110 to LeSean McCoy, who consistently beat New York’s defenders around the edge.
“Missed assignments. Missed assignments,” coach Todd Bowles said, repeating the phrase on several occasions. “We’re not going to hang our heads. We’re going to get ready and not make the same mistakes next week.”
The lack of a ground game placed far too much emphasis on the 38-year-old McCown to produce with a patchwork group of receivers that includedJermaine Kearse and tight end Will Tye, neither of whom was on the team 10 days ago.
McCown refused to provide any excuses or buy into the offseason narrative pegging the Jets for pulling the plug on this season in order to build through next year’s draft.
“That’s not how we approach it,” McCown said. “We’re disappointed absolutely, but we plan on responding.”
McCown went 26 of 39 for 187 yards in opening his 15th NFL season by extending his personal losing streak to eight games. The skid dates to Oct. 11, 2015, when he led Cleveland to a 33-30 win over Baltimore. McCown is 1-17 in his last 18 starts.
McCown scored New York’s lone touchdown on a 1-yard run to briefly cut Buffalo’s lead to 14-12 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Buffalo squandered two scoring opportunities in the first half. Taylor’s pass to Clay in the end zone glanced off the tight end’s hands and was intercepted by Juston Burris. The cornerback returned it 48 yards, and went down when he bumped into his teammate. Burris then fumbled, but was ruled down by contact, as he had a knee down when hit from behind by Bills center Eric Wood.
Newly acquired kicker Stephen Hauschka also missed a 46-yard attempt wide left.
The Jets converted 4 of 14 third-down chances and managed 11 first downs — and just four in the first half.
Jets: WR Jeremy Kerley will have to wait to mark his return with New York. Kerley re-signed with the Jets on Tuesday after being cut by the San Francisco 49ers. With QB Bryce Petty still nursing a knee injury, Christian Hackenberg served as the backup.
Bowles said Petty’s knee injury had nothing to do with the depth chart, noting the quarterback practiced all week. “That’s a coaching decision,” Bowles said.
Bills: Backup DE Jerel Worthy did not play as he is still recovering from a concussion sustained in Buffalo’s preseason finale.
Jets: TE Eric Tomlinson did not return after hurting an elbow in the second quarter.
Bills: CB E.J. Gaines did not return after hurting his left shoulder while assisting Lorenzo White in tackling Powell on an 11-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.
Jaguars 29, Texans 7
HOUSTON (AP) — Celebrations of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ win over the Houston Texans were tempered by concerns for their state as Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sunday, with the mammoth storm threatening to affect all of Florida.
“It was a nice win, but you can really only enjoy it momentarily because our thoughts and prayers are back with everyone in Florida,” coach Doug Marrone said, “… and hoping that they’re safe.”
The uncertainty of the storm also left their plans for the week in limbo. Teams normally return home immediately after games, but the Jaguars were staying in Houston on Sunday night and will decide what their next step is on Monday.
Leonard Fournette ran for 100 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut, and Jacksonville had a franchise-record 10 sacks and forced four turnovers to get the 29-7 victory, their first in a season-opener since 2011.
Blake Bortles threw for 125 yards and a touchdown, Calais Campbell had four sacks and Dante Fowler returned a fumble 53 yards for a score as the Jaguars snapped a six-game skid against Houston.
“I was feeling anxious and ready for Week 1 to start and write a new narrative and kind of change the script,” said Bortles who was 0-6 against Houston entering the game. “I thought we did a great job up front, and we were able to run the ball well, so it made my job easy.”
The Texans hoped to provide a boost to the area ravaged by Hurricane Harvey with a win. Instead, Tom Savage struggled behind a porous line and was benched in favor of rookie Deshaun Watson at halftime with Houston down 19-0.
“It was a terrible day on offense, but it wasn’t that much better defensively … we have a lot of work to do,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “I told the team we’ve got to stick together and we’ve got to get back to work right away.”
J.J. Watt returned after missing 13 games last season after back surgery, but injured his finger in the first half and finished with just one tackle.
He was asked to describe his play.
“Terrible,” he said. “There’s only way to go from here and that’s up. Can’t play much worse.”
A 42-yard field goal by Jason Myers made it 3-0 in the first quarter and he added one from 25 yards early in the second.
The Texans punted on their first four possessions, and the fifth one ended when Savage fumbled on a sack by Yannick Ngakoue and the Jaguars recovered the ball.
Fournette, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, added his 1-yard touchdown after that, but the kick failed, leaving Jacksonville up 12-0.
Savage was sacked six times in the first half, playing behind a line without veteran left tackle Duane Brown, who is holding out. The Texans were also without receivers Will Fuller, who has a broken collarbone, and Jaelen Strong, who served a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Ngakoue picked up the last sack of the half, stripping the ball as he pulled Savage down. Fowler scooped it up and dashed for the score to make it 19-0.
Watson threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins on his first drive to cut the lead to 19-7 early in the third quarter.
On his 27th birthday, Tommy Bohanon grabbed a 1-yard TD pass from Bortles after that to extend Jacksonville’s lead to 26-7.
The Texans coughed it up again late in the third quarter when Watson fumbled on a sack by Fowler and Ngakoue recovered it.
Houston was driving late in the fourth quarter when Watson turned it over again on an interception by Tashaun Gipson, who returned it 67 yards. The Jaguars added a field goal after that to make it 29-7.
Houston linebacker Brian Cushing, tight ends Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz and receiver Bruce Ellington all left the game with concussions. Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson injured his left knee in the first quarter and didn’t return.
THEY SAID IT
Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph on what went wrong: “Just got punched in the mouth today … no other words can describe it.”
The official Jaguars Twitter account had a little fun on Sunday by changing their handle to “Sacksonville” after setting the franchise record for sacks in a game. Campbell led the way in his first game with the Jaguars after spending his first nine seasons with the Cardinals, Yannick Ngakoue added two and Lerentee McCray had 1 ½ sacks.
“We want to be the best defense in the league and we have that ability,” Campbell said. “But it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t continue with it.”
Jaguars: Host Tennessee on Sunday.
Texans: Face a quick turnaround with a trip to Cincinnati on Thursday.
Ravens 20, Bengals 0
CINCINNATI (AP) — With Joe Flacco easing back in from a back injury, the Ravens went out and got a victory old-style.
Baltimore’s rebuilt defense picked off Andy Dalton four times and forced him to fumble Sunday, and the Ravens pulled away to a 20-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that reminded them of the days when they’d win games with a defense that got into quarterbacks’ heads.
“I like to see touchdowns, but if we’ve got to play lights-out defense, that’s what we’re going to do,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs , who had a pair of sacks and tipped a pass.
The Ravens pressured Dalton into matching his career high for interceptions , three of them in the first half. Two were tipped, and the other was a throw he forced into double coverage in the end zone that C.J. Mosley picked off.
The Ravens took control with a pair of touchdowns 24 seconds apart late in the half. Flacco saw the Bengals ready to blitz with no defender in the middle of the field, and he hit Jeremy Maclin in stride on a slant for a 48-yard catch-and-run.
Two plays later, Suggs batted Dalton’s pass high in the air and Lardarius Webb grabbed it. Terrance West’s 2-yard touchdown run made it 17-0.
The Ravens didn’t need anything else, given how the defense was dominating.
“Any time you get a shutout, it’s huge,” said safety Tony Jefferson, one of the new additions. “To do it today in the opener? Man!”
The Ravens’ overriding question was how Flacco would hold up after missing all of camp and the preseason with a bad back. The defense made sure he didn’t have to do much. Flacco was 9 of 17 for 121 yards with an interception against a defense missing suspended linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones.
“It was one of our old-fashioned games,” said Flacco , in his 10th season. “It reminded me of one of our games when I was a rookie.”
The Bengals had breakdowns everywhere as they were shut out in a season opener for the first time since 1979. They’d never been blanked in a home opener. The Bengals managed only 221 total yards and had nine penalties.
“This was as disappointing as it can be,” coach Marvin Lewis said.
Baltimore has tormented Dalton like few others. He’s had nine three-interception games during his career, four of them against Baltimore. His only other four-interception game also was against the Ravens in the 2013.
“It wasn’t confusing,” Dalton said. “I just didn’t play well.”
After missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, Baltimore put its emphasis on upgrading the defense. It paid off right away, with newcomer Brandon Carr getting the first interception .
Dalton was under heavy pressure behind Cincinnati’s inexperienced line and finished 16 of 31 for 170 yards and was sacked five times.
It was the Ravens’ third season-opening shutout. They also blanked Pittsburgh in 2000 and Tampa Bay in 2006, both on the road. The Bengals hadn’t been blanked in their season opener since 1979, when they lost at Denver 10-0. They hadn’t been shut out at Paul Brown Stadium since 2001 by the Bears.
GRIND ‘EM DOWN
The Ravens essentially put it away with a 17-play, 81-yard drive in the third quarter that lasted 9 minutes, 38 seconds and ended in a field goal. The drive included 14 runs for 54 yards, two incompletions and three penalties on the Bengals: unnecessary roughness, pass interference and defensive holding.
The Ravens rushed for 157 yards overall, including 90 by West and 71 by Javorius Allen.
“This was a game that running the ball turned out to be a key,” coach John Harbaugh said . “I thought we were really patient with it.”
Ravens RB Danny Woodhead injured his left hamstring on the opening series and didn’t return, another setback for a depleted offense. LB Za’Darius Smith hurt his left knee in the second quarter and was helped off the field.
Bengals RG guard Trey Hopkins hurt his left knee late in the first half and didn’t return. DE Michael Johnson suffered a concussion on the final play of the first half and didn’t return.
Ravens play at Cleveland. They’ve won three in a row against the Browns.
Bengals host Texans on Thursday night. Houston has won its last two and seven of eight against Cincinnati, including a pair of first-round playoff games.
Colts 9, Rams 46
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sean McVay could sense his players were coming for him with the Gatorade bucket in the final minutes.
For the first time in his wildly successful debut, the Los Angeles Rams’ rookie head coach didn’t use his knowledge to his advantage.
“I could have avoided it if I wanted to, but I felt like I kind of had to take it a little bit,” McVay said with a grin after changing out of his soaking-wet shirt.
After everything the Rams went through last season that led to McVay’s arrival, the youngest head coach in modern NFL history thought his players had earned the right to celebrate the remarkable first chapter in a new year.
Jared Goff passed for a career-high 306 yards and a touchdown in his first victory as an NFL starter, and Los Angeles routed the Indianapolis Colts 46-9 Sunday in an impressive beginning for the 31-year-old McVay.
Todd Gurley rushed for a score and added 56 yards receiving while Los Angeles roared to a 37-3 lead in the third quarter.
Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner both returned interceptions for touchdowns as the Rams snapped a six-game skid at the Coliseum with their most impressive effort since returning home from St. Louis last year.
The Rams had their highest-scoring performance since November 2014 in their first game since McVay took over a franchise that went 4-12 last season in its 13th straight non-winning season and 12th straight non-playoff season.
The players recognized McVay’s role in preparing them to blast a short-handed opponent playing without star quarterback Andrew Luck.
“Sean has had success in the past, so you know that wasn’t by accident,” Goff said.
Los Angeles’ defense also excelled against fill-in Colts quarterback Scott Tolzien. Johnson intercepted Tolzien’s first pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown, while Joyner returned another pick 29 yards for another score in the third quarter.
“You always feel guilty when you let your team down,” Tolzien said. “(We’ve) got a lot to improve on, starting with me.”
Tolzien passed for 128 yards in his fourth career NFL start in place of Luck, who wasn’t ready to return from a right shoulder injury.
From the disastrous opening drive to an inept fourth-quarter safety, the Colts weren’t competitive without their leader. Indianapolis also played without center Ryan Kelly and top cornerback Vontae Davis.
“Obviously, we were dominated in this football game in all three phases,” said Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano, who accidentally referred to the Rams as the 49ers. “Outcoached in this football game. It’s my responsibility, and it falls on me.”
Goff was 0-7 as a starter last season, but the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft looked much sharper after an offseason of study under McVay. He went 21 for 29 without an interception, hitting newcomer receivers Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp for a combined 12 catches for 187 yards.
“The way we were able to execute on a lot of things today was great,” Goff said.
Kupp’s first NFL touchdown catch put the Rams up 24-3 in the second quarter. That’s a bigger lead than the Rams held at any point over the past two seasons in St. Louis and Los Angeles, when they had the NFL’s worst offense.
BAD TO WORSE
Jacoby Brissett replaced Tolzien for the fourth quarter and led Indy’s only touchdown drive — but Adam Vinatieri, who missed a field goal earlier, missed his first extra point since 2014. Brissett attempted just three passes, and Pagano didn’t commit to either quarterback as the starter next week.
New Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ unit also had a memorable debut, holding the Colts to 225 yards, getting four sacks and adding a fourth-quarter safety to its two interception returns. “We wanted to show that this is not a rebuilding year,” defensive lineman Michael Brockers said. “We’re ready to go.”
Colts: Rookie LB Anthony Walker was ruled out in the first half with a hamstring injury.
Rams: Starting CB Kayvon Webster didn’t return after injuring his right shoulder in the second quarter. Rookie CB Dominique Hatfield went to the locker room in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion.
Colts: Host Arizona. Luck might not be ready to return until October.
Rams: Host Washington. McVay was Jay Gruden’s offensive coordinator with the Redskins for the past three seasons.
Panthers 23, 49ers 3
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — While Cam Newton shakes off some rust following offseason shoulder surgery, the Carolina Panthers still have their dominant defense to carry them.
Newton overcame a sometimes shaky performance to throw a pair of touchdown passes following San Francisco turnovers and the Panthers shut down Kyle Shanahan’s offense in his coaching debut, beating the 49ers 23-3 Sunday.
“The quarterback obviously is still working on his timing,” coach Ron Rivera said. “He missed a couple of throws. He knows it. He’s upset with himself. I had to talk him off a ledge. He’s focusing on what he needs to get done. The nice thing is all the other guys are rallying around him. They understand he’s a little rusty.
Newton played only one series in the preseason following offseason surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff and looked like a player finding his game.
He completed 14 of 25 passes for 171 yards, and cost Carolina a touchdown when he missed a wide-open Ed Dickson in the end zone in the first half.
But he still managed to do enough to get the win as the Panthers try to rebound from a disappointing 6-10 season in 2016.
Newton threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Russell Shepard in the first half following a fumble by Brian Hoyer, then a 9-yard touchdown to Jonathan Stewart in the third quarter after Luke Kuechly intercepted Hoyer.
Kuechly looked like his usual self after missing the final six games last season with a concussion.
“Luke was back to being Luke today,” linebacker Thomas Davis said. “I was definitely excited to see him doing that. The communication that he has on the field, the things that he’s able to see and understand before the play actually happens makes a world of difference for this defense, and I think it showed up today.”
The Niners didn’t look much improved from last year’s outfit that tied a franchise worst with 14 losses. That led to the firing of coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke.
Shanahan and new GM John Lynch each got six-year contracts to overseea massive rebuilding job . There is plenty of work to do as San Francisco was held scoreless in the first half of the opener for the first time in 40 years and lost the first game of the season for the first time since 2010. The Niners finished with just 217 yards of offense.
Hoyer had a rough debut for San Francisco, throwing for only 193 yards and committing the two turnovers.
“It was probably as disappointing as it could have been,” Hoyer said. “When you get it handed to you like that, you just have to go in figure out what’s wrong, make the corrections and move on.”
Carolina first-round pick Christian McCaffrey had an up-and-down debut. The former Stanford star gained 45 yards on 13 carries and added five catches for 38 yards. He also lost a fumble in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t play as well as I would’ve liked to, but anytime you can get a win we’re happy,” McCaffrey said.
Shanahan went twice on fourth down in the first half and failed. Hoyer was sacked by Thomas Davis on fourth-and-4 from the Carolina 44, and Kyle Juszczyk was stuffed by Star Lotulelei on a fourth-and-1 from the 45. The Panthers turned those short fields into a pair of field goals. San Francisco converted one of two fourth-down attempts in the second half.
The Panthers put heavy pressure on Hoyer and had four sacks, including one by Wes Horton that forced a fumble by Hoyer. Carolina finished second in the NFL last season with 47 sacks.
San Francisco safety Jaquiski Tartt had a wild first half that included a missed tackle on Shepard’s touchdown, a personal foul for unnecessary roughness, then an acrobatic interception near the goal line on a deep pass to Kelvin Benjamin.
Niners rookie linebacker Reuben Foster had an impressive debut cut short when he injured his right ankle late in the first quarter. Foster got hurt on a run by McCaffrey and was taken to the locker room on a cart. He returned to the field a few minutes later, but didn’t get back in the game. Foster said he expects to play next week. Foster had three tackles and a pass breakup before the injury.
Seahawks 9, Packers 17
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A marquee season opener between two NFC heavyweights turned into a defensive slugfest.
The Green Bay Packers — not the menacing Seattle Seahawks — landed the momentum-swinging punch.
Green Bay defensive lineman Mike Daniels’ strip sack of Russell Wilson deep in Seattle territory in the third quarter set up Ty Montgomery’s 6-yard touchdown run on the next play to spark the Packers’ 17-9 win on Sunday.
“This really started with our defense,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “It starts on the line of scrimmage. We were in the backfield a bunch.”
The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers was 28 of 42 for 311 yards and added a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to make it an eight-point game late in the third quarter. The Packers went deep to his favorite receiver on a free play that was extended after Seattle was flagged for having too many men on the field.
Rodgers’ regular-season streak of passes without an interception ended at a career-high 251. The Seahawks defense reinforced by the return of safety Earl Thomas bottled up receivers from making many big plays and put plenty of pressure on Rodgers.
But the Packers started denting Seattle with runs or quick passes to Nelson, Randall Cobb and Montgomery in the second half, chewing up clock in the process. A 12-play, 53-yard drive that took up more than five minutes ended with Mason Crosby’s 40-yard field goal with 8:01 left to make it a two-score game.
“That was a great defense that we went against. They’re going to keep everybody kind of in front, they’re going to make us go the long way,” Nelson said.
Green Bay’s defense had an even better debut, especially considering how maligned the Packers were against the pass last season.
Seattle managed just three field goals. Wilson was held to 14 of 27 for 158 yards. The Packers held decisive edges in total yardage (370-225) and first downs (26-12). Green Bay held the ball for 39 minutes.
“I was disappointed they were able to be as aggressive up front as they were with their defense,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane was ejected after referee John Parry said he threw a punch during a scrum with Packers receiver Davante Adams. Carroll disagreed with the call.
“I have seen it, and I didn’t see the punch at all. I’m disappointed the play would have such magnitude on the game,” Carroll said. “One (official) saw it, and that’s what they went with. I’m anxious to hear how the league tells us how that went.”
The tussle occurred around the Packers 30 during a play in which Nazair Jones intercepted Rodgers at 9:26 of the first quarter. It was Rodgers’ first interception since Nov. 13, 2016, at Tennessee.
Tensions were already high between the teams early in the game. Rodgers was picking on Lane in the secondary, with Cobb whistled for taunting following a 14-yard gain while being defended by Lane.
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett sat on the bench again during the national anthem. On the other sideline at about the 30, his younger brother Martellus Bennett, a tight end for the Packers, stood at the end of the line next to his teammates, but raised his right fist in the air during the anthem.
Michael Bennett last week released a statement alleging racially motivated excessive force by Las Vegas police.
Seahawks offensive lineman Justin Britt stood next to Bennett again during his anthem protest. Defensive linemen Frank Clark and Cliff Avril each went back to shake hands with Bennett during the anthem and then joined him on the bench.
The Bennett brothers talked for about a minute after the game at midfield.
“It was a tough week, but you get through things and I was glad to be out there with my guys again,” Michael Bennett said.
Also for Green Bay, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix helped hold a giant American flag on the field as the anthem was played.
Packers linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who just joined the team last week as a free agent after being cut by the 49ers, left with a concussion. His injury was announced at the start of the third quarter. … Rodgers appeared to be limping after getting pushed back by a defender in the pocket late in the fourth quarter. He took a few extra seconds to get back to the huddle on a couple plays but did not leave the game.
“Just kicked a couple times, stepped on a couple times,” Rodgers said.
Seahawks: Host the San Francisco 49ers in home opener on Sept. 17.
Packers: Visit Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 17.
Giants 3, Cowboys 19
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Tough guy Jason Witten scored the game’s only touchdown while setting another franchise record for the Dallas Cowboys, perhaps the most prestigious yet.
Ezekiel Elliott took care of the tough yards, churning out another 100-yard game two days after learning that his six-game suspension over a domestic violence case is on hold.
While Witten and Elliott helped Dallas produce points, the Cowboys shackled a New York offense missing dynamic receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a 19-3 victory over the Giants on Sunday night.
“You just enjoy the journey,” said Witten, who began his 15th season by breaking Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin’s club record of 11,904 yards. “I’m just trying to devour where I am at this moment. It’s a great time in my life.”
Elliott, last year’s NFL rushing leader, had a rugged 104 yards on the ground and another 36 receiving in a game that he knew he would get to play regardless of a federal judge’s ruling in his bid to have the NFL’s punishment overturned.
“You just have to block it out,” said Elliott, who could play the entire season depending on the next legal move by the NFL. “You just have to focus on being the guy I need to be for this team. I think I am good for this locker room.”
Dak Prescott was turnover-free while throwing for 268 yards as the Cowboys dominated their NFC East rival that swept them during a 13-3 season that topped the NFC and was fueled by the sensational rookie years for the quarterback-running back duo. Dan Bailey kicked four field goals.
Eli Manning didn’t have Beckham in his 200th straight start after his top target sprained his left ankle in a preseason game. The Giants were outgained in the first half 265-49, with just two first downs, while falling behind 16-0.
“We have plenty of players who can make plays on the offense outside of Odell,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “That’s no excuse.”
Manning was 28 of 37 for 211 yards with an interception and connected with new receiver Brandon Marshall just once, late on a desperation drive with the outcome already settled.
Witten scored the Cowboys’ first touchdown on a 12-yard catch and finished with seven catches for 59. Witten, already the franchise leader in catches, now has 1,096 receptions for 11,947 yards.
The 35-year-old Witten is the only tight end other than Tony Gonzalez with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards. He broke Irvin’s record on an 11-yard catch early in the second quarter.
Elliott had to work for his yards after the crowd cheered loudly when he was introduced and kept up the “Zeke” calls while he made his trademark feed-me gesture after first downs. His biggest play was a 30-yard catch-and-run, easily the most open field he saw against one of the league’s best run defenses a year ago.
“I think every person (who is) a part of the Cowboys was lifted by that decision,” owner Jerry Jones said of Friday’s court ruling. “Although he was playing in this game no matter what, the idea that we could have him for an extended period of time was certainly inspirational.”
The Giants had a nearly 10-minute drive to start the second half but settled for Aldrick Rosas’ 25-yard field goal after a second-down sack of Manning, Dallas’ third of the game and the first of Charles Tapper’s career. DeMarcus Lawrence had two sacks for Dallas.
Anthony Brown all but sealed the win for the Cowboys when he was the first to get his hands on a throw from Manning and won a tug-of-war with Roger Lewis Jr. for the interception midway through the fourth quarter.
DID YOU SEE THAT?
Dallas receiver Cole Beasley made a crazy catch in the fourth quarter to keep a drive alive. He got his hand on a wobbly ball as he was approaching the sideline and reached behind his head with his left hand, trapping the ball against his shoulder pads and helmet as he tip-toed inbounds. Beckham seemed impressed , offering a subtle nod.
With Beckham missing, running back Shane Vereen led all receivers with nine catches and had 51 yards. Rookie first-round pick Evan Engram, a tight end, had four catches for 44 yards. Second-year receiver Sterling Shepard had seven catches, but for just 44 yards. Lewis had four grabs for 54 yards.
LONG TIME COMING
Jaylon Smith made his debut for Dallas after missing his rookie year recovering from a knee injury in his final game at Notre Dame. He was second to All-Pro Sean Lee with seven tackles and forced the game’s only fumble.
Cowboys: CB Orlando Scandrick broke a bone in his hand in the second quarter. The Cowboys are hopeful the injury won’t keep him out long.
Saints 19, Vikings 29
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sam Bradford set the NFL record for completion percentage for Minnesota last season, his accuracy aided by the volume of short passes under heavy pressure.
With protection from the rush, he showed Monday night he can throw the ball down the field with the best of them.
Bradford started his second year with Minnesota in style, passing for 346 yards and three touchdowns to help the Vikings beat New Orleans 29-19 and spoil Adrian Peterson’s first game with the Saints.
“When I’ve got time to sit back there and kind of evaluate things, I’ve got all the confidence in the world that our guys outside are going to win,” Bradford said.
Stefon Diggs had seven receptions for 93 yards, two for scores and all in the first half, and Adam Thielen racked up 157 yards on nine catches as Bradford carved up a Saints defense that looked again like one of the worst in the league despite a major renovation. Rookie Dalvin Cook rushed for 127 yards on 22 carries in the formal takeover from Peterson.
Peterson was limited to 18 yards on six carries, in a time share with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara and an afterthought once the Saints fell behind. Drew Brees was quiet, too, with 291 yards on 27-for-37 passing padded by the late push to catch up.
“We didn’t do anything different or try to out-trick them,” Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr said. “You know, line up and play, do your job.”
Coby Fleener caught the only touchdown toss, after the 2-minute warning. Will Lutz made four field goals, three under 25 yards.
“The bottom line,” Brees said, “is you’ve got to score touchdowns.”
Brees and Bradford are both in the final year of their contracts, with the same agent, Tom Condon, who is sure to cash in on both clients. Brees has by far the better resume, nine seasons further into his career, but Bradford stole the show on this prime-time stage.
Behind mostly clean pockets created by a remade offensive line, Bradford completed 27 of 32 passes without a turnover. With three rookies and three free agents in the starting lineup, the Saints tried hard to better a defense that has held Brees and company back since the Super Bowl title eight years ago. The first performance left a lot to be desired, with Diggs and Thielen consistently finding favorable matchups underneath and along the sideline.
“I just try to run a route, catch the pass, but Sam, you know, he’s a slinger,” Diggs said.
The Saints had three unnecessary roughness calls in the first half. Two of the personal fouls extended a drive that ended with one of three field goals by Kai Forbath. The other 15-yarder was on safety Kenny Vaccaro for head-hunting Diggs during an acrobatic catch in the closing seconds of the first half. Diggs came right back with another highlight-reel grab to give the Vikings a 16-6 lead at the break after a 10-play, 95-yard drive.
Cameron Jordan and A.J. Klein each had their hands on a tipped pass in the end zone that fluttered off Cook’s hands, missing a critical opportunity to thwart that drive and keep the deficit at four points.
Cook became the first Vikings rookie running back to start a season opener since Michael Bennett in 2001. Despite trouble hanging onto a couple of passes thrown his way, he helped salt away the game in the second half. Bradford and Cook were the primary beneficiaries of the work done by an offensive line with four new starters and plenty of old external skepticism after a lackluster 2016 performance.
“In the building, we felt great about those guys,” Bradford said. “We’ve seen what we’re capable of doing.”
Ten years and two days after Peterson made his NFL debut in purple with 103 yards rushing and a 60-yard touchdown reception on this same block of downtown Minneapolis, albeit in a different stadium, he returned in black, white and gold as a part-time player for the pass-first Saints.
The crowd was really fired up for the reunion with another former Vikings great. Former wide receiver Randy Moss, already on site as an analyst for ESPN, became the 22nd member of the team’s Ring of Honor in a halftime ceremony punctuated by a passionate speech and shout-out to the fans.
With Terron Armstead still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, rookie Ryan Ramczyk started at left tackle for the Saints. Then right tackle Zach Strief injured his left leg in the second quarter, forcing Senio Kelemete into action. Vikings defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter caused havoc.
The Saints play Sunday against New England, their only home game in the season’s first five weeks.
The Vikings visit Pittsburgh on Sunday, their only road game over the first four weeks of the schedule.
Chargers 21, Broncos 24
DENVER (AP) — The rookie head coach iced the rookie kicker.
Shelby Harris got a hand on Younghoe Koo’s 44-yard game-tying field goal try with a second left and the Denver Broncos began the Vance Joseph era with a 24-21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night.
“It was a little too exciting,” Von Miller said after presenting Joseph with the game ball in the jubilant locker room. “But a win is a win.”
Koo nailed the kick moments earlier, but Joseph had called a timeout to ice the kicker.
“I had two timeouts and I wasn’t going to leave with those in my pocket,” Joseph said.
Derek Wolfe had bull-rushed the first field goal and told Harris, a third-year journeyman who made the team largely because of a rash of injuries along the D-line, that he’d get a chance to slice through this time because the guard would lean his way.
Sure enough, Harris got his right hand on the ball, which frittered short of the end zone as the Chargers looked on in dismay and the Broncos dog-piled Harris.
“It’s too bad because Koo drilled the first one,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “And they called timeout and I think he drilled the second one, too. At least, that’s what it looked like to me because it was going right down the middle. And I think if we get to OT, we would have finished it off, but we didn’t get that chance.”
Harris got the start only because Jared Crick and Zach Kerr were out with injuries.
“I’m going to be real with you: I have no clue what happened,” Harris said of his heroics. “I felt it. I just couldn’t tell you where I felt it.”
Koo was also at a loss to explain what happened.
“I was just focusing on the kick,” he said. “I don’t know how it got blocked. It felt good off the foot. I’ll just have to watch film.”
The ending was reminiscent of last year’s opener in Denver, when the Broncos escaped with a 21-20 win over the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 reunion when Graham Gano missed a 50-yard field goal with 4 seconds left.
Denver took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter in this opener and the Broncos were feeling pretty good. And why not? The Chargers were 1-155 in their history when trailing by 17 or more in the fourth quarter and Denver was 175-0-1 with a fourth-quarter lead of 17 or more.
Then came a nightmarish eight-minute stretch in which they had two turnovers that were converted into touchdowns, a missed field goal and a punt.
“The game was in firm control for about three quarters there and we felt good but you turn the ball over twice on the short side of the 50, it’s going to be a problem with Philip Rivers,” Joseph said.
Before those fourth-quarter foibles, Trevor Siemian threw two TD passes to Bennie Fowler and ran for another score.
The Broncos held Rivers to 115 yards passing through three quarters but let him engineer a comeback when Siemian threw an interception and Jamaal Charles fumbled on plays that were upheld despite video evidence that had the crowd of 76,324 convinced they should have been overturned.
Rivers threw touchdown passes to Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin following the takeaways to make it 24-21.
Back-to-back sacks of Siemian set up a 50-yard field goal try that McManus pushed wide right, giving L.A. the ball at its 40-yard line trailing by three.
But Koo’s miss loomed larger in the final seconds.
DENVER’S DOMINANCE: The Broncos led 14-7 at halftime after Siemian threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Fowler and scored on a 1-yard keeper.
Los Angeles’ only touchdown drive was aided by a 40-yard pass interference call on cornerback Bradley Roby before Rivers hit running back Melvin Gordon for an 11-yard touchdown toss. Safety Justin Simmons hit Gordon at the 2, but he just somersaulted across the goal line.
Rivers stayed away from the All-Pro tandem of Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., instead targeting Roby and safeties Darian Stewart and Simmons.
Roby atoned for his crucial penalty with an interception in the third quarter on a pass intended for Allen. That led to Siemian’s 6-yard TD toss to Fowler that made it 21-7.
McManus kicked a 20-yard field goal on the last play of the third quarter, capping a 78-yard drive that ate up 8 minutes, 16 seconds.
HISTORIC OPENER: The game presented landmarks on the football field , along the sidelines and in the broadcast booth .
Not since 1960 had the Chargers represented L.A., where they played their inaugural season before bolting to San Diego.
Beth Mowins became the first woman to call an NFL regular season game since NBC’s Gayle Sierens in 1987 when she handled play-by-play on the doubleheader nightcap alongside Rex Ryan, who made his debut as an ESPN analyst.
With Anthony Lynn also making his head coaching debut, this marked the first time two black head coaches worked their first NFL game against each other.
MCMANUS’S MILLIONS : McManus was the last restricted free agent to sign his tender this summer, waiting until June 15 to put his signature on a one-year, $2.75 million deal after making $600,000 last season. He did it in hopes of getting a long-term deal, which he finally got Monday just hours before kickoff when he agreed to a three-year extension worth $11.25 million.
BEEFY BRONCOS : The Broncos beefed up their depleted defensive line before kickoff by promoting rookie nose tackle Tyrique “Pot Roast Jr.” Jarrett to their active roster and waiving Kyle Peko.
INJURY UPDATES: Chargers backup SS Rayshawn Jenkins left in the second half with a concussion. So did Broncos starting right guard Ronald Leary, who was replaced by second-year pro Connor McGovern. Leary will be in concussion protocol during the week as the Broncos prepare to face his former team, the Dallas Cowboys. Broncos rookie CB Brandon Langley left in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and Stewart left in the closing minutes with a strained left groin after collecting six tackles.
UP NEXT: The Chargers host the Miami Dolphins, whose opener was scrubbed by Hurricane Irma. The Broncos are home again to take on the Cowboys.