The NFL came back in a big way on opening day, with long plays highlighting games from coast to coast.
No one was more dynamic Sunday than Anquan Boldin, who made that transcontinental trip this year, after his trade from Super Bowl winner Baltimore to NFC champion San Francisco. Boldin was unstoppable in his debut as a 49ers receiver, making 13 catches for 208 yards and scoring once in a 34-28 victory over Green Bay.
“He made plays he shouldn’t have made,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said.
Boldin was joined in stardom by Kaepernick, who threw for a career-best 412 yards and three touchdowns, and tight end Vernon Davis with six receptions for 98 yards and two TDs in an intense, often antagonistic match.
“We knew they were going to come in ready to play after what happened in the playoffs,” Boldin said. “We had to come out and match their intensity.”
The Packers lost to San Francisco to open the 2012 season and then again in the playoffs in January. They got big performances from Aaron Rodgers (21 for 37 for 333 yards and three scores), Randall Cobb (7 catches, 108 yards) and Jordy Nelson (7-130). It wasn’t enough.
“We gave up too many big plays,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “Got to give credit to the quarterback for making the plays he needed to. I thought we did a good job of keeping him contained and not letting him extend plays similar to what he did in the playoff game. But he still made plays.”
Reggie Bush, Drew Brees and two Rams — DE Robert Quinn and kicker Greg Zuerlein — all were superb in opening-day wins, as well.
Bush had 101 yards on four receptions and 90 yards rushing in his first game with the Lions, outgaining 2012 MVP Adrian Peterson in Detroit’s 34-24 victory.
Brees passed for 357 yards and two TDs in a 23-17 win over archrival Atlanta as coach Sean Payton returned to the Saints following his one-year suspension in the bounty case.
Zuerlein went 4 for 4 on field goals and kicked a 48-yarder with 40 seconds left to send St. Louis to a 27-24 victory over Arizona. Quinn had three sacks and forced two fumbles.
Also, it was: Dallas 36, New York Giants 31; New England 23, Buffalo 21; Chicago 24, Cincinnati 21; Seattle 12, Carolina 7; New York Jets 18, Tampa Bay 17; Tennessee 16, Pittsburgh 9; Indianapolis 21, Oakland 17; Kansas City 28, Jacksonville 2; and Miami 23, Cleveland 10.
On Monday night, Philadelphia is at Washington, followed by Houston at San Diego.
Denver routed Baltimore 49-27 in the league opener Thursday night.
Lions 34, Vikings 24
At Detroit, Bush did exactly what the Lions signed him for: to break open a game.
Bush turned a short pass into a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter and finished with 191 yards of offense.
“We love his talent, but he’s here because of the way he complements Calvin and the way Calvin complements him,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said, referring to All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson.
Joique Bell rushed for two TDs for Detroit.
Adrian Peterson ran for a 78-yard TD on his first carry and scored on a 4-yard run to give Minnesota a 14-6 lead in the second. He ended up with 93 yards rushing.
“Offensively, we really weren’t sound with everything, pretty much the entire game,” the 2012 MVP said.
Saints 23, Falcons 17
Sean Payton’s coaching return after a one-year league suspension for the Saints’ bounties was a tight affair, but a successful one for host New Orleans.
Drew Brees passed for 357 yards and two scores, and Roman Harper secured the win when he intercepted a tipped fourth-down pass in the end zone with under a minute left.
“It was just important to get the first win,” Payton said. “You try to compartmentalize each week, each game, and we played a good team. … We fought hard, especially late.”
Brees connected with Marques Colston for a 25-yard touchdown pass during which the receiver also set a franchise mark for catches with 533. Brees also hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a 7-yard score in the third quarter.
Matt Ryan passed for 304 yards and scoring passes to Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones. He also drove Atlanta to the Saints 3 in the final minute before falling just short.
Rams 27, Cardinals 24
At St. Louis, Zuerlein kicked his fourth field goal, a 48-yarder with 40 seconds left.
“Basically, I stay calm, swing like I know how and the rest takes care of itself,” Zuerlein said. “There’s no better feeling.
“I don’t even know the distances when I go out there to be honest, I just go out there and try to do my job.”
And Quinn was a force.
“It’s a great way to start the season, of course,” he said.
Jared Cook had two touchdown catches in his Rams debut. The tight end fumbled a potential third TD, a 55-yarder that would have opened the scoring, when rookie Tyrann Mathieu punched the ball free at the 8 and the play resulted in a touchback. But St. Louis rallied from an 11-point hole to win.
Larry Fitzgerald caught two touchdown passes from new quarterback Carson Palmer and Arizona’s defense had a TD.
Cowboys 36, Giants 31
Brandon Carr returned an interception 49 yards for a clinching touchdown, and the Cowboys beat Eli Manning and the Giants for the first time at their fancy $1.2 billion stadium with six takeaways.
Manning threw three touchdown passes to Victor Cruz and had New York in position for a comeback victory despite the flurry of mistakes. Manning was picked off three times and running back David Wilson lost two fumbles, one of which was run back 27 yards for a TD by Barry Church.
Tony Romo shook off a hit to the ribs that knocked him out for the final Dallas play of the first half and threw a pair of touchdown passes to Jason Witten.
Patriots 23, Bills 21
Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal with 5 seconds left gave visiting New England its 10th straight opening win. The Patriots needed to rally, and Tom Brady turned in his 36th career victory in which the Patriots were tied or trailed in the fourth quarter. Brady finished 29 of 52 for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
Bill Belichick won his 206th career game to move one ahead of Marty Schottenheimer for sixth place on the coaching list. The Bills have won one of their past 20 meetings and are 3-24 against New England since Belichick took over as Patriots coach in 2000.
Bears 24, Bengals 21
At Chicago, Jay Cutler passed to Brandon Marshall for a 19-yard touchdown to make Marc Trestman’s coaching debut with the Bears a success.
The Bengals led by 11 in the third quarter and were up 21-17 early in the fourth when Tim Jennings jarred the ball from Mohamed Sanu following a reception and made the recovery. That led to the winning score.
Seahawks 12, Panthers 7
Seattle’s stellar defense was on display at Charlotte as Cam Newton was held to 125 yards passing and one touchdown. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson threw for 320 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers held Marshawn Lynch to 43 yards rushing, but Wilson picked up the slack by completing 25 of 33 passes.
Jets 18, Buccaneers 17
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David handed this one to the Jets in the final seconds.
With the host Jets trailing 17-15 and time running out, rookie quarterback Geno Smith scrambled for 10 yards — and was shoved while he was out of bounds by David.
The 15-yard penalty gave the Jets the ball at the Buccaneers 30 and set up Folk’s winning field goal on the next play.
“I wouldn’t have hit him if I didn’t think he’d stay in bounds,” David said. “They said he was out of bounds, so they called the play. To me, he was in bounds. I was definitely surprised about it.”
Titans 16, Steelers 9
At Pittsburgh, the Titans began the game inauspiciously, then dominated, sacking Ben Roethlisberger five times.
On the first play, kick returner Darius Reynaud took a knee in the end zone on the opening kickoff after touching the ball in the field of play. Two points for Pittsburgh.
According to the NFL, it was the first safety on an opening kickoff since 1988, when the New York Giants got one at Dallas.
But Chris Johnson ran for 70 clock-chewing yards, Jackie Battle bulled his way to a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and Rob Bironas kicked three field goals. Tennessee’s new-look defense did the rest as the Steelers managed just 195 total yards and lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to a right knee injury.
Colts 21, Raiders 17
At Indianapolis, Andrew Luck’s legs were decisive. The QB ran 19 yards for the winning touchdown. He also was 18 of 23 for 178 yards with two touchdown passes.
Oakland started Terrelle Pryor at quarterback and he made some plays in going 19 of 29 for 217 yards and one TD. He also broke the Raiders’ rushing record for a quarterback with 13 carries for 112 yards, but threw two interceptions in the red zone, the second coming with 25 seconds left.
Chiefs 28, Jaguars 2
At Jacksonville, Andy Reid won his first game as Chiefs coach.
Alex Smith threw two early touchdown passes, Jamaal Charles ran for 77 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with a quadriceps injury, and Jacksonville advanced past its 36-yard line once.
“You want to win every game you possibly can in the National Football League, that’s what you strive for. You work so stinking hard for every week, then you cherish it,” said Reid, who spent the previous 14 years mostly winning in Philadelphia.
Dolphins 23, Browns 10
At Cleveland, Ryan Tannehill passed for 272 yards and a touchdown, and the Browns fell to 1-14 in Week 1 since 1999. Tannehill, who was given more offensive weapons for his second NFL season, threw a 34-yard TD pass to Brian Hartline in the third quarter and drove the Dolphins to a clinching TD in the fourth.
Cameron Wake had 2½ sacks as the Dolphins sacked Brandon Weeden six times. Weeden threw three interceptions and the Browns never got anything going in coach Rob Chudzinski’s debut.
Rookie Caleb Sturgis kicked three field goals for the Dolphins.