Titans 16, Steelers 9
The Pittsburgh Steelers kept insisting during a listless preseason the intensity would be there once the calendar flipped to September and the games started to count.
The calendar flipped. The Steelers still flopped.
Sloppy at the start and injury ravaged by the finish, host Pittsburgh opened 2013 with a dismal loss to Tennessee on Sunday that exposed a variety of flaws that may take weeks for coach Mike Tomlin to address.
The offense managed just 32 yards rushing. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times.
And while the defense kept Tennessee under wraps, it still allowed two lengthy scoring drives and failed to produce a turnover.
Even worse, Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey ripped up his right knee and linebacker Larry Foote ruptured his biceps. Both players are likely out for the season, an emotional blow to a team already in transition.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Tomlin said. “Nobody cares about our problems. They’re glad we’ve got them. We need to understand that. We need to stick together and persevere.”
Roethlisberger never looked comfortable while completing 21-of-33 passes for 191 yards and an interception to go with a garbage-time touchdown. He spent a portion of the day on his back and had trouble dealing with a revitalized Tennessee defense invigorated by the arrival of assistant Gregg Williams.
“Not good enough, point blank,” Roethlisberger said. “No excuses. I don’t make excuses. It just wasn’t good enough.”
Tennessee’s Jackie Battle ran for a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter and Rob Bironas kicked three field goals for the Titans. Johnson added 70 clock-chewing yards as Tennessee snapped Pittsburgh’s 10-game winning streak in home openers.
Saints 23, Falcons 17
Drew Brees passed for 357 yards and two scores, and the host New Orleans Saints held on to beat the Atlanta Falcons to give coach Sean Payton a triumphant return from his bounty ban.
Roman Harper secured the win when he intercepted a tipped fourth-down pass in the end zone with under a minute left.
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 touchdown passes to Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones. He also drove Atlanta to the Saints 3 in the final minute before falling just short.
Chiefs 28, Jaguars 2
Alex Smith threw two early touchdown passes, Kansas City’s defense dominated all day and the visiting Chiefs began the Andy Reid era with a victory.
Jamaal Charles ran for 77 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with a quadriceps injury, but that was about the only negative for the Chiefs.
Jacksonville advanced past its own 36-yard line just once, a stunning display of offensive futility for the rebuilding franchise. The Jaguars finished with 178 yards, but for most of the game were challenging the team low of 117 yards set last year against Houston.
Bears 24, Bengals 21
Jay Cutler passed to Brandon Marshall for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping host Chicago get the victory in Marc Trestman’s coaching debut with the team.
It wasn’t quite the display the Bears were looking for after making some big changes in the offseason. But it was good enough.
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.
Chicago took over at its 19 and got an 8-yard run from Matt Forte on fourth-and-inches at the Bengals 27 to keep the drive going. Cutler then found Marshall in the front corner of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown, giving Chicago a 24-21 lead with 7:58 remaining.
Patriots 23, Bills 21
Stephen Gostkowski hit a 35-yard field goal with 5 seconds left to send New England to the road win.
Tom Brady set up the decisive score by leading a 49-yard, 12-play drive during which he twice completed passes to convert third downs. It was Brady’s 36th career victory in which the Patriots were tied or trailed in the fourth quarter.
Brady finished 29-of-52 for 288 yards passing and two touchdowns in helping the Patriots win their season opener for the 10th consecutive season.
Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel completed 18-of-27 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Colts 21, Raiders 17
Andrew Luck ran 19 yards for the winning touchdown, giving host Indianapolis its first opening-day win since 2009.
Luck was 18-of-23 for 178 yards with two touchdown passes, but earned his eighth career fourth-quarter comeback by scrambling for a score with 5:20 to go.
Lions 34, Vikings 24
Reggie Bush turned a short pass into a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter and finished with 191 yards of offense to help host Detroit pull away from Minnesota.
Joique Bell ran for two TDs, including a go-ahead score that gave the Lions their first lead early in the third quarter.
Matthew Stafford was 28-of-43 for 357 yards with two TDs. His last score was a 1-yard lob to rookie tight end Joseph Fauria with 6:47 left that sealed the win.
Adrian Peterson had 93 yards rushing, including a 78-yard TD on his first carry.
Jets 18, Bucs 17
Nick Folk kicked a 48-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining after Lavonte David’s personal foul penalty kept host New York’s drive alive, and the Jets pulled out an improbable opening victory.
With the Jets trailing 17-15 and time running out, rookie 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.
Things appeared dim for the Jets just moments earlier when Rian Lindell kicked a 37-yard field goal with 34 seconds left.
Smith was 24-of-38 for 256 yards with a touchdown.
Seahawks 12, Panthers 7
Russell Wilson threw for 320 yards for Seattle, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in the fourth quarter to lead the visiting Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks managed just two field goals before Kearse beat cornerback Josh Thomas down the right sideline for the go-ahead score with 10:13 left.
The Panthers held Marshawn Lynch to 43 yards rushing. Wilson picked up the slack by completing 25-of-33 passes.
The Panthers threatened to take the lead late, but safety Earl Thomas forced DeAngelo Williams to fumble at the Seattle 8. Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel recovered with 5:25 left.
Rams 27, Cardinals 24
Greg Zuerlein kicked a 48-yard field goal with 40 seconds left and the host St. Louis Rams completed a fourth-quarter comeback. It was Zuerlein’s fourth field goal of the game.
Larry Fitzgerald caught two touchdown passes from Carson Palmer and the Arizona defense scored one touchdown.
49ers 34, Packers 28
Frank Gore scored a go-ahead, 1-yard touchdown with 5:47 remaining, Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns, with 13 completions to Anquan Boldin, to lead the host San Francisco 49ers.
Boldin had 208 yards receiving in a spectacular San Francisco debut and Vernon Davis caught a pair of touchdown passes from Kaepernick, who marched his team 80 yards on five plays to take the lead late.
The 49ers answered after Packers rookie Eddie Lacy put Green Bay ahead on a 2-yard run with 8:26 left.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns.
Cowboys 36, Giants 31
Brandon Carr returned an interception 49 yards for a clinching touchdown, and the Dallas Cowboys beat Eli Manning for the first time at their fancy $1.2 billion stadium with six takeaways and Tony Romo’s two scoring passes to Jason Witten.
Manning threw three touchdown passes to Victor Cruz and had New York in position for a comeback despite the flurry of mistakes. But with the Giants trailing 30-24, a pass from Manning went off the hand of running back De’Rel Scott into Carr’s arms. The cornerback beat Manning down the sideline for Dallas’ second defensive touchdown with 1:50 remaining.