ORCHARD PARK —
Tom Brady overcame a sloppy start with his new group of receivers to produce what’s become a familiar finish.
Brady marched the Patriots 49 yards in 12 plays to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal with 5 seconds left for a 23-21 season-opening win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Brady twice completed passes to convert third downs on the decisive drive. That included threading a throw to his right to Danny Amendola in traffic for a 10-yard gain on third-and-8 at the Bills 39.
Shane Vereen ran 15 yards on the next play, and the Patriots settled on running time off the clock before Gostkowski won it.
Brady finished 29 of 52 for 288 yards and two touchdowns in helping the Patriots win their 10th straight season opener. That ties Portsmouth/Detroit (1930-39) for the NFL’s third-longest streak.
It marked the 36th time Brady led the Patriots to victory while tied or trailing in the fourth quarter. And he did it with nearly a brand new group of receivers.
Amendola, an offseason free-agent addition, had 10 catches for 104 yards. Julian Edelman, the Patriots’ most senior receiver with tight end Rob Gronkowski sidelined, had seven catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bills nearly pulled off a stunning upset in their first game under rookie head coach Doug Marrone and rookie quarterback EJ Manuel.
Instead, it turned into an all-too-familiar outcome for the Bills against their AFC East rivals. They now drop to 1-19 in their past 20 meetings and are 3-24 in 27 games since Bill Belichick took over as Patriots coach in 2000. Belichick won his 206th career game to move one ahead of Marty Schottenheimer for sixth place on the NFL list.
Manuel, the Bills’ first-round draft pick, completed 18 of 27 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. After trailing the entire first half, Manuel put the Bills ahead 21-17 on the first possession of the third quarter. Behind a solid running game, Manuel capped an 11-play, 80-yard march with a perfectly placed 18-yard pass to Stevie Johnson.
The Bills had difficulty mustering any further offense, managing just three first downs and 73 yards on their final five possessions.
Turnovers led to all four touchdowns in the first half.
Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington forced two fumbles, one by running back C.J. Spiller, the other by receiver Marquise Goodwin. Both came inside Buffalo territory and set up Edelman’s 9- and 8-yard touchdown catches.
Safety Da’Norris Searcy scored Buffalo’s first touchdown by returning Stevan Ridley’s fumble 74 yards. Justin Rogers intercepted Brady’s pass that tipped off the fingers of Zach Sudfeld in the final minute of the half. Manuel hit fellow rookie Robert Woods for an 18-yard touchdown with 34 seconds left.
Ridley did not return after his fumble. It was an unforced error, as Ridley slipped at the line of scrimmage and lost the ball without being touched. Ridley had also fumbled in the first quarter, but officials ruled he was down before losing control of the ball.
Ridley spent the rest of the game watching from the sideline with his helmet perched on his head.
Vereen took over most of the running duties and finished with 14 carries for 101 yards.
Brady had difficulty finding chemistry minus his familiar security blankets. Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez are gone, while Gronkowski is still recovering from back and forearm injuries.
Rookie Kenbrell Thompkins struggled in particular. He had only four catches for 42 yards despite being targeted 14 times.
The Patriots’ offense lacked finish in the second half, coming away with two field goals on three drives inside the Bills 20. Brady fumbled a snap on fourth-and-goal at the 1 on New England’s first possession of the third quarter.
But the Bills severely lacked discipline. They were penalized 10 times for 75 yards.
Jets, Dolphins open their
NFL season with victories
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Nick Folk kicked a 48-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining after Lavonte David’s personal foul penalty kept New York’s drive alive, and the Jets pulled out an improbable opening victory, 18-17, over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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, making his first NFL start with Mark Sanchez out with a shoulder injury, made some mistakes — a fumble that led to a score and an interception — but was mostly solid while going 24 of 38 for 256 yards with a touchdown.
Dolphins 23, Browns 10
CLEVELAND — Ryan Tannehill passed for 272 yards and a touchdown, leading the Dolphins to a win over the Browns, who 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 game-clinching TD in the fourth.
Daniel Thomas had a 1-yard scoring plunge with 6:48 left, putting the Dolphins up by 10.
Miami’s Cameron Wake had 2½ sacks and the Dolphins’ defensive line 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.
49ers 34, Packers 28
SAN FRANCISCO — 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, and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 34-28 on Sunday.
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, but the Packers departed from Candlestick Park with another defeat eight months after losing 45-31 in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Saints 23, Falcons 17
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees passed for 357 yards and two scores, and the Saints held on for the win in coach Sean Payton’s 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
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Alex Smith threw two early touchdown passes, Kansas City’s defense dominated all day and the Chiefs began the Andy Reid era with a victory at Jacksonville.
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.
It wasn’t even close to the start the new coach Gus Bradley wanted, but it was a clear indication of how far the team has to go.
Bears 24, Bengals 21
CHICAGO — Jay Cutler passed to Brandon Marshall for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping 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.
Colts 21, Raiders 17
INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck ran 19 yards for the winning touchdown, giving 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.
Oakland started Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. He was 19 of 29 for 217 yards and one TD, and he broke the Raiders’ rushing record for a quarterback with 13 carries for 112 yards.
But he also threw two interceptions in the red zone, the second coming with 25 seconds left in the game.
Lions 34, Vikings 24
DETROIT — Reggie Bush turned a short pass into a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter and finished with 191 yards of offense to help 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 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.
Rams 27, Cardinals 24
ST. LOUIS — Greg Zuerlein kicked a 48-yard field goal with 40 seconds left to lift St. Louis to the comeback victory.
It was Zuerlein’s fourth field goal of the game for the Rams, who trailed 24-13 after three quarters.
Larry Fitzgerald caught two touchdown passes from new quarterback Carson Palmer and Arizona’s defense had a TD.
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.
Titans 16, Steelers 9
PITTSBURGH — Tennessee’s revamped defense sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and the Titans shut down the Steelers.
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 for the Titans. Tennessee’s new-look defense did the rest.
Pittsburgh managed just 195 total yards and lost a series of players to injury, including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey left in the first quarter with a right knee injury and likely will miss an extended amount of time.
The Titans gave up more points than any team in the NFL last season and brought in Gregg Williams as an assistant. His impact was immediate. Roethlisberger completed 21 of 33 passes for 191 yards and a late touchdown, but never got comfortable when the game was in doubt.
Seahawks 12, Panthers 7
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Russell Wilson threw for 320 yards for Seattle, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in the fourth quarter.
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, but 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. The Seahawks ran out the clock from there.
Carolina’s Cam Newton was held to 125 yards passing and one touchdown, a 3-yard strike to Steve Smith in the first half.