Ron Dayne spent the Broncos’ first game in street clothes and most of the second on the sideline.
By the end on Sunday, though, he was the key in helping Denver to the winning score – Jason Elam’s 41-yard field goal with 5 seconds left – in their come-from-behind 20-17 victory over the visiting San Diego Chargers.
Dayne came off the bench and ran six times for 38 yards on the winning drive, including an 11-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from the Chargers 33. It was the most clutch NFL performance for the Heisman Trophy winner, who came to Denver after five disappointing seasons with the Giants.
It also saved the Broncos from going 0-2 for the first time since 1999.
Instead, it’s San Diego that remains winless despite leading 14-3 early and turning the sellout crowd at Invesco Field squarely against the home team.
LaDainian Tomlinson had TD runs of 16 and 4 yards for San Diego.
Eagles 42, 49ers 3
Their relationship reconciled, Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens instead picked apart the defense.
McNabb threw four of his five touchdown passes in the first 19 minutes, including a pair to Owens, leading Philadelphia to a win over San Francisco in Philadelphia.
McNabb played three quarters, finishing 23 of 29 for 342 yards and tying his career-best for TD passes. Owens had five catches for 143 yards – all in the opening 19 minutes.
Buccaneers 19, Bills 3
Cadillac Williams topped 100 yards rushing for the second straight week, returning from a foot sprain to finish a 128-yard, one TD performance that helped Tampa Bay beat J.P. Losman and Buffalo in Tampa, Fla.
Tampa Bay’s defense scored the first points of the game on a safety and held Losman to 12-of-29 passing for 113 yards.
Titans 25, Ravens 10
Steve McNair threw a touchdown pass and Rob Bironas kicked field goals of 39, 29 and 47 yards as Tennessee, the NFL’s youngest team, beat Baltimore in its home opener in Nashville, Tenn.
The rebuilding Titans had replaced five starters on defense this off-season, but they easily outplayed Baltimore’s Pro Bowl-stocked unit with six sacks and two turnovers, including linebacker Brad Kassell’s 21-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.
Colts 10, Jaguars 3
Edgerrin James ran for 128 yards, Ran Carthon scored on a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter and the Colts’ defense turned in a second straight solid performance in a win over Jacksonville in Indianapolis.
Peyton Manning finished 13 of 28 for 122 yards with one interception.
Steelers 27, Texans 7
Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to scores on its first four drives – a pair of field goals sandwiched around touchdown passes of 16 and 14 yards to Hines Ward – and the Steelers cruised past the Texans in Houston.
Pittsburgh won its 16th straight regular-season game, matching the Miami teams of 1971-73 and 1983-84 for the second-best streak in league history. Next up in the march toward the record of 18 is the record-holder, New England.
Bears 38, Lions 6
Thomas Jones led Chicago with 139 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, Kyle Orton completed 14 of 21 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown and did not throw an interception, and Chicago beat Detroit in Chicago.
Rams 17, Cardinals 12
Kurt Warner was 29 for 42 for 327 yards in his first game against the St. Louis franchise he directed to two Super Bowls and one NFL crown and drove Arizona to the St. Louis 5-yard line in the final seconds, but a sack by Adam Archuleta and a false start preserved St. Louis’ victory in Tempe, Ariz.
Chiefs 23, Raiders 17
Trent Green engineered two second-half field goal drives and Kansas City stopped Oakland at the 10-yard line in the final minutes to spoil Randy Moss’ home debut.
Browns 26, Packers 24
Trent Dilfer won for the first time in nine trips to Lambeau Field, guiding Cleveland over the Packers in Green Bay, Wis., for new coach Romeo Crennel’s first win. Dilfer was 21 of 32 for 336 yards and three touchdowns.
Jets 17, Dolphins 7
Chad Pennington threw two touchdown passes, including a 1-yarder to Jerald Sowell in the fourth quarter to help seal New York’s win over Miami in East Rutherford, N.J.
After fumbling six times last week, Pennington fumbled on the game’s opening snap, but Miami’s Jason Taylor was offsides, negating the fumble.
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