A return to California proved to be just what Andrew Luck needed as the Indianapolis quarterback led the Colts to a 27-7 rout of the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Luck, who starred at nearby Stanford University during his US college football career, completed 18-of-27 passes for 164 yards and ran for a touchdown as he won the battle of the young quarterbacks by outplaying San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick.
“That was a heavyweight fight right there,” said Chuck Pagano, the Colts coach. “Just a phenomenal, phenomenal effort.”
Luck got some assistance as the Colts also clamped down on the defense by holding the 49ers to 254 total yards.
Indianapolis improved to 2-1 on the National Football League season. They compiled 179 rushing yards, with Ahmad Bradshaw gaining 95 and a touchdown on 19 carries, and the newly acquired Trent Richardson scoring on his first touchdown as a Colt.
One week after suffering four turnovers in a 29-3 loss at Seattle, Kaepernick managed just 150 yards on 13-of-27 passing while being intercepted once and losing a fumble.
“We have to be better,” Kaepernick said. “I have to be better. I have to be able to make throws down the field.”
Miami Dolphins 27, Atlanta Falcons 23
In Miami, Ryan Tannehill threw his second touchdown pass with 38 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, giving Miami a 27-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the Dolphins’ home opener.
Matt Bryant, the Atlanta kicker, missed a 35-yarder wide right that would have given the Falcons a six-point lead with 4:46 to play.
Tannehill then led the Dolphins on a 13-play drive that ended with Dion Sims’ one-handed catch from a yard out.
“I didn’t really think about the situation, everything was just instinctive,” Sims said. “The linebacker grabbed my arm so I just reached up with my free arm and brought it in.”
Jimmy Wilson, the Miami safety, picked off Matt Ryan, the Atlanta quarterback, to ice the victory.
Cincinnati Bengals 34, Green Bay Packers 30
Terence Newman returned a fumble 58 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:47 remaining and the Cincinnati defense came up with one more stop of Aaron Rodgers, as the Bengals rallied for a 34-30 win over the Green Bay Packers in a wild contest at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals stormed out to a 14-0 lead before four consecutive turnovers allowed the Packers to claw their way back into it. The Packers scored 30 consecutive points before Cincinnati came back with the last 20, including 13 in the fourth quarter to win it.
Seattle Seahawks 45, Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Russell Wilson, the Seattle quarterback, matched a career high with four touchdowns passes and the Seahawks crushed the Jacksonville Jaguars 45-17 at CenturyLink Field.
Wilson completed 14-of-21 passes for 202 yards and an interception, with Zach Miller and Sidney Rice each catching two of Wilson’s touchdown tosses.
Enter backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson with the game in hand, and he threw for a touchdown and ran for another in the win.
New England Patriots 23, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3
Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Kenbrell Thompkins to lead New England to a one-sided win over Tampa Bay.
Thompkins, an undrafted free agent, scored on plays of 16 and 5 yards in the first half. Aaron Dobson, a second-round draft pick, finished with seven catches for 52 yards. In their first two games, the rookies combined for just nine receptions.
The Patriots led 17-3 at halftime as the Buccaneers (0-3) wasted several opportunities.
New Orleans Saints 31, Arizona Cardinals 7
Drew Brees passed for three scores and scrambled for New Orleans’ first touchdown rushing of the season in a victory over Arizona.
The Saints quarterback was 29 of 46 for 342 yards, with two TD strikes to tight end Jimmy Graham and the other to Robert Meachem.
Brees was intercepted once by New Orleans native and Tyrann Mathieu, the former LSU star. That play ended a scoring threat, but only delayed the inevitable on a day when Arizona’s short-handed defence was little match for the prolific passing attack of the Saints (3-0).
Arizona (1-2) had no answer for the 6-foot-7 Graham, who caught nine passes for 134 yards.
Dallas Cowboys 31, St Louis Rams 7
DeMarco Murray ran for 175 yards and a touchdown two years after torching St Louis with a franchise record as a rookie, and Tony Romo threw for three scores in Dallas’ rout.
Murray had his first 100-yard game in more than a year.
The Cowboys (2-1) sacked Sam Bradford four times in the first half and had six overall after St Louis (1-2) had not allowed a sack in four games, dating to last season. It was the Rams’ longest streak since John Hadl was under center for a division champion in 1973.
Bradford went 29 for 48 and was not intercepted.
Baltimore Ravens 30, Houston Texans 9
Daryl Smith had a 37-yard interception return for a TD, Tandon Doss took a punt 82 yards for another score, and Baltimore smothered Houston’s high-powered offence.
The Ravens (2-1) won despite playing without Ray Rice for the first time since 2008. The three-time Pro Bowl running back was replaced by Bernard Pierce, who ran for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Houston (2-1) led 6-3 before Smith picked off Matt Schaub’s pass and took it into the end zone with 2:39 left in the first half. Less than two minutes later, Doss had his first punt return for a touchdown.
The Ravens have not allowed a touchdown in eight quarters since their season-opening 49-27 defeat in Denver.
Detroit Lions 27, Washington Redskins 20
Matthew Stafford completed 25 of 42 passes for 385 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson both had 100 yards receiving for Detroit, which beat Washington on the road for the first time since 1939.
The Lions (2-1) ended a 21-game streak against the Redskins, the second-longest in NFL history. Detroit’s last win away from home in the series came in 1935 against the Boston Redskins, two years before the move to Washington.
Robert Griffin III and the defending NFC East champion Redskins fell to 0-3.
Tennessee Titans 20, San Diego Chargers 17
Jake Locker helped Tennessee end a skid against the San Diego that spanned two states and two decades.
Locker threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to rookie Justin Hunter with 15 seconds left and the Titans rallied to beat the Chargers.
It was their first win over the Chargers for the franchise since 1992 when the team was in Houston and Titans coach Mike Munchak still was playing for the then-Oilers.
The Titans (2-1) had lost nine straight to San Diego.
Cleveland Browns 31, Minnesota Vikings 27
Jordan Cameron caught three touchdown passes, including the go-ahead grab in the back of the end zone with 51 seconds left, and Cleveland kept Minnesota winless.
Third-stringer Brian Hoyer threw for three scores for the Browns (1-2), the latest team to torch Minnesota’s depleted secondary. He overcame three interceptions to throw for 321 yards, going 30 for 54. Josh Gordon had 10 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown in his season debut, and Cameron had six receptions for 66 yards.
New York Jets 27, Buffalo Bills 20
Geno Smith threw two touchdown passes, including a go-ahead 69-yarder to Santonio Holmes in the fourth quarter, and the New York Jets overcame a team-record 20 penalties to hang on and beat Buffalo in an ugly game.
Smith slightly outplayed EJ Manuel in a matchup of the first two quarterbacks selected in the NFL draft in April. But this one was tough to watch at times with the barrage of penalties. The Jets (2-1) rolled up 168 yards in penalty yardage, and nearly gave it away against the Bills (1-2).