The quarterback returns to inspire late win while San Diego enjoy a similar comeback over Oakland as the Patriots achieve over the Bills.
A double comeback for Brady
FOXBOROUGH // In his first game for a year, Tom Brady rallied the New England Patriots to a 25-24 win over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night in a sensational return to the NFL. Brady, making his first appearance since a knee injury ended his 2008 season in the first game, threw two touchdown passes to tight end Benjamin Watson in a span of 66 seconds to spark the dramatic late win in their 2009 opener.
The three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback found Watson with an 18-yard TD pass with just over two minutes left. On the ensuing kick-off, Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin fumbled at the Bills' 31-yard line to give the Patriots possession. Brady threw three straight completions, with a 16-yarder to Watson completing the comeback. The Patriots failed on two-point conversions after both TDs, but Buffalo could not respond as they suffered an NFL record-tying 12th consecutive defeat against New England.
"I felt good. I felt good all night. We were just off," Brady said. "The plays we needed to make - fourth downs we missed, third downs we missed, two chances in the red area, the interception. Those things really get you behind the eight-ball. We recovered with just a few seconds left. Sometimes it happens like that. "It's a pretty special victory. I'm glad it's over, glad we're moving on - got a win and we'll learn from it," he said after his 29th career comeback victory.
Brady finished 39-for-53 for 378 yards in addition to the touchdowns and was 12-for-14 for 112 yards on the last two possessions. Bills quarterback Trent Edwards threw for two TDs and played a strong game himself, but it was not enough. Brady looked rusty at times early on but warmed up as the game progressed. He threw eight consecutive completions on one third-quarter drive, and then completed five in a row on the next drive before the Patriots settled for a field goal.
Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss tied his career high 12 catches, a number matched by fellow receiver Wes Welker. In a game that ebbed and flowed, Buffalo's defensive end Aaron Schobel returned a one-handed interception of a screen pass 26 yards for a first-half touchdown, helping the Bills to a 14-10 half-time lead. The game kicked off the 50th season of both teams. The New England Patriots called themselves the Boston Patriots on Monday and both teams wore throwback uniforms of that day.
Wide receiver Terrell Owens caught two passes for 46 yards on his Bills debut while the Patriots lost second-year linebacker Jerod Mayo early with an apparent knee injury. San Diego enjoyed a similar comeback over Oakland as the Patriots achieved over the Bills. Quarterback Philip Rivers engineered a fourth-quarter drive to power Chargers to a season-opening 24-20 win over the Raiders on Monday.
Running back Darren Sproles scored a touchdown from five yards out with 18 seconds left to complete an 89-yard drive. "This was one of those hard fought division games," Rivers said after throwing for 252 passing yards in the win. "In this league you have to find a way to win and that's what we did. One thing I know is no team in this league can practice two-minute situations as much as we do. "It's a little different executing it on Murphy Canyon Road [where San Diego train] as it is in Oakland.
"I said, 'Well, we've done this a million times, let's go score. All we need is three'." The Raiders appeared to be on the verge of ending the streak against their AFC West rivals when JaMarcus Russell threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy on a fourth-and-14 play. San Diego received the ball back trailing 20-17 with two and a half minutes and Rivers completed four consecutive passes on the final possession.
Rivers, who led the NFL in quarterback rating last season, finished 24-for-36 passing. His 15-yard scoring strike to Vincent Jackson put San Diego up 17-13 with seven minutes remaining. The Raiders had controlled much of the game with strong defence and a steady running game with newly-acquired defensive lineman Richard Seymour recording two sacks in his debut after being picked up in a trade with the Patriots.
Oakland QB Russell, the No 1 choice in the 2007 draft, battled through a brief injury late in the fourth and finished with 208 passing yards and two interceptions. "We have to finish the game and we didn't do that," said Raiders coach Tom Cable said. "But I'm very excited about what this team has to come and where I think we're headed." * With agencies