The NFL likes to brag about the parity and the closeness of a majority of its games. Sunday brought more fodder for the propaganda machine.
Eight of the 11 Sunday afternoon games were decided by one touchdown or less, and seven of the winners had to come from behind in the second half.
None of the games produced a wire-to-wire winner, meaning even the fans of the losers had at least a few moments of pleasure.
Five games, including the Bills-Patriots, were divisional matchups, the biggest being the New Orleans Saints’ 23-17 victory over defending NFC South champion Atlanta.
A capsule look at Kickoff Sunday:
Game of the day
49ers 34, Packers 28
The scoop: The Niners fell behind for the only time in the game on rookie Eddy Lacy’s 2-yard run with 8:26 left, then roared back with an 80-yard drive and 1-yard run by Frank Gore with 5:47 left. A Phil Dawson field goal with 26 seconds left sealed it.
Why the 49ers won: Colin Kaepernick outperformed Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, passing for 412 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. Rodgers (21 of 37, 333 yards) passed for three scores with one interception.
Saints 23, Falcons 17
The scoop: Drew Brees passed for 357 yards and two scores 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. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan passed for 304 yards and two touchdowns. The Saints handed the Falcons one of their three regular season defeats in 2012, also coming in the Louisiana Superdome.
Why the Saints won: The Falcons fell too much in love with their passing game even though they led for most of the first three quarters. They ran only 14 times with newcomer Steven Jackson gaining 77 yards in 11 tries.
Cowboys 36, Giants 31
The scoop: New York was driving for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown just inside the 2-minute warning when Brandon Carr returned a deflected pass 49 yards to wrap it up for Dallas. New York scored with 16 seconds left. Earlier, Barry Church of Dallas returned a fumble 27 yards for a third quarter score to give Dallas a 20-10 lead and they built it to 27-10. Tony Romo of the Cowboys threw two TD passes to Jason Witten. Three of the Giants’ touchdowns were Eli Manning-to-Victor Cruz passes for 70, 18 and 10 yards. The last went to Brandon Myers. New York had closed to 30-24 before the interception.
Why the Cowboys won: Six turnovers by the Giants will do it most every time.
Lions 34, Vikings 24
The scoop: Reggie Bush turned a short pass into a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter and finished with 191 yards of offense in his first game with Detroit. Joique Bell, who was cut in training camp by the Bills in 2010, ran for two TDs, including the 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. 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. Bush, the former Saint and Dolphin, rushed for 90 yards and caught four passes for 101
Why the Lions won: They turned two of the four Minnesota turnovers into touchdowns. During one stretch in the middle of the game the Lions scored touchdowns on four of five possessions.
Rams 27, Cardinals 24
The scoop: Greg Zuerlein kicked two of his four field goals in the fourth quarter as the Rams scored the game’s last 11 points. Zuerlein’s winning FG from 48 yards came with 40 seconds left.
Why the Rams won: They scored on three of their four fourth-quarter possessions while shutting out the Cardinals.
Colts 21, Raiders 17
The scoop: Quarterback Andrew Luck ran 19 yards for the winning touchdown with 5:20 to go, giving Indianapolis its first opening-day win since 2009. 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.
Why the Colts won: Pryor threw two interceptions in the red zone, the second with 25 seconds left in the game.
Jets 18, Buccaneers 17
The scoop: New York’s Nick Folk kicked a 48-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining after Lavonte David’s personal foul penalty kept the drive alive. Trailing 17-15 and with time running out, rookie QB Geno Smith scrambled for 10 yards – and was shoved while he was out of bounds by David. That put the ball at the Buccaneers 30 and set up Folk’s field goal on the next play. Ex-Bill Rian Lindell had kicked a 37-yard field goal with 34 seconds left to put the Bucs in front.
Why the Jets won: In his first NFL start, Smith 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.
Bears, 24, Bengals 21
The scoop: Jay Cutler passed to Brandon Marshall for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter as Chicago won in coach Marc Trestman’s debut. The Bengals led, 21-17, early in the fourth when Tim Jennings jarred the ball from Mohamed Sanu following a reception and made the recovery. Chicago then drove to the winning score.
Why the Bears won: Matt Forte ran for a first down on fourth and inches to keep Chicago’s winning drive alive.
Seahawks 12, Panthers 7
The scoop: Russell Wilson threw for 320 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in the fourth quarter for Seattle’s only TD. The Panthers held Marshawn Lynch to 43 yards rushing, but Wilson picked up the slack.
Why the Seahawks won: They held Cam Newton to 125 yards passing and safety Earl Thomas forced a DeAngelo Williams fumble at the Seattle 8 late in the game and the Seahawks were able to run out the clock.
Dolphins 23, Browns 10
The scoop: Ryan Tannehill 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. The Browns have won only once on Opening Day in the last 15 seasons. Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis kicked three field goals for the Dolphins as they spoiled Rob Chudzinski’s debut.
Why the Dolphins won: They sacked Brandon Weeden six times. Weeden also threw three interceptions.
Titans 16, Steelers 9
The scoop: Jackie Battle bulled his way for a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter and Rob Bironas kicked three field goals for Tennessee, which never trailed again after giving up an early safety. The loss ended Pittsburgh’s streak of winning home openers at 10.
Why the Titans won: Gregg Williams’ Tennessee defense sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and limited the Steelers to only 32 yards rushing and a 2.1 average.
Dog of the day
Chiefs 28, Jaguars 2
The scoop: New Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith passed for two first-half touchdowns to cap drives of only 24 and 21 yards in Kansas City’s first game under coach Andy Reid. Jamaal Charles ran for another score and Tamba Hall returned a Blaine Gabbert pass 10 yards for a fourth-quarter score.
Why the Chiefs won: After blocking the first K.C. punt for a safety, the Jaguars did nothing. The Jacksonville offense was totally ineffective. The Jaguars went three-and-out in seven of their 12 possessions and two others ended with interceptions. They had only one drive into K.C. territory and lost it on downs at the 2. Gabbert had a 30.8 passer rating as he completed only 16 of 35 with two interceptions and was sacked six times.
News wire services contributed to this report.