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Shanahan's gutsy decision leads Broncos to thrilling win

Sunday, September 14, 2008

By The Associated Press

DENVER -- Showing the ultimate confidence in his offense, Denver coach Mike Shanahan went for a 2-point conversion with 29 seconds left. Jay Cutler hit rookie Eddie Royal over the middle to give the Denver Broncos a 39-38 win over the stunned San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

The Chargers (0-2) couldn't believe they lost in the final seconds for the second straight week, with a controversial officiating call helping decide the outcome.

Trailing 38-31, the Broncos (2-0) reached the 1, but on third-and-goal, Cutler reared back to throw. The ball slipped out of his hands, bounced off the grass and into linebacker Tim Dobbins' hands.

But referee Ed Hochuli blew his whistle, apparently ruling it an incomplete pass. After a review, Hochuli said the Broncos would keep the ball because his whistle had blown the play dead. The Broncos got the ball at the 10, where it hit the grass.

Two plays later, Cutler hit Royal for the TD to make it 38-37.

Instead of going for the tie, Shanahan kept his offense on the field and, 75,000-plus fans at Invesco Field holding their breath, Cutler again found Royal in the end zone for the winning points.

Cutler completed 36 of 50 passes for a career-best 350 yards and four TDs. Brandon Marshall set a franchise record with 18 catches for 166 yards in a magnificent return from his one-game suspension.

With LaDainian Tomlinson slowed by a jammed right big toe, his backup, Darren Sproles had a career day, piling up 317 all-purpose yards on 14 touches, including a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first half and a 66-yard catch-and-run for the go-ahead score with 4:22 remaining. 49ers 33, Seahawks 30, OT

SEATTLE (AP) -- Joe Nedney shook off a missed field goal as time expired in regulation and kicked a 40-yarder 4:40 into overtime. The loss left the four-time defending division champions 0-2 for the first time since 2002.

San Francisco (1-1) overcame eight sacks of J.T. O'Sullivan to beat the Seahawks for just the third time in 11 games, in the first overtime game of the 19-game series between the two teams.

O'Sullivan was 20-for-31 for 321 yards and one touchdown in the second start of his six-year career. Seattle's Patrick Kerney and rookie top pick Lawrence Jackson sacked him two times each, but the journeyman passer kept coming back.

The 49ers got the ball to start overtime. On third-and-7 from the San Francisco 23, O'Sullivan found Isaac Bruce over the much shorter Josh Wilson for 33 yards. Bruce caught four passes for 153 yards, his most since 2004, one week after O'Sullivan never even threw his way in a loss to Arizona.

O'Sullivan then threw a quick jump pass for 5 yards to Arnaz Battle on third-and-3. That set up Nedney for redemption.

Seattle's Julius Jones had 127 yards on 16 carries, his biggest rushing day since Dec. 24, 2005, for Dallas at Carolina.

Patriots 19, Jets 10

Matt Cassel was efficient running the offense in his first NFL start, taking over for the injured Tom Brady. Cassel, who hadn't started at any level since his senior year of high school, was 16-of-23 for 165 yards, Sammy Morris ran for a touchdown and Stephen Gostkowski kicked four field goals.

The Patriots (2-0) ruined the Jets' home opener and Brett Favre's first regular-season home start for New York. New England won its 21st straight regular-season game, and beat the Jets for the eighth straight time at the Meadowlands.

Favre went 18-of-26 for 181 yards and a TD for the Jets (1-1), but the Patriots took advantage of a big mistake by the veteran. Favre made a poor decision, hanging a pass intended for Chris Baker that was easily picked off by Brandon Meriweather for Favre's first interception with the Jets.

Giants 41, Rams 13

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A 97-yard drive put the New York offense in gear. Another stifling effort from a big-play defense led by Justin Tuck made much of the scoring window dressing in the Giants' 12th straight away win, including their Super Bowl victory last February.

Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes and the Giants sacked Marc Bulger six times while limiting the Rams to a fluke touchdown. The Rams (0-2) came up with another dud in their home opener, which also served as a tribute to late owner Georgia Frontiere.

The Giants (2-0) have not lost a road game since their opener last season.

Tuck's 41-yard interception return in the fourth quarter sealed the victory, and he added a pair of sacks. Fred Robbins also had two sacks for the Giants.

Manning was 20-for-29 for 260 yards, including hitting Plaxico Burress on a 33-yard TD strike in the first quarter, Brandon Jacobs had 93 yards on 15 carries and 44-year-old kicker John Carney added field goals of 39 and 33 yards in the first half.

Colts 18, Vikings 15

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Taking a beating all afternoon, Peyton Manning peeled himself off the Metrodome turf and gave it right back to the Minnesota defense.

Manning rallied Indianapolis from a 15-0 hole late in the third quarter, moving Adam Vinatieri into position for the winning field goal with 3 seconds left.

Avoiding his first 0-2 start since his rookie season in 1998, Manning zinged a 20-yard pass on third-and-9 to Reggie Wayne up the seam before Vinatieri -- who uncharacteristically missed a 30-yarder earlier -- made his 47-yard kick.

Minnesota (0-2) wasted yet another strong effort by a dominant defense, failing again to figure out that pesky old forward pass.

Manning definitely has it down, though he hasn't looked his usual sharp self this September following summer knee surgery. He finished 26-for-42 for 311 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, but those numbers belied the story of the first three quarters.

Adrian Peterson rushed for 118 of his 160 yards in the first half, and the Vikings were in the Colts' half of the field on their first eight possessions -- coming away with five field goals by Ryan Longwell.

Packers 48, Lions 25

DETROIT (AP) -- Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in the first four drives of his second start, helping Green Bay build a big lead it needed.

Green Bay led 21-0 midway through the second quarter, but fell behind by a point with 7:41 left after Calvin Johnson caught his second TD in the fourth quarter.

The Packers (2-0) went back ahead with a field goal on the ensuing drive, then turned the game into the rout it had been for much of the day with three straight interceptions.

Charles Woodson and Nick Collins returned two of the picks for touchdowns, giving Green Bay a lopsided lead again.

Rodgers was 24-of-38 for 328 yards, three scores and a fumble. He threw a TD and ran for another in his debut as an NFL starter, leading the Packers over the Vikings.

Brandon Jackson ran for 61 yards, including a 19-yard score that put the Packers ahead by more than a TD with 3 1/2 minutes left. Greg Jennings caught six passes for 167 yards, while Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson all had TD receptions.

The Lions are 0-2 for the fifth time since 2001.

Raiders 23, Chiefs 8

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Raiders, with plenty of help from Kansas City, set aside all their backbiting and turmoil long enough to win a football game.

Rookie Darren McFadden ran for 164 yards and a touchdown and Sebastian Janikowski kicked a team-record 56-yard field goal against an inept Chiefs team that tried three quarterbacks.

Lane Kiffin, amid reports that his job is in jeopardy, won for just the fifth time 18 games as coach of the Raiders (1-1).

The Chiefs' young defense gave up 300 yards rushing, including 90 by Michael Bush, who all by himself beat the Chiefs' 55 yards on the ground. Kansas City started 0-2 for the third time in three years under Herm Edwards and has lost 11 regular-season games in a row.

In using three quarterbacks, the Chiefs had only 65 net yards at halftime and barely managed to avoid their first home shutout since 1994.

Titans 24, Bengals 7

CINCINNATI (AP) -- With Vince Young not even with the team, the Titans ended a troubling and confusing week by winning in a breeze.

Backup quarterback Kerry Collins threw low, tight passes that stayed on track in Cincinnati's wind-tunnel of a stadium. Collins threw his first touchdown pass in two years, rookie Chris Johnson ran for 109 yards, and Rob Bironas guided a low, curving kick between gyrating uprights for a 34-yard field goal. Linebacker Keith Bulluck provided the clincher, blocking Kyle Larson's punt in the end zone with his right arm, then snatching the ball off the ground for another touchdown.

At 2-0, the Titans are off to their best start since 1999, when they won their first three games and made the only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. It hasn't come easy.

Young sprained his left knee during an opening win over Jacksonville, and the Titans asked police to look for him a day later out of concern for his mental state. The drama consumed their week, and Young didn't accompany the team to Cincinnati.

Collins threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Justin Gage and made no mistakes against the Bengals (0-2), off to their worst start since Marvin Lewis became head coach in 2003. Bills 20, Jaguars 16

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Trent Edwards was good early and even better late, doing just enough to lead the Bills (2-0) to their best start in five years.

Edwards completed his first 10 attempts and threw a perfect touchdown pass to James Hardy late in the fourth quarter. Edwards finished 20-of-25 for 239 yards, Marshawn Lynch ran for 59 yards and a score, and Buffalo's defense held Jacksonville in check most of the day. The Jaguars (0-2) are off to their worst start since 2003. They finished 5-11 that season -- and could be in for another long one this time around.

Jacksonville took the second-half kickoff and drove 74 yards for a touchdown that tied the score at 10. Maurice Jones-Drew plunged in from 2 yards, then the Jaguars recovered an onside kick that led to a field goal and their first lead in two games this season.

Edwards fumbled on the ensuing possession and Jacksonville tacked on a field goal that made it 16-10.

But Edwards made two of his best throws. Facing third-and-6 from the Jacksonville 44, Edwards hung in the pocket and threw a strike to Lee Evans that gained 37 yards. Edwards was even better on the next play, hooking up with second-round draft pick Hardy in the corner of the end zone for a 7-yard score.

Panthers 20, Bears 17

CHARLOTTE, N.C (AP) -- After watching the Bears build a big lead behind a stout defense and a rookie running back, the Panthers used the same combination to stage a late comeback for an unlikely 2-0 start.

Jonathan Stewart rushed for all but one of his 77 yards in the second half and scored two touchdowns, including the go-ahead TD late in the fourth quarter, and the Panthers stopped the Bears (1-1) on fourth-and-1 with under 2 minutes left.

The Panthers scored the game's final 17 points, recovering from a mistake-prone first half, behind their improved defense.

Chris Harris' forced fumble against his former team set up a touchdown, and Jake Delhomme engineered his second straight fourth-quarter comeback following his return from elbow surgery.

Without suspended star receiver Steve Smith, the Panthers snapped a four-game losing streak in home openers, a week after they stunned San Diego with a touchdown on the final play.

Redskins 29, Saints 24

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) -- Jason Campbell hit Santana Moss for a 67-yard touchdown pass that won the game. Campbell and new Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn's West Coast offense succeeded in Week 2 as spectacularly as it failed in Week 1. Campbell went from uncomfortable to prolific, completing 24 of 36 passes for 321 yards.

The big play came with 3:29 left. Campbell avoided the rush, stepped forward and hit Moss in stride, the receiver one step ahead of cornerback Tracy Porter. The completion was the longest of Campbell's career. Moss finished with seven catches for 164 yards for the Redskins (1-1).

Seventh-round draft pick Chris Horton, making his first NFL start because of Reed Doughty's illness, was in the right place at the right time with two interceptions off tipped balls and a fumble recovery -- accounting for all three turnovers for the Sains (1-1).

New Orleans' Reggie Bush returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown.

Cardinals 31, Dolphins 10

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Kurt Warner looked like he did in his MVP days, Anquan Boldin certainly wasn't sulking over contract woes, and Larry Fitzgerald caught almost everything thrown his way.

The result was a rout that has the Cardinals 2-0 for the first time in 17 years.

Warner completed 19 of 24 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Boldin caught all three scores, a career high.

In all, Boldin had six receptions for 140 yards, a franchise record 22nd time he's passed the century mark. Fitzgerald, meanwhile, caught six for 153 yards, his 14th 100-yard game. It was the sixth time the pair topped 100 yards in the same game.

Warner had a perfect 158.3 passer rating for the third time in his career, tying Peyton Manning for the NFL record.

Arizona's Edgerrin James gained 55 yards on 18 carries to become the 14th player in NFL history to surpass 15,000 career yards from scrimmage.

The Dolphins (0-2) lost their 11th straight road game.

Buccaneers 24, Falcons 9

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Rookie Matt Ryan was intercepted twice in the first half and Tampa Bay's Brian Griese turned the miscues into a touchdown and field goal.

A week after beating Detroit in his pro debut, Ryan threw incompletions on his first nine passes before settling down to keep Atlanta (1-1) in the game with three field goal drives that trimmed a 17-point deficit to eight with 5 minutes to go.

The Bucs (1-1) ended any hopes the third pick in this year's draft would finish an improbable comeback when Earnest Graham broke a tackle in the backfield and barreled around right end and up the sideline on a 68-yard TD run.

Ryan completed 13 of 33 passes for 158 yards. Aqib Talib's interception on Atlanta's third play set up Griese's 5-yard TD throw to John Gilmore and Sabby Piscitelli's pick and 17-yard return positioned the Bucs for Matt Bryant's 33-yard field goal that made it 17-0 late in the second quarter.

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