The NFL came back in a big way on opening day, with long plays highlighting games from coast to coast.
No one was more dynamic Sunday than Anquan Boldin, who made that transcontinental trip this year, after his trade from Super Bowl winner Baltimore to NFC champion San Francisco. Boldin was unstoppable in his debut as a 49ers receiver, making 13 catches for 208 yards and scoring once in a 34-28 victory over Green Bay.
"He made plays he shouldn't have made," quarterback Colin Kaepernick said.
Boldin was joined in stardom by Kaepernick, who threw for a career-best 412 yards and three touchdowns, and tight end Vernon Davis with six receptions for 98 yards and two TDs in an intense, often antagonistic match.
"We knew they were going to come in ready to play after what happened in the playoffs," Boldin said. "We had to come out and match their intensity."
The Packers lost to San Francisco to open the 2012 season and then again in the playoffs in January. They got big performances from Aaron Rodgers (21 for 37 for 333 yards and three scores), Randall Cobb (7 catches, 108 yards) and Jordy Nelson (7-130). It wasn't enough.
"We gave up too many big plays," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "Got to give credit to the quarterback for making the plays he needed to. I thought we did a good job of keeping him contained and not letting him extend plays similar to what he did in the playoff game. But he still made plays."
Reggie Bush, Drew Brees and two Rams — DE Robert Quinn and kicker Greg Zuerlein — all were superb in opening-day wins, as well.
Bush had 101 yards on four receptions and 90 yards rushing in his first game with the Lions, outgaining 2012 MVP Adrian Peterson in Detroit's 34-24 victory.
Brees passed for 357 yards and two TDs in a 23-17 win over archrival Atlanta as coach Sean Payton returned to the Saints following his one-year suspension in the bounty case.
Zuerlein went 4 for 4 on field goals and kicked a 48-yarder with 40 seconds left to send St. Louis to a 27-24 victory over Arizona. Quinn had three sacks and forced two fumbles.
Also, it was: Dallas 36, New York Giants 31; New England 23, Buffalo 21; Chicago 24, Cincinnati 21; Seattle 12, Carolina 7; New York Jets 18, Tampa Bay 17; Tennessee 16, Pittsburgh 9; Indianapolis 21, Oakland 17; Kansas City 28, Jacksonville 2; and Miami 23, Cleveland 10.
On Monday night, Philadelphia is at Washington, followed by Houston at San Diego.
Denver routed Baltimore 49-27 in the league opener Thursday night.
Lions 34, Vikings 24
At Detroit, Bush did exactly what the Lions signed him for: to break open a game.
Bush turned a short pass into a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter and finished with 191 yards of offense.
"We love his talent, but he's here because of the way he complements Calvin and the way Calvin complements him," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said, referring to All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson.
Joique Bell rushed for two TDs for Detroit.
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.
"Offensively, we really weren't sound with everything, pretty much the entire game," the 2012 MVP said.
Saints 23, Falcons 17
Sean Payton's coaching return after a one-year league suspension for the Saints' bounties was a tight affair, but a successful one for host New Orleans.
Drew Brees passed for 357 yards and two scores, and Roman Harper secured the win when he intercepted a tipped fourth-down pass in the end zone with under a minute left.
"It was just important to get the first win," Payton said. "You try to compartmentalize each week, each game, and we played a good team. ... We fought hard, especially late."
Brees connected with Marques Colston for a 25-yard touchdown pass during which the receiver also set a franchise mark for catches with 533. Brees also hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a 7-yard score in the third quarter.
Matt Ryan passed for 304 yards and scoring passes to Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones. He also drove Atlanta to the Saints 3 in the final minute before falling just short.
Rams 27, Cardinals 24
At St. Louis, Zuerlein kicked his fourth field goal, a 48-yarder with 40 seconds left.
"Basically, I stay calm, swing like I know how and the rest takes care of itself," Zuerlein said. "There's no better feeling.
"I don't even know the distances when I go out there to be honest, I just go out there and try to do my job."
And Quinn was a force.
"It's a great way to start the season, of course," he said.
Jared Cook had two touchdown catches in his Rams debut. The tight end fumbled a potential third TD, a 55-yarder that would have opened the scoring, when rookie Tyrann Mathieu punched the ball free at the 8 and the play resulted in a touchback. But St. Louis rallied from an 11-point hole to win.
Larry Fitzgerald caught two touchdown passes from new quarterback Carson Palmer and Arizona's defense had a TD.