Randy Moss said he doesn’t think he’s appreciated in New England, and Terrell Owens apologized to Bengals fans. Wes Welker, however, stayed typically quiet and concentrated on scoring touchdowns.
In a game that featured star receivers on both sides, Welker capped his speedy return from a serious knee injury by catching two TD passes from Tom Brady to help the Patriots beat Cincinnati 38-24 in their season opener Sunday.
While the New England defense was holding Owens and teammate Chad Ochocinco in check early, Welker was darting through the Bengals’ secondary. He caught eight passes for 64 yards less than eight months after surgery to repair a knee ligament he tore in the final game last season.
Many doubted the 2009 All-Pro would be back for the opener, but he and Brady were confident.
“I had pretty much instilled it in my mind that I would be back,” Welker said. “I still have a ways to go. … I have this stupid knee brace I hate. I can’t wait to burn it. We’re getting there, slowly but surely.”
The Patriots also scored on defense with Gary Guyton’s 59-yard interception return and on special teams with Brandon Tate’s 97-yard runback of the second-half kickoff.
Welker had the most impact of any receiver, surpassing Cincinnati’s much-hyped new tandem of Ochocinco and Owens. Ochocinco had 12 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown, and Owens added seven receptions for 53 yards. But much of that damage came in the second half with the Bengals way behind.
“Apologies to Cincy fans,” Owens tweeted, “tough loss today, only week 1, we’ve a long season ahead, all of you be blessed, 1 luv.”
Brady threw for 258 yards and three scores, capping a hectic week that included a frightening car crash and a rich contract extension.
Moss had plenty to say about his contract situation.
The wide receiver lashed out in a lengthy and passionate news conference after the game, saying he doesn’t feel appreciated in New England and that waiting until after the season to get a new deal would be “a smack in my face.”
“It’s not that I’m mad or trying to be disgruntled. I’m hurt,” he said. “If you do a good job and think that you’re doing a good job, you want to be appreciated. I really don’t think that — me, personally — that I’m appreciated.”
But Moss, who complained that reporters twist his words around, also said in a 16-minute back-and-forth: “I’m not saying that I’m not appreciated here.”
Redskins 13, Cowboys 7
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — DeAngelo Hall returned a fumble 32 yards for Washington’s only touchdown, and Donovan McNabb completed 15 of 32 passes for 171 yards in his Redskins debut.
It also was the Washington curtain-raiser for Mike Shanahan, and the longtime Denver Broncos coach watched his defense keep the Cowboys at bay when it mattered.
With 3 seconds left, and the ball at the 13-yard line, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo scrambled to find Roy Williams open in the end zone. But Alex Barron was called for holding, negating the winning touchdown.
Texans 34, Colts 24
HOUSTON (AP) — Arian Foster ran for a team-record 231 yards and scored three touchdowns to help Houston end a six-game losing streak against Peyton Manning and the defending AFC champions.
Foster, an undrafted rookie who spent most of last season on the practice squad, had 33 carries in gaining the most yards by a Colts opponent. He had the NFL’s second-best opening weekend rushing performance since 1933, topped only by O.J. Simpson’s 250 yards for Buffalo in 1973 against New England.
Manning completed 40 of 57 passes for 433 yards and three touchdowns.
Packers 27, Eagles 20
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Aaron Rodgers threw a pair of touchdown passes, Mason Crosby kicked a team-record 56-yard field goal and Green Bay won despite a vintage performance by Michael Vick.
In their first game since trading McNabb to Washington, the Eagles started with Kevin Kolb and finished with Vick. Kolb left with a concussion at halftime, so Vick played meaningful snaps for an extended period for the first time in nearly four years.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection during six seasons in Atlanta, Vick invigorated an offense that was awful in the first half. He finished with 175 yards passing and ran for 103, but couldn’t overcome a 20-3 deficit.
Bears 19, Lions 14
CHICAGO (AP) — Jay Cutler threw for 372 yards, including a 28-yard TD pass to Matt Forte with 1:32 left to lift Chicago.
The Lions, who lost quarterback Matthew Stafford with a right shoulder injury late in the first half, nearly pulled out the win, but Shaun Hill’s 25-yard pass to Calvin Johnson in the end zone with 25 seconds left was ruled incomplete after a review.
Two incompletions later, the Lions walked off the field with their 21st straight road loss.
Stafford took a blindside sack by Julius Peppers and spent the second half on the sideline with his arm in a sling. His status for next week is uncertain.
The Bears outgained the Lions 463-168, but committed four turnovers. Forte had seven catches for 151 yards, including an 89-yard screen play for a TD.
Seahawks 31, 49ers 6
SEATTLE (AP) — Matt Hasselbeck threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Seattle gave new coach Pete Carroll a winning start.
Carroll left Southern California after last season and is back coaching in the NFL for the first time in 11 years.
Jordan Babineaux and Marcus Trufant each intercepted 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, with Trufant returning his 32 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to give Seattle a 21-6 lead.
Cardinals 17, Rams 13
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Larry Fitzgerald caught a 21-yard touchdown pass for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter, helping Arizona spoil the debut of No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford.
Derek Anderson passed for 297 yards in his first start as the replacement for the retired Kurt Warner. Steve Breaston caught seven passes for 132 yards for a Cardinals offense missing running back Beanie Wells (knee). Bradford was 32 of 55 for 253 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Titans 38, Raiders 13
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Chris Johnson ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns, Vince Young threw for two scores and the Titans avoided any comparisons to last year’s 0-6 start with a season-opening rout.
The Titans sacked new Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell four times and forced two turnovers they turned into 10 points.
Johnson, the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year, extended his streak to 12 consecutive 100-yard games by halftime to break a tie with Marcus Allen. He trails only Barry Sanders, who had an NFL-best 14 such games.
Giants 31, Panthers 18
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Giants opened their new $1.6 billion home by beating the Panthers with a big second half.
Trailing 16-14 at halftime, the Giants surged behind second-year receiver Hakeem Nicks, who caught three touchdown passes from Eli Manning. Ahmad Bradshaw set up his own 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter with a 39-yard romp that provided the cushion for New York.
The Panthers routed the Giants 41-9 in the hosts’ final game at Giants Stadium last December. But Carolina couldn’t match New York in the final two quarters before 77,245 fans.
Jaguars 24, Broncos 17
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — David Garrard threw three touchdown passes, two to tight end Marcedes Lewis, and Jacksonville won a game the team called one of the most important in franchise history.
Garrard completed 16 of 21 passes for 170 yards. Mike Thomas caught six for 89 yards, and Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 98 yards.
The Jaguars, coming off a 7-9 season in which they blacked out nine of 10 home games, needed to get off to a good start to keep fans in the seats and eliminate more talk about relocation.
Steelers 15, Falcons 9, OT
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Rashard Mendenhall ran 50 yards for a touchdown 2:35 into overtime and Pittsburgh overcame a shaky start by replacement quarterback Dennis Dixon and a missed field goal attempt late in regulation.
With the Steelers leaning heavily on their running game and defense without suspended star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Mendenhall carried 22 times for 120 yards and the game’s only touchdown. Hines Ward made six catches for 108 yards in his club-record 26th career 100-yard game.
Dolphins 15, Bills 10
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Karlos Dansby and Miami’s new-look defense limited Buffalo to 166 yards on offense in Chan Gailey’s debut as Bills coach.
Dansby, a linebacker who was the Dolphins’ top offseason free-agent addition, had a sack and eight tackles. Ronnie Brown scored on a 1-yard plunge and Dan Carpenter hit field goals from 32 and 43 yards as Miami opened the season with a win for the first time in five years.
Buccaneers 17, Browns 14
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Josh Freeman returned from a three-week layoff because of a broken thumb on his throwing hand and tossed a pair of TD passes as Tampa Bay overcame an 11-point deficit.
Freeman threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Mike Williams late in the first half and found Micheal Spurlock in the end zone for a 33-yard score that put the Buccaneers ahead 17-14 with just under seven minutes to go.
The Browns fell to 1-11 in openers since the club returned as an expansion franchise in 1999.
The Associated Press