Steelers stun Bills in season opener behind staunch defense

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ new-look offense overcame a slow start, Ulysees Gilbert returned a blocked punt 9 yards for a touchdown, and Pittsburgh rallied to a season-opening 23-16 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Down 10-0, the Steelers scored on each of their first four possessions of the second half, with Roethlisberger putting Pittsburgh ahead for good by lobbing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson in the left corner of the end zone.

The pass initially went off Johnson’s fingertips, but the receiver secured the ball before tumbling out of bounds 3:41 into the fourth quarter. The Steelers extended their lead to 20-10 some 90 seconds later with Miles Killebrew bursting up the middle to block Matt Haack’s punt, with Gilbert scooping up the loose ball and running it in untouched.

In opening his 18th — and perhaps final — season, Roethlisberger posted his 36th career fourth-quarter comeback to tie Drew Brees for third on the NFL list. He finished 18 of 32 for 188 yards and a touchdown.

Chris Boswell hit all three field-goal attempts, including a game-sealing 45-yarder with 2:42 remaining.

CARDINALS 38, TITANS 13

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kyler Murray scored five touchdowns and linebacker Chandler Jones had a career-high five sacks.

Jones, who tied the franchise record, had three sacks in a first quarter so good LeBron James chimed in on social media for his Defensive Player of the Year candidacy. Jones, who wants a new contract, also forced two fumbles the Cardinals turned into 14 points.

Murray tormented the Titans throwing for 289 yards with two TD passes apiece to All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk. Murray’s best pass came came early in the third quarter off his back foot to Kirk on a beautiful floater Kirk simply ran under.

Arizona scored the first 17 points and moved the ball almost at will against Tennessee.

SEAHAWKS 28, COLTS 16

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Russell Wilson threw three of his four touchdowns in the first half as the defending NFC West champions won the 12th of their past 13 games in the early Sunday timeslot.

Indy lost its eighth straight opener, the past five with different starting quarterbacks.

Wilson was sensational in his first action with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, shredding a top-10 defense that entered the season with even higher aspirations. But against Seattle’s revamped offense, Wilson made sure the Colts’ defense never had a chance.

Despite taking no preseason snaps, the eight-time Pro Bowler led the Seahawks to touchdowns on their first two drives, hooking up with Tyler Lockett on a twisting, over-the-shoulder catch for a 23-yard TD pass to make it 7-3 and finding Gerald Everett for a 9-yard score. Wilson capped the half with a 69-yard scoring throw to Lockett after he broke free behind two Colts safeties. Wilson finished the half with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 and wound up 18 of 23 with 254 yards. His final rating of 152.3 was the second highest of his 10-year career and his best mark in a September game.

49ERS 41, LIONS 33

DETROIT (AP) — Dre Greenlaw returned an interception for a touchdown to help the 49ers score 17 points over two-plus minutes late in the first half.

San Francisco led 38-10 early in the fourth quarter and allowed Detroit to score 23 points in three-plus minutes to pull within eight points. But the Lions turned the ball over on downs at the San Francisco 24 with 12 seconds left after getting it back on a fumble by Deebo Samuel.

For most of the afternoon, the 49ers performed more like the Super Bowl-contending team they were two years ago than the 10-loss squad they had last season when injuries took a major toll.

Meanwhile, it looked like the many changes the Lions made might be moot in coach Dan Campbell’s debut — until the comeback provided some hope.

San Francisco welcomed back Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle on offense and Nick Bosa on defense after each missed much of last season with injuries.

Garoppolo, who helped San Francisco win the 2019 NFC championship, is 23-8 in the regular season since being acquired from New England. Kittle had four receptions for 78 yards. Bosa had four tackles, including a drive-ending sack early in the fourth quarter.

TEXANS 37, JAGUARS 21

HOUSTON (AP) — Tyrod Taylor threw for 291 yards and two touchdowns filling in for Deshaun Watson in a win over Trevor Lawrence and the mistake-prone Jaguars.

Taylor took over at quarterback for Houston with Watson’s future with the team uncertain after 22 women filed lawsuits alleging sexual assault or harassment after he requested a trade.

Expectations for the Texans were low entering this season with Watson out and star defensive end J.J. Watt gone to Arizona. But Taylor and Houston’s revamped running game were more than enough to handle a Jaguars team that didn’t look much better than it was last season — when it got just one win — despite the addition of top overall pick Lawrence.

It was a bumpy debut for Lawrence. He threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns but also tossed three interceptions, often overthrew open receivers and was the victim of several drops. It was also the NFL debut for Jaguars coach Urban Meyer, who lost the first season opener of his head coaching career after entering the game having won 17 straight as a college coach.

His streak was halted by another coach making his NFL head coaching debut in Houston’s David Culley, a 65-year-old who spent decades as an assistant in the league before being hired by the Texans.

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © 2021 . All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Comments

Sign up for breaking news alerts