MIAMI (Reuters) - The New England Patriots suffered a shock 33-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins on the opening Sunday of the NFL season while Atlanta beat the New Orleans Saints 37-34 in an overtime thriller.
The Pittsburgh Steelers survived a brave comeback from the Cleveland Browns to win 30-27 with a last-second field goal and there were week one wins for the Houston Texans and the New York Jets.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw three first half interceptions in his team’s 28-17 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
For Tom Brady and the Patriots the only solace from their first opening game defeat since 2003 will be the reminder that 11 years ago they bounced back to win the Super Bowl.
But if quarterback Brady wants to get his hands on the Lombardi Trophy again this season he will need better protection than he received against a surprisingly aggressive Miami defense.
The Patriots led 20-10 at halftime in the AFC East clash, Rob Gronkowski marking his return from injury with a six-yard touchdown reception.
But, despite several absentees through injury, Miami were too much for Bill Belichick’s team after the break with their pass rush dominant and their running game effective.
The Dolphins scored 23 unanswered points including a Mike Wallace pass reception in the third quarter and a Knowshon Moreno rushing score in the fourth.
Brady was sacked four times including two strip sacks from Cameron Wake that shifted the momentum in Miami’s direction.
Field goals from Matt Bryant proved decisive in Atlanta’s win over NFC South rivals New Orleans at the Georgia Dome.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for a franchise-record 448 yards and three touchdowns but the Saints’ running game delivered with running back Mark Ingram rushing two touchdowns and carrying for 60 yards.
Ingram’s second touchdown looked to have sealed the road win for the Saints but Bryant converted a 51-yard field goal to force the game into overtime.
The Saints had first possession but William Moore forced a fumble from Marques Colston and Atalanta linebacker Joplo Bartu recovered the ball at New Orleans 38.
After three plays gained four yards, Bryant was sent out and won the game with a 52-yard field goal.
In another divisional meeting, the Steelers, ahead 27-3 at halftime, gave up their 24-point lead with Browns running back Isaiah Crowell scoring two touchdowns in the third quarter.
But Shaun Suisham’s 41-yard field goal in the last seconds spared Pittsburgh’s blushes.
Colin Kaepernick threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns as San Francisco handed the Cowboys an early reality check.
The 49ers scored three times in the first quarter - twice Kaepernick connecting with Vernon Davis for scores and after that Dallas did little more than add respectability with a pair of touchdowns in the second half.
The Texans ended their 14-game losing streak from last season thanks to a strong showing from running back Arian Foster, who rushed for 103 yards in the 17-6 win over the Washington Redskins.
The New York Jets relied on their rushing game in their 19-14 home win over the Oakland Raiders, putting up 212 yards on the ground.
Chris Ivory ran for 102 yards including a fourth quarter touchdown.
The Philadelphia Eagles came back from a 14-0 first quarter deficit to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-17 with quarterback Nick Foles throwing for 322 yards and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Cam Newton had to sit out Carolina’s trip to Tampa Bay with injury but his deputy Derek Anderson did an admirable job throwing for 230 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-14 road win for the Panthers.
The Indianapolis Colts were facing old favorite Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos later on Sunday.
Editing by Gene Cherry / Ian Ransom