SEATTLE, USA - The Seattle Seahawks edged the Denver Broncos 26-20 in overtime in a rare Super Bowl rematch on Sunday, September 21 as on-field action regained center stage in the NFL.
Sunday's slate of 14 games couldn't come soon enough for a league under fire for its clumsy handling of incidents of violence by players against women and children.
Commissioner Roger Goodell's promise on Friday that the NFL would "get our house in order" was greeted with widespread skepticism.
But game action gave fans something else to talk about, including a historic rally for victory by the Dallas Cowboys, a last-second field goal for victory by the Baltimore Ravens and – less fortunately – a bench-clearing brawl in Philadelphia's win over Washington.
The game in Seattle marked just the sixth time that Super Bowl combatants have met in the next regular season.
Marshawn Lynch ran in a touchdown in overtime to give the Seahawks the victory in a game that bore little resemblance to Seattle's 43-8 blowout triumph over the Broncos in February's championship extravaganza.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw for two touchdowns, including a 26-yard scoring pass to Jacob Tamme with 18 seconds left in regulation that was followed by his two-point conversion pass to Demaryius Thomas that knotted the score at 20-20 and forced overtime.
The tying drive covered 80 yards in 41 seconds, with Denver out of timeouts.
But Manning never got the ball in overtime after Seahawks signal-caller Russell Wilson opened the extra session with a touchdown drive capped by Lynch's winning leap over the goal-line.
"It was a tremendous game," Wilson said. "It was a battle."
It was another thriller in St. Louis, where the Dallas Cowboys matched the biggest comeback in club history as they erased a 21-0 deficit to stun the Rams 34-31.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw for two touchdowns with one interception and DeMarco Murray rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown.
"You just understand that these games are 60 minutes, and they're not over just because you get off to a bad start," Romo said. "It was great to see the guys play well."
Dez Bryant caught six passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, Terrance Williams added a receiving score and Dan Bailey made two field goals in the victory.
The rally was the biggest in regulation-time in Cowboys history, and matched their comebacks from 21-point deficits in overtime games in 1984 and 1999.
Baltimore, engulfed in controversy over their initial handling of the now-dismissed Ray Rice after he punched his future wife in a casino elevator, set aside those problems on a trip to Cleveland.
There, Justin Tucker's 32-yard field goal at the final buzzer saw them break Browns hearts 23-21.
The Eagles came from behind to beat NFC East division rivals Washington 37-34, the final score overshadowed by a brawl early in the fourth quarter after an illegal hit on Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles.
Defensive lineman Chris Baker crushed an unaware Foles after what appeared to be an interception, sparking the scrum. Baker was ejected, along with Eagles Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters.
"The guy just cheap-shotted Foles and I reacted," Peters said. "I shouldn't have done what I did, but I was just protecting my quarterback."
The Minnesota Vikings, rocked this week by reaction to their handling of star rusher Adrian Peterson after he was charged with child abuse for whipping his four-year-old son with a switch cut from a tree, found little relief on the field.
The New Orleans Saints, buoyed by a return home, defeated the Vikings 20-9, with quarterback Drew Brees throwing for 293 yards and two touchdowns for the Saints.
The Vikings also lost quarterback Matt Cassel to a broken left foot early in the second quarter, handing rookie backup Teddy Bridgewater an unexpected NFL debut.
Matt Asiata, playing in place of Peterson – who is barred from the team as his legal case in Texas plays out – carried the ball 12 times for 35 yards.
In other games, the Pittsburgh Steelers downed the Carolina Panthers 37-19. The Panthers were without defensive end Greg Hardy, sidelined this week by the team until his appeal of a domestic violence conviction is decided.
San Diego beat Buffalo 22-10, Cincinnati dominated Tennessee 33-7, Detroit downed Green Bay 19-7 in an NFC North division duel, and Andrew Luck threw four touchdown passes to lead Indianapolis to a crushing 44-17 victory over Jacksonville.
New England held off a determined Oakland 16-9, the New York Giants won their first game of the season, 30-17 over Houston, Arizona defeated a penalty-prone San Francisco 23-14 and Kansas City beat Miami 34-15. - Rappler.com