MIAMI Brett Favre sank to one knee on the sideline, helplessly watching the Miami Dolphins try to upstage his comeback with one of their own.
Six months after Favre began a brief retirement, he made a stirring debut Sunday as Broadway Brett. But in the final minute the Dolphins marched down the field while Favre's New York Jets clung to six-point lead.
What was he thinking?
"Don't score," he said.
Simple enough. Favre's new beginning had a happy ending when Darrelle Revis intercepted Chad Pennington in the end zone with 5 seconds left, and the Jets won 20-14.
"It was shaky, but it's a good start," Favre said. "It's a win, and you can never question a win."
Favre hardly looked like the retiring type, raising his arms to signal a touchdown, then leaping and skipping to the bench, where he vaulted into the arms of two teammates. That was after he threw a 56-yard touchdown pass on New York's second series.
He later improvised on fourth down for a 22-yard scoring pass, and finished 15-for-22 for 194 yards and his 161st victory, extending his NFL record for starting quarterbacks.
Favre said the game left him glad he's still playing at age 38, and after 16 seasons in Green Bay, he feels at home with his new team.
"I know I made the right decision," he said in his Mississippi drawl. "I'm a New York Jet. I don't know about a native New Yorkian, or however you say it. Hey, I'm happy to be a Jet."
For the Dolphins, the loss marked a disappointing start to the Bill Parcells era, and it was painfully reminiscent of last year's 1-15 team. Parcells took over last December, but despite turning over more than half the roster and hiring Tony Sparano as coach, the Dolphins gave up too many big plays and sputtered on offense until their frantic late rally.
"If we had made just one more play, we could have won the game," receiver Greg Camarillo said. "That's what hurts."
Pennington, playing against the team that released him in favor of Favre, drew boos early before finishing 26-for-43 for 251 yards.
"I just hate losing," Pennington said. "I hate it as bad as you can imagine. It doesn't matter if it's the Jets or anyone else, a loss hurts bad."
New York's Dwight Lowery batted away a pass by Pennington in the end zone on fourth down with 9 minutes left, but the Dolphins kept coming. They converted a fourth-and-7 during a 53-yard drive that ended with Pennington's 11-yard touchdown pass to David Martin, making it 20-14 with 3:27 left.
After New York punted, the Dolphins started from their 39 with 1:43 left. They reached the Jets 18, but when Pennington tried to hit Ted Ginn Jr. in the corner of the end zone, Revis had position and made a one-handed interception.
That clinched the Jets' fifth consecutive win over their AFC East rivals.
Favre was traded to New York after his decision to delay retirement led to a messy divorce with the Packers. The Jets hope Favre can transform a team that went 4-12 last year into a playoff contender, and it didn't take long for him to make an impact.
Wearing his familiar No. 4, Favre went deep on the first play of the Jets' second possession. Jerricho Cotchery caught the long pass at the 5 and scored to complete the 56-yard play. At the other end of the field, Favre celebrated like a rookie.
Cotchery said he wasn't surprised Favre hit him in stride.
"After working with him for a month, nothing surprises me about the guy," Cotchery said.
With the score 7-all and Jets kicker Mike Nugent nursing a thigh injury suffered in the first quarter, the Jets decided to go for a touchdown on fourth-and-13. Under heavy pressure, Favre shrugged off 305-pound defensive end Randy Starks, and as he was sandwiched by two defenders, he threw a dying-quail pass that found an open Chansi Stuckey for the go-ahead touchdown.
"He's a miracle worker," Dolphins fullback Boomer Grigsby said. "He threw that thing in the air and God said, 'Brett Favre will have a touchdown pass.' And he did. That's Brett Favre being Brett Favre."
CARDINALS 23, 49ERS 13: At San Francisco, Kurt Warner passed for 197 yards and led three monotonously effective drives in the second half. Anquan Boldin had all of his eight catches for 82 yards in the second half of the Cardinals' third straight opener against the 49ers, who beat them twice last year to ruin their playoff hopes.
Arizona allowed none of the late-game hijinks that cost the Cards both meetings with San Francisco last year, grinding out 12 first downs while holding onto the ball for nearly 23 minutes in the second half.
J.T. O'Sullivan passed for 195 yards in his first NFL start for the 49ers, whose long-woeful offense looked downright competent under new coordinator Mike Martz if it could only get its hands on the ball. Frank Gore rushed for 96 yards and San Francisco's only touchdown on an early 41-yard scamper, but the Niners' offense barely got on the field in the second half.
TITANS 17, JAGUARS 10: At Nashville, Tenn., the Titans sacked David Garrard seven times and Cortland Finnegan intercepted him twice in the season opener between the AFC's two wild cards in 2007.
Jacksonville came in without top backup Richard Collier on the offensive line after he was shot earlier this week. The Jaguars had three more linemen get hurt, and Maurice Williams and Vince Manuwai did not return. That helped Tennessee limit the Jaguars to 187 yards offense, just 33 yards rushing by what was the NFL's second-best rushing team in 2007.
Jacksonville had first-and-goal from the Titans 9 in the final minutes. But Garrard was incomplete on three straight passes, and Josh Scobee kicked a 27-yard field goal with 2:13 to go. The Jaguars tried to recover an onside kick, but illegally touched it before the ball went 10 yards.
STEELERS 38, TEXANS 17: At Pittsburgh, the Texans lost a gamble, a challenge and, likely, their opener in the first five minutes of the season. Willie Parker and the Steelers made certain Houston didn't get a second chance.
Parker ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns and a near-perfect Ben Roethlisberger threw two scoring passes to Hines Ward in a Steelers rout that began with Houston's fourth-down failure on its opening possession.
The Steelers retain most of the top players from the team that won the Super Bowl three seasons ago, and many played a role in Pittsburgh's sixth consecutive season-opening win. The streak is the NFL's longest since Miami won 11 in a row from 1992-2002.
Parker showed no loss of speed or cutback ability from the broken right leg that ended his 2007 season in the Steelers' next-to-last game, when he was leading the NFL in rushing. Roethlisberger missed on only one of 14 passing attempts until being lifted after three quarters.
EAGLES 38, RAMS 3: At Philadelphia, Donovan McNabb threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns, and rookie DeSean Jackson had an impressive debut.
McNabb was 21-for-33, including a 90-yard TD pass to Hank Baskett. Jackson, the first Eagles rookie wide receiver to start a season opener in 18 years, had six catches for 106 yards and returned a punt 60 yards to set up a field goal.
The Eagles played like a team that expects to make a championship run as the offense racked up 522 total yards and the defense was dominant.
The Rams, 3-13 last season, were downright awful again.
Marc Bulger didn't have much time to throw and Steven Jackson hardly had any room to run against Philadelphia's stifling defense. St. Louis had 109 total yards through three quarters.
SAINTS 24, BUCCANEERS 20: At New Orleans, Drew Brees passed for 343 yards and three touchdowns, giving fans already jubilant about the Saints' quick return from Hurricane Gustav a triumph to celebrate as well.
Tampa Bay had a shot to win the brutally physical, back-and-forth contest until Scott Fujita intercepted Jeff Garcia's fourth-down pass just inside the Saints 20 with under 40 seconds to go.
Brees' scoring passes went for 39 yards to David Patten, 84 to Devery Henderson and 42 to Reggie Bush, with Bush's score putting the Saints in the lead for good in the fourth quarter.
Garcia was 24-of-41 for 221 yards, including a 2-yard TD pass to Ike Hilliard, which gave the Bucs a brief 20-17 lead.
But Tampa Bay's offense produced only one touchdown. The Bucs' defense got the other in the first quarter, when blitzing linebacker Barrett Ruud hit Brees as he threw, causing a fluttering pass that Phillip Buchanon intercepted and returned 26 yards.
FALCONS 34, LIONS 21, At Atlanta, Matt Ryan threw for a touchdown with his very first NFL pass, Michael Turner set a team rushing record in his Atlanta debut, and the Falcons were off and running.
Michael Vick who?
Having put No. 7 in their rearview mirror, the Falcons got off to a rousing start in their first game with Ryan and Turner. The rookie quarterback electrified the crowd with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins before many fans had settled in their seats. Turner rumbled for 220 yards and two TDs after coming to Atlanta from San Diego in the offseason.
The Lions bickered among themselves on the sideline and showed again that a perfect record in the preseason is downright meaningless when the games actually count.
The Falcons scored on their first three possessions for a 21-0 lead. Ryan, the third overall selection in the draft, looked worthy of the starting job bestowed on him after just three preseason games; he completed his first five passes and finished a workmanlike 9-for-13 for 161 yards.
Free-agent addition Turner broke off a 66-yard touchdown, scored again on a 5-yard romp and had another TD called back by a penalty. Even with that minor setback, he ran 22 times averaging 10 yards per carry to break the team record of 202 yards set by Gerald Riggs in 1984.
BILLS 34, SEAHAWKS 10: At Orchard Park, N.Y., Roscoe Parrish scored on a 63-yard punt return, and punter Brian Moorman completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to defensive end Ryan Denney on a fake field goal, sparking Buffalo to a dominating win. As if that wasn't enough, kicker Rian Lindell recovered a fumble on a kickoff, setting up Trent Edwards' 30-yard touchdown pass to Robert Royal.
Marshawn Lynch also scored on a 21-yard run as the Bills never trailed, blowing out the flat-footed and injury-depleted four-time defending NFC West champions. Buffalo opened a season with a win for only the fourth time in 12 years.
The 34 points came from a team that failed to score 20 a dozen times last season. They were also four more than Buffalo combined to score in its final three games of 2007.
Edwards, the second-year player opening his first season as starter, had a solid day, finishing 19-of-30 for 215 yards, while Lynch had 76 yards rushing.
The Bills defense did the rest, holding the Matt Hasselbeck-led offense to 252 yards. Hasselbeck finished 17-of-41 for 190 yards and an interception, looking very rusty after getting limited playing time in the preseason because of a back injury.
RAVENS 17, BENGALS 10: At Baltimore, the Ravens forced two turnovers and limited the Bengals to 154 yards to make John Harbaugh a winner in his debut as an NFL coach. Cincinnati's Carson Palmer was 10-for-25 for 99 yards, and his interception ended the Bengals' deepest foray into Baltimore territory except for a 65-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Johnathan Joseph.
Palmer was outplayed by Ravens rookie Joe Flacco, forced into the starting role because of a season-ending shoulder injury to Kyle Boller and Troy Smith's infected tonsils. Flacco ran for a 38-yard touchdown to put Baltimore up 17-3 in the third quarter and deftly operated within the careful attack deployed by Harbaugh and new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
Baltimore's other touchdown came on a double reverse, a trick play that represented a marked departure from the conservative offense employed by Harbaugh predecessor, Brian Billick.
Bengals receiver Chad Ocho Cinco, who legally changed his name from Chad Johnson, was forced by the NFL to wear Johnson on his jersey "because certain issues need to be resolved," the league said in a statement. Ocho Cinco finished with one catch for 22 yards.