Defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks survived an inspired fightback by the Denver Broncos to claim a thrilling 26-20 overtime win on Sunday in a heavyweight rematch of last season’s title game.
A week after suffering a surprise loss to the Chargers in the searing heat of San Diego, the Seahawks regained some of their championship swagger with a confident display on home turf for the first three quarters at CenturyLink Field.
But the Broncos, who trailed 17-3 heading into the final quarter, staged a brilliant comeback with swarming defence and some pinpoint throwing by Peyton Manning to tie the score at 20-20 on a two-point conversion and take the game into overtime.
With nerves taut and the pressure intense, running back Marshawn Lynch bulldozed his way into the end zone from six yards out for the game-winning touchdown, ending a 13-play drive over 80 yards by the Seahawks that lasted almost six minutes.
"Great teams play until the end and find ways to win," said quarterback Russell Wilson, who rushed for 21 yards in overtime and connected on four of six passes. "And we were able to do that today. We look forward to these kinds of moments . . . where we have to make a play."
Wilson threw for 258 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while Manning completed 31 of 49 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“Obviously the game didn’t start out the way we wanted it to,” Manning told reporters. “Being down two scores, it became somewhat one-dimensional, which is not what you want versus these guys.
“The running game just wasn’t working for us, especially being down two scores. We were forced to throw it a lot, and that kind of put us in a one-dimensional phase.
“It was a good last drive, a two-point conversion, to tie it and send it into overtime and then their offense had a good drive in that first series of overtime.”
There were surprises on the third week of the season as the Detroit Lions defence overwhelmed the Green Bay Packers, Eli Manning engineered the New York Giants' first win and the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals beat the San Francisco 49ers.
In other games, the Dallas Cowboys rallied from a 21-0 deficit to scrape past the Rams 34-31 in St Louis, the New England Patriots defeated the visiting Oakland Raiders 16-9. Philadelphia and New Orleans also came away with needed wins.
At Detroit, defensive back Don Carey scored on a 40-yard fumble return in the first quarter and running back Reggie Bush had a 26-yard scoring run in the fourth as the Lions beat the Packers 19-7, holding Green Bay to 223 yards total offense.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was held to 162 yards and a single touchdown and was sacked twice as he suffered only his second loss to the Lions in 11 career meetings.
"Our defence did an outstanding job of getting off the field all day," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw for 246 yards on 22 of 34 passing, told reporters.
“Against that group that they were going up against, that was pretty awesome.
“There are going to be times like today where the offense was labouring to put points up and our defence is going to do a great job of getting off the field and holding them to seven. It’s complimentary football.”
Green Bay had won 15 of their previous 17 games against the Lions.
New York's Manning threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns as the Giants beat Houston 30-17, handing the Texans their first loss of the season.
The Giants led 14-0 at half-time, after touchdowns by wide receiver Victor Cruz on a pass from Manning and running back Rashad Jennings's one-yard run, then withstood a third-quarter rally by the Texans to secure the win.
Surprise Arizona remained atop the NFC West with their 23-14 triumph over the San Francisco 49ers.
Back-up quarterback Drew Stanton, who is filling in for the injured Carson Palmer, threw two touchdown passes in the second half as the Cardinals outscored the 49ers 17-0 after intermission to seize the win.
With the victory, the Cardinals joined Philadelphia and Cincinnati as the only 3-0 teams in the NFL.
Carolina had the chance to join the group but they were well beaten 37-19 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, with Ben Roethlisberger connecting with wide receiver Antonio Brown for two touchdowns.
At Philadelphia, rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews caught two touchdown passes as the Eagles came from 17-7 down in the second quarter to beat the Washington Redskins 37-34 in a fiery encounter.
Jeremy Maclin, who had 154 yards receiving, helped ensure the win on a 27-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Nick Foles with just over seven minutes left as the Eagles won their third successive game.
Foles connected on 27 of 41 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns while Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 427 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a game marred by a fourth-quarter brawl.
The Saints notched their first win of the season with a 20-9 victory over the visiting Minnesota Vikings with Drew Brees passing for 293 yards, including an 18-yard scoring pass to Marques Colston in the fourth quarter.
In New England, tight end Rob Gronkowski, who suffered multiple injuries during a truncated 2013 season, scored on a six-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady in the second quarter against the Raiders.
Brady threw for 234 yards as the Patriots improved to 2-1 for the season.