MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sam Bradford set the NFL record for completion percentage for Minnesota last season, his accuracy aided by the volume of short passes under heavy pressure.
With protection from the rush, he showed Monday night he can throw the ball down the field with the best of them.
Bradford started his second year with Minnesota in style, passing for 346 yards and three touchdowns to help the Vikings beat New Orleans 29-19 and spoil Adrian Peterson’s first game with the Saints.
Stefon Diggs had seven receptions for 93 yards, two for scores and all in the first half, and Adam Thielen racked up 157 yards on nine catches as Bradford carved up a Saints defense that looked again like one of the worst in the league despite a major renovation. Rookie Dalvin Cook rushed for 127 yards on 22 carries in the formal takeover from Peterson.
Peterson was limited to 18 yards on six carries, in a time share with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara and an afterthought once the Saints fell behind. Drew Brees was quiet, too, with 291 yards on 27-for-37 passing padded by the late push to catch up.
Coby Fleener caught the only touchdown toss, after the 2-minute warning. Will Lutz made four field goals, three under 25 yards.
Brees and Bradford are both in the final year of their contracts, with the same agent, Tom Condon, who is sure to cash in on both clients. Brees has by far the better resume, nine seasons further into his career, but Bradford stole the show on this prime-time stage.
Behind mostly clean pockets created by a remade offensive line, Bradford completed 27 of 32 passes without a turnover.
Denver 24, LA Chargers 21
DENVER — Shelby Harris got a hand on Younghoe Koo’s 44-yard field goal attempt with a second left, and the Broncos began the Vance Joseph era with a 24-21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night.
Koo nailed the kick moments earlier, but Joseph had called a timeout to ice the kicker.
On the re-do, Harris — who made the team largely because of a rash of injuries along the D-line — sliced through and got his right hand on the kick.
It was reminiscent of last year’s opener, when the Broncos escaped with a 21-20 win over the Carolina Panthers when Graham Gano missed a 50-yard field goal with 4 seconds left.
Denver took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter but had two turnovers that were converted into touchdowns, a missed field goal and a punt.
Before those fourth-quarter foibles, Trevor Siemian threw two TD passes to Bennie Fowler and ran for another score.
The Broncos held Philip Rivers to 115 yards passing through three quarters but let him engineer a comeback when Siemian threw an interception and Jamaal Charles fumbled on plays that were upheld despite video evidence that had the crowd of 76,324 convinced they should have been overturned.
The Broncos led 14-7 at halftime after Siemian threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Fowler and scored on a 1-yard keeper .
The game presented landmarks on the football field , along the sidelines and in the broadcast booth .
Not since 1960 had the Chargers represented L.A., where they played their inaugural season before bolting to San Diego.
Beth Mowins became the first woman to call an NFL regular season game since NBC’s Gayle Sierens in 1987 when she handled play-by-play on the doubleheader nightcap alongside Rex Ryan, who made his debut as an ESPN analyst.
With Anthony Lynn also making his head coaching debut, this marked the first time two black head coaches worked their first NFL game against each other in the same game.