Aside from the Super Bowl, it's perhaps the most anticiapted football game of the year -- the first one. It's been six years since the NFL instituted the annual Thursday night opening kickoff game. Take a look back at each contest and see how they all went down.
The Colts outscored the Saints 31-0 in the second half, scoring touchdowns on their first two third-quarter posessions, in their first regular-season game since winning Super Bowl XLI. As good as Indy's offense was, the Colts' defense was even better, holding the Saints' offense to just three points. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to wide receiver Reggie Wayne (115 yards receiving). Joseph Addai and Marvin Harrison added scores of their own in the Colts' route of New Orleans.
Playing without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, injured in a motorcycle accident prior to the season, the Steelers took care of business, with backup QB Charlie Batch throwing three touchdowns in the win. Batch's third touchdown -- and 87-yard catch and run by tight end Heath Miller midway through the fourth quarter -- put the Steelers on top 21-17. Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper proceeded to throw interceptions on two consecutive drives, the second of which was returned 42 yards for a touchdown by Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter.
The Patriots opened the NFL season for the second year in a row, led by quarterback Tom Brady's 306 yards and two touchdown in a victory over the Raiders. With a three-point lead in the third quarter, Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour's pressure proved to be a game-changing play. Seymour pushed Raiders center Jake Grove into quarterback Kerry Collins, while defensive end Jarvis Green came around from the other side to sack Collins and pop the ball into the air. The ball was recovered by Patriots tackle Vince Wilfork at the Raiders' 20. Three plays later, Patriots running back Corey Dillon (23 carries, 63 yards, two touchdowns) ran it in from 8 yards out to give New England a 23-14 lead.
The Patriots celebrated the unveiling of their second championship banner with a hard-faught victory over the Colts in a rematch of the AFC Conference Championship game. Down three, The Colts had the ball at the Patriots' 17-yard line with 49 seconds to go, but a 12-yard sack by linebacker Willie McGinest pushed the Colts' game-tying field goal attempt back to 48 yards. Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt, working on a record 42-straight field goals, pushed the kick wide right, resulting in the Patriots' 16th-straight win, dating back to the previous season.
Redskins kicker John Hall, one of four former Jets players signed by the Redskins prior to the 2003 season, helped stick it to his old team by kicking the game-winning 33-yard field goal with five seconds left to play. The play was set up by Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsay's 24-yard scramble to the Jets' 31. Running back Ladell Betts (18 carries, 77 yards) took over from there, carrying the ball three consecutive plays to move the ball 17 yards to the Jets' 14. Redskins receiver Laveranues Coles, another former Jet signed by the Redskins in the offseason, recorded five receptions for a game-high 106 yards.
The Giants offense gained 361 yards, but scored just one touchdown against the 49ers, in part because of Giants quarterback Kerry Collins' three interceptions. Defensively, the Giants limited 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia to 166 yards on 16-of-26 passing, but it was a late drive that ultimately proved to be the difference for San Francisco. Following a one-yard Tiki Barber touchdown that tied the game, the 49ers opened their game-winning drive with a 33-yard catch and run by Terrell Owens (four receptions, 41 yards) that brought the 49ers to the Giants' 37. Five plays later 49ers kicker Jose Cortez kicked a 36-yard field goal to put San Francisco on top with six seconds remaining.