Kickers earn their keep

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- In all of his dramatic game-winning kicks -- and there have been many -- Denver Broncos kicker Jason Elam says he never had seen one like this.

Even, the 15-year veteran stressed, those kicks that were set up by Denver legend and Hall of Famer John Elway.

On a wild NFL opening Sunday, a trio of kickers put the foot in football, booting their teams to dramatic victories on the final play of the game.

First it was Elam, drilling home a 42-yarder off a scrambled snap that was released from the hand of Broncos long snapper Mike Leach with 1.2 seconds left on the clock.

Driven down the middle, the field goal gave the Broncos their first lead of the game and a shocking 15-14 win.

Minutes later, while Bills fans sat stunned in their Ralph Wilson Stadium seats, Canadian Shaun Suisham got his turn in Landover, Md.

The ice-in-his-veins pro from Wallaceburg, Ont., smoothly rammed a 39-yarder through the uprights in overtime to give the Redskins a 16-13 win over the Miami Dolphins.

And within seconds of that, one of the biggest upsets of the day was struck in Green Bay by the foot of kicker Mason Crosby, whose 42-yarder gave the Packers a 16-13 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Elam's was the most stunning, however, given that the play was a finger snap away from not even happening.

"I've been involved in a lot of comeback victories with (Elway) over the years and I'm not sure anything compares with this," said Elam after booting his 21st career game-winning or tying three-pointer.

"You want to do your part and you feel bad when you don't. We're not perfect. We mess up some times."

Suisham, who won the Redskins job by impressing coach Joe Gibbs late last season, also hit a 44-yarder in the fourth quarter and now has made 11 in a row for Washington.

Besides delaying the obituaries for quarterback Brett Favre, the Packers' win spoiled the return of Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is recovering from knee surgery.

MOSS GROWS

New England quarterback Tom Brady seemed to enjoy his new toys while helping serve notice that the Patriots expect to return to power in the AFC.

Brady converted with bad-boy receiver Randy Moss for nine catches, 183 yards and a touchdown as the visiting Patriots scored a 38-14 win over the New York Jets.

"I don't think I ever was more anxious or more nervous," Moss said. "I didn't know how I would play."

SUPER CHARGERS

As Super Bowl previews go, the Chargers and Bears may have a little work to do.

San Diego superstar LaDainian Tomlinson finally took control of opening yesterday's marquee matchup, throwing for one touchdown and rushing for another in the Chargers' 14-3 win over Chicago. Both touchdowns were set up by Bears turnovers -- two of four on the day by the challenged offence led by quarterback Rex Grossman.

It wasn't the most brilliant of days for Tomlinson, either. L.T. was held to 25 yards on 17 carries, the second lowest total in his seven-year career.

SURGERY FOR BILL

A game of vicious hits turned frightening when Buffalo tight end Kevin Everett was taken off the field by ambulance after being knocked out cold following a helmet-to-helmet hit from Denver's Domenik Hixon.

Everett, whose injury caused a 15-minute delay, was rushed to hospital where he underwent spinal surgery last night.

It was not known if he showed any signs of movement after being taken away.


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