Numbers* Best day passing: Jeff Hostetler, L.A....

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Numbers

* Best day passing: Jeff Hostetler, L.A. Raiders, 23-27-1, 255 yards, 1 TD

* Best day rushing: Thurman Thomas, Buffalo, 24 carries, 114 yards

* Best day receiving: Rob Moore, N.Y. Jets, 9 catches, 140 yards, 1 TD

* Longest TD passing: New England, Drew Bledsoe to Ben Coates, 54 yards

* Longest TD rushing: Barry Sanders, Detroit, 26 yards

* Longest field goal: Norm Johnson, Atlanta, 54 yards

* Most field goals: Six, John Carney, San Diego, 26, 44, 50, 32, 51 and 19 yards

300-yard passers

* Boomer Esiason, N.Y. Jets, 29-40-1-371, 2 TDs

100-yard rushers

* Thurman Thomas, Buffalo, 24 carries, 114 yards

100-yard receivers

* Rob Moore, N.Y. Jets, 9 catches, 140 yards, 1 TD

* Sterling Sharpe, Green Bay, 7 catches, 120 yards, 1 TD

* Herman Moore, Detroit, 4 catches, 113 yards, 1 TD

* Eric Martin, New Orleans, 7 catches, 111 yards

* Andre Reed, Buffalo, 6 catches, 110 yards, 3 TDs

* Andre Rison, Atlanta, 6 catches, 106 yards, 1 TD

Records, streaks and milestones

* New York's Lawrence Taylor, coming back from a career-threatening Achilles' tendon injury, had two sacks, two knockdowns and applied pressure throughout the win over Chicago.

* San Diego ended a six-game losing streak on opening day, the longest in the NFL.

* Tommy Vardell, known as "Touchdown Tommy" at Stanford, finally scored his first touchdown after going through his rookie season with Cleveland without one.

* Dan Marino engineered the 25th fourth-quarter comeback victory of his career.

* Marino moved into second place on the NFL's all-time list for touchdown passes with three touchdown passes. He is 89 short of Fran Tarkenton's record of 342.

* Miami coach Don Shula raised his victory total to 319, second only to George Halas' 324. Against the Colts, whom Shula guided in the first seven years of his 31 seasons as an NFL coach, he is 33-14 in the regular season. If his team goes undefeated until the Colts visit Miami, he could set the record in that game.

* Jim Kelly and Andre Reed, Buffalo's pass-catch duo, have the most touchdown connections of any active quarterback-receiver combination in the NFL. They added three more yesterday to bring their career collaboration to 47. They connected just three times all last season.

* Thurman Thomas continued his mastery of the Patriots. Thomas' 100-yard rushing effort was the 30th of his career and sixth against New England.

* The Rams' Jim Everett, who completed just 17 of 41 passes for 175 yards, passed Roman Gabriel's career passing yardage record of 22,223 yards set from 1962 to 1972.

* Denver's 26-20 victory over the New York Jets gave the Broncos a 21-12-1 opening-day mark, the best in AFC history. That includes years in the AFL before the merger.

* Jason Elam, a third-round pick from Hawaii, made all four field-goal attempts, an early justification of his selection over veteran David Treadwell as the Broncos' kicker.

* The 49ers' Jerry Rice made touchdown catches of 5 and 6 yards in a 5:15 span of the first half -- the record 104th and 105th of his career -- and ended with eight receptions against the Steelers.

* Green Bay's Sterling Sharpe, who set an NFL record with 108 catches last season, grabbed seven more for 120 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown on a tipped pass.

* Barry Sanders has been the only running back to rush for a Detroit touchdown since he arrived in 1989.

* The Seahawks allowed an NFL-high 67 sacks last year, an average of 4.2 a game, and are just behind that pace after Seattle quarterback Rick Mirer was thrown four times.

Black and silver? No, back and smiling

The other peaceful smile in the Kansas City locker room belonged to Marcus Allen, who did not get into the game against Tampa Bay until 48 seconds remained in the first quarter but still gained 79 yards in 13 carries, a 6.1-yard average.

After spending his past four Los Angeles Raiders seasons deep in Al Davis' doghouse, Allen spoke like a man who had just won the lottery. He has now equaled his number of touchdown catches for the past two seasons combined.

"The last team I played for would not use me at all, so I'm just happy to get any kind of chance," Allen said of his role as a third-down specialist. "This has been a rebirth in the sense that I'm enthusiastic again. I'm happy."

His touchdown was vintage Allen. He caught a pass from Montana in the right flat and out-fought linebacker Erick Anderson for several yards before diving into the end zone.

Montana to Allen. Six months ago, who would have imagined?

"When we sit back and reflect on this, it's going to be something," Allen said.

Old quarterbacks never die

Joe Montana, operating the same offense he ran for 14 years with the San Francisco 49ers, completed his first nine passes for Kansas City and finished 14-for-21 for 246 yards in his first start since being sidelined by an elbow injury more than two years ago.

While Montana's debut was a smashing success, his longtime friend and first roommate with the 49ers, Steve DeBerg, had a long day for Tampa Bay. It was DeBerg whom Montana replaced in the 49ers' lineup in 1980.

"Joe always plays his best in the big games," said DeBerg. "For him, this was a big game. It was kind of a statement game."

Montana is 37 and DeBerg, the league's oldest player, is 39. The last time two quarterbacks 37 or older started the same game was Oct. 26, 1978. In that game, 39-year-old Fran Tarkenton led the Minnesota Vikings to a 21-10 victory over 37-year-old Roger Staubach and the Dallas Cowboys.

New name, new number

Cleveland receiver Michael Jackson is no more. Before yesterday's game against Cincinnati, he announced he wanted to be called Michael Dyson. He said he has wanted to make the change for years because his mother, whose maiden name was NTC Jackson, was never married to his father, Edward Dyson.

If that wasn't confusing enough, he also changed his uniform number from 1 to 81 at the behest of the NFL so it would conform to common numbers for wide receivers. Dyson caught three passes for 33 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown pass from Bernie Kosar (birth name: Bernie Joseph Kosar Jr.).

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Mark Wheeler, a nose tackle who hammered Montana in the backfield before the quarterback connected with J. J. Birden on a a 50-yard touchdown pass play, leaned over him at the time and said: "You're one lucky SOB."

But immediately after the game, Wheeler edited his comment.

"Make that, 'One good SOB,' " he said.

Thrill-a-minute Marino

With just 35 seconds left, Miami quarterback Dan Marino found backup tight end Greg Baty for the winning 1-yard touchdown pass to cap a breathtaking -- literally for tackle Ron Heller -- 80-yard drive.

Marino completed eight consecutive passes on the drive and made the right read as Baty made his own adjustment on the final play. Afterward, the only people who seemed surprised were the new guys such as Heller.

"I'm trying to get my heart rate under control," Heller said. "Everybody told me that it's like this around here, but geez, it's not easy to go through."

"I've been in this situation so much, you just know you can do it," Marino said of his latest fourth-quarter rally. "You'd be surprised how many games you win like this one."

To be exact, Marino is at 25 in 11 years, including a career-high six last year.

They said it

* "We looked inexperienced and played inexperienced." New England rookie quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

* "Most of us played the same way and that wasn't quite good enough today." Patriots coach Bill Parcells, when asked to assess Bledsoe's performance.

* "If he keeps his confidence and keeps plugging, he'll be all right." Bills' Jim Kelly on Bledsoe.

* "He wanted to go back in. I told him that's why we have two quarterbacks." Coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose team was leading 24-3 when quarterback Joe Montana injured his wrist.

* "It felt good to be back out there. It was a long time. I would have liked to have finished the game, but overall I was pretty satisfied." Montana.

* "Once we start reading each other's minds, watch out." Kansas City tight end Jonathan Hayes, who caught a 45-yard pass from Montana for the longest reception of his nine-year career.

* "I don't believe I'm the magic ingredient for anything. This is a very talented team." Montana.

* "We're better than what we saw today. One game doesn't make a season. We can't let the losers of the world tell us that. We're not losers." Tampa Bay coach Sam Wyche.

* "They had no idea. I could see it in their eyes. They were whispering to one another. They didn't know where we were going, or what we'd do." Detroit linebacker Pat Swilling, on the Atlanta Falcons.

* "And people who don't think the Eagles have a good football team have a few screws loose. They may have a better team than last season." Phoenix coach Joe Bugel.

* "It was a total team beating, that's what it was." L.A. Rams coach Chuck Knox.

* "Mighty Mouse on the run -- that's what he is out there. The guy can do it all. He froze people out there today. Just froze 'em and ran right by 'em." Broncos running back Rod Bernstine on rookie Glyn Milburn's 50-year touchdown catch.

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