Ricky Williams rushed for 44 yards before a minor shin bruise sidelined him late in the first quarter of his NFL debut, and the New Orleans Saints beat the Dolphins, 26-14, last night in Miami in the preseason opener for both teams.
Dolphins rookie Cecil "The Diesel" Collins also looked impressive, although he ran against second- and third-team defenders. Collins, a reserve, carried 17 times for 93 yards and scored on a nine-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The Saints built a 20-0 lead in the second quarter, stopping the Dolphins without a first down on Dan Marino's three series. Fred Weary recovered a fumble at the goal line on a Miami kickoff return for a touchdown, and Troy Davis scored on a five-yard run.
Doug Brien kicked field goals of 43, 47, 25 and 47 yards for New Orleans.
Williams was stuffed for no gain and a six-yard loss on his first two carries before showing why the Saints traded their entire draft to acquire him. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner darted 20 yards on a delay, ran wide for 12 yards and had two eight-yard runs.
"When I first got out there, I was really nervous and didn't know what to expect," he said. "On each carry, I felt more and more comfortable."
Williams carried nine times and took a jarring hit from linebacker Derrick Rodgers on a pass reception for a six-yard loss. When defensive end Jason Taylor fell on Williams's leg on a dive play, the rookie limped off and sat out the rest of the game.
JAGUARS 35, PANTHERS 10: George Seifert was back on the sideline. Dom Capers was on a different one. One thing stayed the same: Jacksonville's smooth-running offense.
Keenan McCardell caught two long touchdown passes and second-year quarterback Jonathan Quinn threw for 144 yards and two scores to lift the Jaguars past visiting Carolina.
Jacksonville's offense has struggled in training camp against the new defense being installed by Capers, who became defensive coordinator after Carolina fired him as head coach last season. Against the Panthers, the Jaguars had little trouble.
Seifert returned to coaching two years after quitting at San Francisco. Carolina, whose 4-12 record last season led to Capers's departure, managed only one play of more than 10 yards with the first-unit offense playing.
"It was just a heck of a lot of bad execution," Seifert said. "That's something I've got to get resolved."
GIANTS 36, VIKINGS 21: In Minneapolis, the quick-strike offense was there as expected, only it belonged to visiting New York and not Minnesota. Kent Graham threw touchdown passes of 53 and 37 yards against the first-stringers as the Giants cruised.
The Vikings scored an NFL-record 556 points last season, but their starters were limited to 54 yards of offense last night in three fruitless drives.
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, the Vikings' first-round draft pick, had a miserable debut. In his first four possessions, he was sacked five times for 46 yards and misfired a bomb to wide-open Tony Bland.
"I was out of sync. I was very hyper and made some mistakes," Culpepper said. "I have to learn from it -- just watch the film and get better."
FALCONS 35, LIONS 31: Rookie Rondel Menendez scored on a 63-yard punt return and set up another touchdown with a 32-yard return in host Atlanta's victory over Detroit.
Menendez, a 5-foot-9, 183-pounder from Eastern Kentucky, scored when he returned the punt up the middle, cut to the left side and outran the defense.
"I hope I caught somebody's eye tonight," Menendez said.
STEELERS 30, BEARS 23: Hines Ward scored twice in a first quarter marked by special teams mistakes, once after Pittsburgh Coach Bill Cowher challenged under the new instant replay system, and the Steelers beat visiting Chicago.
Ward also recovered a punt blocked by Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala for a touchdown on a play originally ruled a safety. Cowher challenged, arguing Ward was in possession before crossing the end line, and referee Johnny Grier reversed the call after reviewing it on a TV monitor near the Steelers' bench.