Sparked by backups Leon Johnson, Quinn Early and Rick Mirer, the New York Jets beat the Minnesota Vikings, 38-17, last night in East Rutherford, N.J., in a preseason game matching last season's conference runners-up.

While the play was pretty even with the first-stringers on the field, the Jets held a big edge in the second half, when the substitutes got playing time.

Johnson had punt runbacks of 24, 11 and 42 yards. He also had 56 yards rushing, scoring once.

Mirer, in his first action since being acquired from Green Bay late last month, threw for three scores. One was a 74-yarder to Quinn Early, who caught three passes for 124 yards. New York (3-1) scored on seven straight possessions.

"[Jets Coach Bill] Parcells said, `If I bring you in, I will use you,' " said Early, signed as a free agent after Buffalo released him. "I hadn't really had the opportunities the first couple of games. But tonight I had the opportunity to get my confidence as a Jets player."

The Jets lost wide receiver Wayne Chrebet with a broken left foot. Chrebet had never missed a game in four NFL seasons, but is expected to miss at least six weeks.

FALCONS 28, BENGALS 16: In Cincinnati, Chris Chandler jump-started a slumping offense by throwing two touchdown passes for Atlanta.

The Falcons (2-2) got their offense on track just in time for the regular season, but the Bengals (0-4) remained in disarray after the second winless preseason in franchise history.

BRONCOS 34, 49ERS 3: Brian Griese was impressive in his debut as Denver's starting quarterback, but third-stringer Chris Miller was even better, throwing four touchdown passes against visiting San Francisco.

The Broncos (3-2) scored on their first five possessions and finished with 459 yards to San Francisco's 141.

Griese completed 12 of 17 passes for 111 yards. Miller, Denver's number three quarterback, was 15 for 20 for 223 yards.

RAIDERS 43, CARDINALS 7: In Tempe, Ariz., Oakland, playing its second game in five nights, ended the preseason a big winner thanks to five field goals by Michael Husted and a memorable third quarter by rookie linebacker Eric Barton.

Husted kicked field goals of 53, 52, 43, 43 and 21 yards. Barton, a fifth-round draft pick out of Maryland, intercepted two of rookie Chris Greisen's passes and returned Mario Bates's fumble 28 yards for a touchdown.

OTHER NEWS: Denver Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski did not fraudulently obtain a controlled prescription drug, his lawyer said. In a news conference Thursday in Castle Rock, Colo., attorney Jeff Springer accused authorities of harassing Romanowski and of leaking information about the investigation.

Douglas County (Colo.) sheriff's deputies have alleged Romanowski used fraud and deceit to obtain Phentermine, a drug that usually is prescribed to help severely obese people lose weight. It also acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system.