ATLANTA — With so many teammates hurting, Julio Jones had to play an even bigger role for the Atlanta Falcons.
He was up to the task.
Jones matched the best game of his career with 182 yards receiving, including an 81-yard touchdown catch, and the Atlanta Falcons held on for their first win of the season, 31-24 over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
“I know the other guys on the field are counting on me to make those plays when the ball comes my way,” Jones said.
Matt Ryan threw for 374 yards and two scores despite taking quite a beating behind the Falcons’ shaky offense line.
There were plenty of flaws in the Falcons’ performance — hardly any running game, a lack of protection for Ryan, not much pressure on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford — but they’ll take it considering all the players who went down.
Five starters were done by halftime: running back Steven Jackson (thigh), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot), defensive end Kroy Biermann (right ankle), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) and fullback Bradie Ewing (shoulder).
The Rams (1-1) fell behind 21-0 when Osi Umenyiora returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown. Atlanta led 24-3 at halftime before St. Louis fought back on a pair of short touchdown passes by Bradford.
BEARS 31, VIKINGS 30: In Chicago, Jay Cutler threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left.
Minnesota’s Blair Walsh had just kicked a 22-yard field goal with 3:15 remaining when Chicago took over at its 34. Cutler, who led the Bears back from an 11-point deficit in a season-opening win over Cincinnati, struck again.
A 23-yard pass to Bennett along the sideline put the ball on the 16. Cutler then spiked the ball before connecting with Bennett in the front corner of the end zone.
Cutler completed 28 of 39 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted twice and got stripped by Jared Allen on a sack, leading to a 61-yard touchdown return for Brian Robison.
CHIEFS 17, COWBOYS 16: In Kansas City, Alex Smith threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns, and the Kansas City defense held when it needed to in the fourth quarter.
Jamaal Charles ran for 55 yards and caught a touchdown pass for the Chiefs, who made new coach Andy Reid a winner in his home debut. The Chiefs also matched their victory total from all of last season by starting 2-0 for just the second time since 2005.
Dwayne Bowe’s touchdown catch in the third quarter and Ryan Succop’s 40-yard field goal early in the fourth gave the Chiefs a 17-13 lead. The Cowboys (1-1) answered with a deep march into Kansas City territory but had to settle for Dan Bailey’s 53-yard field goal with 3:55 left.
TEXANS 30, TITANS 24, OT: In Houston, rookie DeAndre Hopkins caught a 3-yard touchdown pass in overtime to cap Houston’s comeback win.
Hopkins reached above Jason McCourty and pulled in the pass from Matt Schaub to give Houston the victory.
The Texans (2-0) charged back from an eight-point, fourth-quarter deficit against the Titans (1-1).
Arian Foster’s 1-yard touchdown and 2-point conversion tied it at 24-24 with less than two minutes left.
Houston forced a punt and got within field goal range after that. But Randy Bullock’s 46-yard field goal attempt bounced off the left upright to force overtime. It was his third miss of the day.
BILLS 24, PANTHERS 23: In Orchard Park, N.Y., rookie EJ Manuel hit Stevie Johnson for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 2 seconds left.
The touchdown capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive in which the first-round draft pick completed 6 of 8 attempts for 51 yards. Manuel also got help on third-and-6 from Carolina’s 29, when Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was penalized for pass interference with 14 seconds left.
Two plays later, Manuel found Johnson alone in the left corner as Buffalo (1-1) bounced back from a 23-21 season-opening loss to New England.
The Panthers (0-2) lost yet another close game.
DOLPHINS 24, COLTS 20: In Indianapolis, Ryan Tannehill threw for 319 yards and one touchdown, and the Dolphins defense held off yet another Colts comeback bid.
Charles Clay gave Miami the lead for good with a 1-yard TD run late in the third quarter. The Dolphins are 2-0 for only the second time since 2004.
Indianapolis (1-1) lost at home for the first time in 12 months and only the second time in Andrew Luck’s brief NFL career.
Luck had the Colts positioned to rally yet again after reaching the Miami 23-yard line with 1:45 left in the game.
But this time, Luck threw three straight incompletions and then could not evade the Dolphins pass rush on fourth down, allowing Miami to run out the clock.
Luck was 25 of 43 for 321 yards with one TD and one interception.
RAVENS 14, BROWNS 6: In Baltimore, Baltimore sacked Brandon Weeden five times before finally knocking him out of the game in the fourth quarter.
After yielding 49 points in a season-opening loss at Denver, Baltimore’s defense came up with a redemptive performance against the Browns (0-2). Cleveland failed to score in the second half and managed only 85 yards over the final 30 minutes.
Weeden left with a thumb injury with just over three minutes left and was replaced by Jason Campbell, who could not move the team.
Down 6-0 at halftime, the Ravens (1-1) took the lead on a 5-yard run by Bernard Pierce with 5:13 left in the third quarter. Baltimore added a touchdown with 8:77 remaining on a 5-yard pass from Flacco to rookie Marlon Brown.
Ravens running back Ray Rice left early in the fourth quarter with an apparent hip injury.
Raiders 19, Jaguars 9: In Oakland, Calif., Darren McFadden ran for 129 yards and Oakland’s defense held Jacksonville out of the end zone until the closing minutes, as the Raiders won their home opener.
Terrelle Pryor ran for 50 yards and threw for 126 in his first home start for the Raiders (1-1).