Tom Brady set up the decisive score by leading a 49-yard, 12-play drive.
Reggie Bush proved to be the game changer as he turned a short pass into a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter as the Detroit Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings 34-24.
Bush, who was making his Detroit debut, finished with 191 yards of offense as he looked to be the answer to the franchise's lack of pace since Jahvid Best retired.
The Chicago Bears edged out the Cincinnati Bengals 24-21 after Jay Cutler passed to Brandon Marshall for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The win over the sloppy Bengals gave Marc Trestman a victory on his coaching debut.
Indianapolis Colts claimed their first opening day win since 2009 after Andrew Luck ran 19 yards for the winning touchdown to beat Oakland Raiders 21-17.
Luck was 18 of 23 for 178 yards with two touchdown passes, but earned his eighth career fourth-quarter comeback by scrambling for a score with five minutes 20 seconds to go in the game.
Nick Folk kicked a 48-yard field goal with two seconds left on the clock as the New York Jets snatched a last-gasp 18-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Jets were trailing 17-15 and rookie Geno Smith scrambled 10 yards only to be fouled by Lavonte David when he was out of bounds.
The 15-yard penalty gave the Jets the ball at the Buccaneers 30 and set up the winning field goal by Folk on the next play.
Elsewhere, Russell Wilson threw for 320 yards including a 43-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse as Seattle Seahawks claimed a 12-7 win over the Carolina Panthers.
Tennessee beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-9 thanks to their revamped defence, who sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times, while Drew Brees passed for 357 yards and scored twice as New Orleans claimed a 23-17 win over Atlanta Falcons.
Kansas City's defense dominated as they inspired a 28-2 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars while Ryan Tannehill passed for 272 yards and a touchdown as the Miami Dolphins claimed a 23-10 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Frank Gore scored a one-yard touchdown with 5:47 remaining as the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 34-28.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 yards for the NFC champion 49ers while debutant Anquan Boldin caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Off-season acquisition Jared Cook caught two touchdown passes and had a key reception in the drive that led to Greg Zuerlein's tie-breaking field goal with 40 seconds to go as the St Louis Rams edged out the Arizona Cardinals 27-24.
In the final game of the day, the Dallas Cowboys had six turnovers on their way to beating the New York Giants 36-31.