ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)—In his 15 NFL seasons, Jason Elam had never missed three field goals in one game.
The Denver Broncos kicker wasn’t about to start a new trend.
Elam and the Broncos field goal unit scrambled onto the field to convert a 42-yard attempt just as time ran out, lifting Denver to a 15-14 season-opening win over the stunned and injury-depleted Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
“I’m really happy and thankful I got a chance to redeem myself there,” said Elam, who had missed a 43-yard attempt three minutes earlier. He also had a 50-yarder sail wide left in the third quarter.
Maybe it was good that Elam had little time to think about the final kick.
The Broncos were out of timeouts when Jay Cutler hit Javon Walker for an 11-yard catch with 14 seconds left, leading to a mad scramble onto the field. Broncos holder Todd Sauerbrun got the ball down with 1 second remaining.
“I’m going to look back at this game down the road and this is going to be one of my favorites,” said Elam, who has scored more points for one team than anyone else in NFL history. “Out of all the kicks I’ve had, I’ve never had a scenario like that.”
The field goal, though, was overshadowed by a frightening moment, when Bills reserve tight end Kevin Everett was knocked cold after sustaining cervical spine injury and taken off the field by ambulance at the start of the third quarter.
Everett had surgery Sunday and there is concern about whether he will be able to walk again.
“He’s had some sparse movement,” Everett’s agent Brian Overstreet told The Associated Press in a phone interview late Sunday.
“The next couple of days is going to be critical,” said Overstreet, responding to a question about paralysis. “Our concern is for him to come out of this healthy and, hopefully, be able to walk again.”
Everett fell immediately to the ground after a helmet-to-helmet hit when he tackled Denver’s Domenik Hixon during a kickoff to open the second half. Everett had his eyes open but showed no signs of movement as he was placed on a backboard with his head and body immobilized, and carefully loaded into an ambulance at the Broncos 30.
“It was real hard,” Bills cornerback Terrence McGee said. “I watched the whole thing and he never moved.”
Several Broncos players expressed concern over the severity of Everett’s injury, with Elam opening his news conference by saying: “What we heard is not good, so for our whole team, our prayers go out to him.”
The Bills lost three other defensive starters to serious injuries: free safety Ko Simpson (broken left ankle); cornerback Jason Webster (broken forearm); and linebacker Coy Wire (sprained knee). Wire was starting in place of injured starter Keith Ellison, who’s out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain.
Still, credit the Bills banged-up defense for keeping the game so close.
Denver out-gained the Bills in total yards, an eye-popping 470-184, first downs, 23-13, and had a six-minute edge in time of possession.
What the Broncos lacked was finish, managing three field goals and a touchdown despite having eight of 10 drives into Bills territory.
“What can I say, these are the types of games that drive you crazy,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “We have to tie up some loose ends, but it’s nice to get out with a victory.”
Cutler went 23-of-39 for a career-high 304 yards passing, including a 5-yard touchdown to Brandon Marshall, and an interception, but still showed signs of inexperience in his sixth NFL start.
On Denver’s final drive, Cutler blindly pitched a lateral to his left, over running back Selvin Young’s head. The ball was live until Young smartly punched it out of bounds, putting the Broncos in a deep hole, facing third-and-23.
Cutler rebounded, hitting Walker for a 21-yard reception, and then converted the fourth-and-2 with a 7-yard scramble around the right side. Cutler later converted a fourth-and-2 with an 8-yard pass to Walker.
“That’s the job of the quarterback,” he said. “That’s why we get paid the big bucks.”
Travis Henry had 139 yards rushing in his Broncos debut, playing against his former team.
The Bills scored on Roscoe Parrish’s 74-yard punt return and Marshawn Lynch’s 23-yard run. Lynch, the Bills first-round draft pick, had 90-yards rushing, the most by a Bills rookie in a season-opener.
“There are a lot of people very emotional about this loss,” Bills quarterback J.P. Losman said. “What we have to do is make sure it does not slow us down one bit.”
Shanahan won his 132nd game with Denver, moving him into a tie for 10th with Hank Stram for the most wins by a coach with the same team. … The Bills honored former special teams star, Steve Tasker, by placing his name on the Ralph Wilson Stadium’s Wall of Fame. … Bills FS Jim Leonhard had a team-leading 13 tackles while taking over for Simpson.