© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 11, 2001
DENVER -- It was a bittersweet celebration for the Broncos.
Playing its first game in a new stadium, Denver welcomed back former MVP Terrell Davis and showed why it is considered a Super Bowl contender with a 31-20 victory over the New York Giants on Monday night.
While Davis proved healthy with 101 yards on 21 carries, Denver lost starting wide receiver Ed McCaffrey to a broken leg. McCaffrey, who caught a team-record 101 passes last season, could miss the rest of the season.
The injury seemed to inspire the Broncos, particularly Rod Smith, who caught a 25-yard touchdown that gave Denver a 21-14 lead three plays after McCaffrey was injured midway through the third quarter.
The Broncos also scored on their first two possessions of the fourth quarter, ensuring they would open $400-million Invesco Field at Mile High on a winning note.
Smith, one of McCaffrey's best friends, had nine catches for 115 yards. Brian Griese, eight months removed from reconstructive shoulder surgery, was 21-of-29 for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
The Giants, still seeking respect after winning the NFC title last season, had trouble running and were hampered by the absences of starting cornerback Jason Sehorn (sore knee) and starting receiver Ike Hilliard (sore foot).
New York finished with 308 yards total offense, 90 in the final five minutes. Sehorn's replacement, rookie Will Peterson, repeatedly was beaten by Smith and McCaffrey. Dave Thomas also struggled to contain Denver's receivers, even after McCaffrey left the game.
One of New York's best players was first-year punter Rodney Williams, who set a team record with a 90-yard punt in the third quarter and had two other punts of more than 60 yards.
Amani Toomer also had a big night with two touchdown catches for the Giants, who fell to 4-1 in openers under coach Jim Fassel.
New York tied the score at 14 on Toomer's contested 11-yard touchdown catch less than five minutes into the third quarter. The Broncos challenged the score, saying Toomer stepped out of bounds at about the 3, but the replacement officials upheld the touchdown.