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PRO FOOTBALL—In the opening week of the NFL's 61st season, San Francisco needed a 61-yard drive, culminating in a 37-yard Ray Wersching field goal, in the last four minutes to defeat New Orleans 26-23. Minnesota built a 21-6 cushion over Atlanta midway through the third period but still required a last-second kick to edge the Falcons 24-23. Vikes Quarterback Tommy Kramer completed 30 of 42 passes for 395 yards, but the winning margin came off the foot of Rick Danmeier from 27 yards out. New England showed none of its preseason defensive shortcomings in beating Cleveland 34-17 as the Patriots allowed the Browns past midfield just twice in the first three quarters. The Buffalo defense ended a decade of frustration for the Bills, holding Miami to seven points, while Buffalo's mistake-prone offense struggled through a 68-yard desperation scoring drive in the final minutes to gain a 17-7 win, the Bills' first against the Dolphins since November 1969. In all, Buffalo had sustained an NFL-record 20 straight losses to Miami. A little luck, not a final drive, led to Tampa Bay's 17-12 win over Cincinnati. Bengal Punter Pat McInally fumbled a snap from center on his own goal line to set up the winning TD pass from Doug Williams to Tight End Jimmie Giles with 1:47 left. The Giants got five TD passes from Phil Simms, including a club-record four to Earnest Gray, for a 41-35 win over the Cardinals. Bert Jones guided Baltimore to two TDs before the Jets were able to score, and Steve Mike-Mayer clinched a 17-14 win with a three-pointer midway through the-final period. Detroit's No. 1 draft pick, Running Back Billy Sims, lived up to his billing by scoring three touchdowns and setting up a fourth with a 60-yard reception as the Lions upset the Rams 41-20. And Oakland Quarterback Dan Pastorini erased suspicions that Houston got the better end of the trade involving him and Kenny Stabler by riddling the Kansas City defense for 317 yards and two TDs in a 27-14 Raider win. In other games, Philadelphia beat Denver 27-6; San Diego whipped Seattle 34-13; Green Bay beat Chicago 12-6 (page 59) and, as Franco Harris became the league's third all-time leading rusher with 46 yards, Pittsburgh beat Houston 31-17 (page 28).
HARNESS RACING—NIATROSS, driven by Clint Galbraith, set a record for the mile paced on a half-mile course when he was clocked in 1:55 while winning the $50,000 Batavia Downs Colt & Filly Stakes by six lengths over Justin Passing. His time was two-fifths of a second faster than the mark established by Falcon Almahurst in 1978.
HORSE RACING—WINTER'S TALE ($8.60), ridden by Jeffrey Fell, defeated Glorious Song by 4� lengths to win the $300,000 Marlboro Cup at Belmont. The 4-year-old gelding covered the 1? miles in 1:47.
SOCCER—NASL: Chicago, with the league's third-highest point total during the regular season, was eliminated in the first week of playoffs. Last week, the second of postseason competition, Seattle, the runner-up in the point standings, fell to Los Angeles on a shootout penalty kick goal by Javier Aguirre that broke a 1-1 mini-game tie. That can only make things easier for the Cosmos, who are favored to win the title. Sounder Goalie Jack Brand, who led the league with 15 shutouts, and his Aztec counterpart, Alfredo Anhielo, each held the opposition scoreless in his team's victory as Seattle and L.A. split the first two games of their series. Leo Van Veen scored two Aztec goals in a 3-0 win on Wednesday, with Aguirre getting the third at 74:24. Two nights later Brand had three saves, while Midfielder Roy Greaves scored the Sounders' first goal at 20:20 and Steve Buttle connected off an Alan Hudson pass five minutes later to start a 4-0 rout. Aztec Coach Rinus Michels benched Anhielo and Forwards Luis Fernando and Van Veen for the ensuing minigame. The strategy paid off when one of the subs, Gary Etherington, scored the Aztecs' minigame goal. In the shootout, Brand tripped Aguirre after the Aztecs had taken a 1-0 lead; the resulting penalty kick was the game-winner. The Aztecs now face the Cosmos, who eliminated Dallas, in the National Conference championship. The Cosmos were lucky in their 3-2 opening-game win in Dallas. After giving up two goals in the first 14 minutes, the Tornado rallied to a 2-2 tie in the second half. Then with 2:32 left, Mr. Playoff ( Giorgio Chinaglia) sent a Ricky Davis pass by Goalie Alex Stepney for the game-winner. The Cosmos lost the second game 3-0, before taking the mini-game 3-0. In the American Conference semifinals Fort Lauderdale needed a 2-0 minigame victory over Edmonton to advance to the championship round. After winning 1-0 on a Ray Hudson goal with less than 12 minutes left in the series opener, the Strikers fell behind 1-0 in the second game on a goal at 16:17 by Hayden Knight. The Strikers tied the game early in the second half, and then the teams traded goals to make it 2-2. A shootout score by Peter Nogly evened the series for the Drillers. In the mini-game, Teofilo Cubillas scored both goals for the Strikers, who now must face hot San Diego, which eliminated Chicago in the first playoff round and ASC East champ Tampa Bay last week. The Sockers scored three straight goals on the way to a 6-3 victory. Nico Rohmann, who had only two goals during the regular season, and Jean Willrich each had a pair of scores in the victory. Tampa recovered to win the rematch 6-0, but the Sockers prevailed 2-1 in the minigame.
ASL: Both of the week's games went into overtime. California's Keith Walley assisted on a Carlos Zavaleta goal in the 105th minute for a 2-1 Sunshine win over New York. A day later, however, California lost to National Conference winner Pennsylvania when Ian Filby got a Stoner goal that broke a 2-2 tie with only five minutes to go in overtime. Nonetheless, California meets American Conference champion Sacramento in a two-game playoff series this week, the winner to advance to the league final against either New York or Philadelphia, whichever wins the National Conference playoffs.
TENNIS—JOHN McENROE defeated Bjorn Borg 7-6, 6-1, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4 to win the men's singles title at the U.S. Open. CHRIS EVERT LLOYD beat Hana Mandlikova 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 for her fifth women's singles championship. STAN SMITH and BOB LUTZ defeated top-seeded Peter Fleming and McEnroe 7-6, 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 for the men's doubles title, while BILLIE JEAN KING and MARTINA NAVRATILOVA beat Pam Shriver and Betty Stove to win the women's doubles title 7-6, 7-5. In the mixed doubles final, WENDY TURNBULL and MARTY RIESSEN beat Betty Stove and Frew McMillan 7-6, 6-2 (page 16).
MILESTONES—RESIGNED: As manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, GEORGE BAMBERGER, 55, whose three-year record of 261-201 makes him the most successful skipper in the franchise's 12-season history. Third Base Coach BOB (BUCK) RODGERS, 42, who guided the Brewers in the early part of this season after Bamberger had suffered a mild heart attack in spring training, was named to succeed Bamberger.