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Behind Enemy Lines: Where were Ochocinco and T.O.?

09.12.10 at 9:17 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The 38-24 loss to the Patriots was certainly not what the Bengals were hoping for to kick off their 2010 season. However, the Patriots pounced early and never looked back. After the game, Chad Ochocinco and his teammates seemed shocked at what had just transpired.

“All I know is the better team won today,” Ochocinco said.

Certainly, the most puzzling development of the day was a play on which the two star Bengals wide receivers — Ochocinco and Terrell Owens — were not on the field. On the last play of the first half, both players were in the locker room when the Bengals attempted a Hail Mary pass. Though Palmer ended up completing a bomb to Jordan Shipley, who was downed at the 2-yard line for a 51-yard gain, the absence of two Cincinnati stars was perplexing.

After the game, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis addressed the whereabouts of his missing wideouts:

“We had [Ochocinco] go in for an IV, which is kind of normal for him any time we are on defense — particularly early in the season,” Lewis said. “Later in the year we don’t have to do that. But the doctors want to get him and get him out so he’s ready to go at the start of the second half. And Terrell went in to get work done and get looked at and so we had the other guys ready to go.”

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Randy Moss Postgame Q&A, 9/12

09.12.10 at 7:55 pm ET
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Here’s the full transcript from today’s postgame Q&A between the media and Randy Moss.

RM: Before I get to questions, I’d like to say something. I’ve been here for three years. This is my fourth season. I understand the business and the nature and I understand that you all have a job to do. When it comes to football, I take my job seriously, I say [that] time and time again. But I think there is, I don’t really want to say here in the organization, but I think around here in the New England area, a lot of people don’t want to see me do good. And the reason why, I don’t know. I really don’t care. But I just want to let you all know, you all [are] the ones that are doing all the writing, all the pen, the pad and ink. I don’t have any. So, anything that I may say will get blown out of proportion. Earlier in the week, I got asked a question about me being here and me being unhappy. And me being unhappy doesn’t have anything to do with me toning my game down. I’m here, and I understand my role. My role is to take the ball deep and take the top off the defense. I think earlier in the week, a lot of people were coming at me wrong about me being unhappy. That’s like, for instance, if you worked for somebody, everybody in here you work for somebody, unless you are independent, and if you’re boss comes to you, sometimes you want your boss to tell you you’re doing a good job. That’s every man or woman who works for somebody. You want your boss to come through and be able to say he read your column last night or this morning. He liked your column. And that’s just the way [it is] with football. If you do a good job and think that you’re doing a good job, you want to be appreciated. I really don’t think that, me personally, that I’m appreciated. I don’t want you all to take anything out of context that I’m saying because I am a man and this is a job. I take my job very seriously, to heart. I want to let you all now and I want to let the fans, the real fans of the New England Patriots know, I’m not here to start any trouble. I’m here to play my last year out of my contract. And I’ve said time and time again, before I signed my first contract here, I want to be here in New England. There’s a great group of guys here. Well coached group here. And I never said that I wanted to leave New England. But I think that a lot of things that have been written or been said are looking at me in a negative light. And I don’t want it to be in a negative light. I just want everybody to understand, you can print it. I don’t care how you put it on your ink, I want to be here as a Patriot. I love being here. But I just think from a business standpoint, this probably will be my last year here as a Patriot. And I’m not retiring. I’m still going to play some football. I just want to get that off my chest and let you all understand that this is a business. Now I’ll open it up for questions.
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Patriots-Bengals postgame notes

09.12.10 at 6:54 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are a couple of quick postgame notes from today’s Patriots-Bengals contest:

GOOD AT HOME
The Patriots improved to a perfect 9-0 at Gillette Stadium in home openers. New England has won its home opener in each season since moving into Gillette Stadium in 2002 and has won 14 of its last 16 home openers overall. The Patriots have also won seven straight times on Kickoff Weekend. New England is now 60-13 (.822) all-time at Gillette Stadium (including playoffs, the best home record in the NFL since the facility opened in 2002.

NEW FACES
Of the 16 new Patriots on the 53-man opening day roster in 2010, 12 saw action in their first regular-season game as a member of the Patriots. Of that group, six players were 2010 draft picks. The new Patriots who made their New England debuts today are: P Zoltan Mesko, CB Devin McCourty, S Jarrad Page, LB Brandon Spikes, LB Tracy White, DL Kyle Love, TE Alge Crumpler, TE Aaron Hernandez, TE Rob Gronkowski, DL Gerard Warren, LB Marques Murrell and DL Jermaine Cunningham.

WES WELKER HAS TWO TOUCHDOWNS, TYING CAREER HIGH
Wes Welker tied his single-game career high with his fourth two-touchdown game after a 9-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter and a 4-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Welker also had two touchdown receptions in games at Miami (10/21/07), at Dallas (10/14/07) and vs. Tennessee (10/18/09).

WELKER IS GOOD FOR AT LEAST SIX
After catching a team-high eight passes for a team-high 64 yards this afternoon, Welker now has 6 or more catches in 27 of his last 31 games. Welker has caught at least one pass in each of his 50 games with the Patriots, including today’s game. He has a current streak of 64 straight games with at least one reception. The last time Welker did not catch a pass in a game was December 24, 2005 when he played for Miami.

LB GARY GUYTON SCORES ON HIS FIRST CAREER INTERCEPTION
LB Gary Guyton picked off a Carson Palmer pass in the second quarter and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown. It marks his first NFL interception. Last season the Patriots returned three interceptions for a touchdown. Brandon Meriweather returned an interception 39 yards for a score at Tampa Bay (10/25/09), CB Leigh Bodden scored on a 53-yard return vs. NY Jets (11/22/09) and Darius Bulter returned an interception 91 yards for a touchdown at Houston (1/3/10). Guyton’s return is the first interception returned for a touchdown by a New England linebacker since Adalius Thomas returned one 65 yards for a touchdown vs. San Diego (9/16/07).
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Poll: Should Moss have vented?

09.12.10 at 5:35 pm ET
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Do you think Randy Moss should have talked about his contract after the Patriots’ win?

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Moss: ‘I don’t feel I’m very liked’

09.12.10 at 5:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss met with the media on Sunday and spoke about his feelings regarding a contract extension. The All-Pro, who spoke very little during the preseason, talked for 16 minutes on Sunday.

“Anything I say will probably be blown out of proportion,” Moss said after the Patriots 38-24 win over the Bengals. “Earlier in the week, I was asked a question about being unhappy and being unhappy doesn’t have anything to do with toning my game down. I’m here and I understand my role is to take the ball deep and take the top off the defense.”

Moss, who had five catches for 59 yards in the win over the Bengals, said he didn’t want to leave the Patriots after this season, but “if I’m not here, I’m not. It’s a job.”

The veteran wideout was asked if he thought these comments would lead to negative feedback from the fans of New England.

“I take my job very seriously and I want to let the fans, the real fans of the New England Patriots know that I’m not here to start any trouble, I here to play my last year out of my contract.”

“I’m not saying that I’m not appreciated here,” said Moss, “but this is the last year of my contract and there hasn’t been anything discussed, there has not been anything said, not a letter, nothing. I’m not saying that I want to stay here, but I love playing here. If the future of my job lets me go to another team, then that what’s it gonna be. Right now I have a contract with the New England Patriots, I’m going to play my last year out and do it to the best of my ability.”

The future Hall of Famer is aware that he could be losing the public perception battle, but told the media that he’s OK with that.

“The journey that I’ve taken to get to where I’m at, 13 years, I don’t feel like I’m very liked,” Moss told the group of reporters. ”I’m not saying it comes from you all. Really I don’t give a damn.”

Moss did give a glimpse into his future plans, eliminating any speculation about retirement.

“I love being here,” said Moss, ”but from a business standpoint, this will probably be my last year as a Patriot and I’m not retiring. I’m still going play some football. I just wanted to get that off my chest.”

Brady changes script for opener

09.12.10 at 4:11 pm ET
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Tom Brady had a solid outing in the Patriots' opener. (AP)

Tom Brady had a solid outing in the Patriots' opener. (AP)

As season openers go, this is how Tom Brady likes it.

The last two years haven’t exactly followed the Brady Script. There was, of course, Bernard Pollard in 2008. And even though Brady threw a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes to Ben Watson to lead the Pats to a comeback win over the Bills last season, there were more than a few whispers that Brady looked, well, not a whole lot like the guy who won three Super Bowls and tossed 50 TDs in 2007. Words like “timid” and “afraid” and “doubt” were tossed around regarding Brady the next day.

Injury and doubt, however, were replaced on Sunday by command and closer.

Brady wasn’t brilliant in the Patriots 38-24 win over the Bengals — he missed Randy Moss on a couple of deep passes and very nearly got Kevin Faulk beheaded with a lousy second-quarter toss — but he was very, very good. He completed 25-of-34 passes for 258 yards and 3 TDs. For the 52nd time in his career he posted a passer rating of over 100, finishing at 124.4.

He was in command from the first snap, completing all three passes for 59 yards in the opening drive, culminating with a nine-yard out to Welker for the TD catch (and raise your hand if when watching Welker on the ground in Houston on Jan 3 you had him scoring the first Sunday NFL TD of the 2010 season).

That was part of a first half that saw Brady throw the ball often (24 times) and hit five different receivers for at least one reception (Welker, Randy Moss, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Tate and Faulk). In that half the Patriots converted 6-of-8 on third-down conversions and Brady submitted one for the highlight reel, averting a near-sack and hitting Faulk on the sideline for a 21-yard catch at the Cincinnati four-yard line. One of those “only Brady” kind of plays, really. Three plays later Welker had TD catch No. 2 and it was almost Gino time (still waiting for the Foxboro equivalent) at 24-3.

And after Brandon Tate opened the second half with a 97-yard kickoff return to give the Pats a 31-3 lead it seemed safe to assume that Brady wouldn’t be much more than a backup singer in the final 24 minutes. But after the Bengals showed a little heart and cut the lead to 31-17, Brady led the Pats on what may have been the most important drive of the game. Last year, the knock on the Pats — and Brady — was the inability to finish teams off (Colts, Dolphins, Texans). This wasn’t the case on Sunday, and Brady was a major reason why. He completed all six passes on the drive, as he was an absolute study in calm and cool. And when his final pass of the drive was completed to Rob Gronkowski for a one-yard score, the Pats had a 38-17 lead with 8:15 left in the game and the game was iced.

Look, the defense was good when it mattered and the special teams made plays and it sure is swell that Welker is back and who needs Mankins when the O-Line plays like this and all that stuff, but for the Pats to play their final game of the season in Dallas they need Tom Brady to be quarterback we saw all preseason and on Sunday.

Healthy, confident and in total command.

A nice change for an opener.

Quick hits: Patriots 38, Bengals 24

09.12.10 at 4:09 pm ET
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The Patriots had plenty to celebrate in their season-opening win Sunday. (AP)

The Patriots had plenty to celebrate in their season-opening win Sunday. (AP)

FOXBORO — The Patriots got their season off on the right foot Sunday with a 38-24 win over the Bengals at Gillette Stadium.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE PATRIOTS

On the offensive side of the ball, the Patriots only shot themselves in the foot — their first punt didn’t come until almost the five-minute mark of the third quarter. Quarterback Tom Brady opened the season by going 25-for-35 for 258 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, in his first game back after ripping up his knee in last year’s regular-season finale against the Texans in Houston, Wes Welker caught a pair of touchdown passes and ended up with 64 receiving yards on the afternoon, while Rob Gronkowski caught a touchdown pass and linebacker Gary Guyton ran an interception back 59 yards for a touchdown. Meanwhile, Fred Taylor got the bulk of the carries for the Patriots and ended up with 71 rushing yards.

The Patriots played excellent complimentary football throughout much of the game. The New England defense was able to keep the Cincinnati offense in check, while the offense took advantage of its opportunities, taking a 24-3 halftime lead and milking the clock through extended stretches of the second half, including a drive at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth that went 14 plays, took 81 yards and consumed an impressive 7:41. That forced the Bengals to become a one-dimensional team in the second half, throwing the ball in an attempt to get back into the game.

The New England youngsters (rookies and second-year players) had a tremendous impact in the opener.  Gronkowski had a one-yard touchdown catch, while fellow rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez highlighted an early scoring drive with a 45-yard catch of his own. In addition, second-year kick returner Brandon Tate had a 97-yard kick return for a touchdown, while second-year safety Pat Chung was into double-digit tackles by the start of the fourth quarter. And cornerback Devin McCourty had a pair of standout plays, breaking up a pass for Terrell Owens on the first series of scrimmage and delivering a nasty second-half hit to the hip of Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer, knocking him out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Chad Ochocinco and  Owens were still able to put up nice numbers, but it McCourty and second-year defensive back Darius Butler who really did a nice job taking a celebrated receiving duo out of their game.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE PATRIOTS

Not much here, other than the defensive breakdowns in the second half that allowed the Bengals to hang around, specifically a pair of third-quarter drives by the Bengals that made the game a lot closer than it needed to be.

First, there was a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard pass from Palmer pass to rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham. Cincinnati followed that with another 12-play drive, this one going for 73 yards and taking 4:51 and ending with a 28-yard pass play from Palmer to Ochocinco. (He steered clear of the muskets after the touchdown.) That made it 31-17 late with a little less than a minute to go in the third quarter. New England was able to answer with a spirit-sapping drive of their own late in the third and into the fourth quarter, but the sight of the Patriots allowing back-to-back extended scoring drives couldn’t have been encouraging, especially for a team that suffered so many defensive letdowns in the second half last season.

While the Patriots were able to get a stellar performance out of their special teams unit, there was a missed 47-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. In addition, a pair of missed pass attempts to Kevin Faulk inside the Cincinnati 30-yard line prevented the 24-3 halftime lead from being even greater. And while Moss did finish with five catches for 59 yards, the weekly attempts at a deep connection between Brady and Moss didn’t work again. The two tried a pair of deep balls — one was overthrown and another underthrown.

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