Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
How tedious was the game? The highlight was a second-quarter extra point.
Let's take a look at a few items that stood out:
Tom Brady said he wanted to get blasted. He got his wish. After two no-contact quarters against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Brady took his first shots since undergoing reconstructive knee surgery. He handled both of them well. On the Patriots' third offensive play, linebacker Keith Rivers forced Brady to eject the ball into the Bengals' bench area and spun Brady to the turf.
But defensive end Robert Geathers delivered the hit everybody had been waiting for later in the first quarter, bolting untouched past right tackle Nick Kaczur and into the pocket and flattening Brady, who landed directly on his rebuilt left knee. How did Brady respond? He scrambled to his feet and immediately signaled the next no-huddle play. That's a great sign for Patriot Nation.
Uncommonly sloppy performance for the Patriots. It could be said about any unit from the first-stringers to the deep reserves. There were a slew of missed tackles (cornerback Shawn Springs badly whiffed to give up a 13-yard Cedric Benson catch and run on a third-and-27 play in the first quarter), a touchdown allowed on a fourth-and-17 play (Chris Henry over Terrence Wheatley late in the second quarter), nine penalties for 96 yards, four sacks allowed and a pair of fumbles.
Wheatley's timing couldn't have been worse. Cincy's touchdown wasn't the only play Wheatley will want to forget. One play earlier, Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson beat Wheatley for a touchdown but was called for pushing off -- apparently before they reached the end zone because replays showed Simpson didn't make contact there.
A lackadaisical effort allowed Chad Ochocinco to pick up 35 yards on an earlier second-quarter series. Wheatley, a 2008 second-round draft pick, had his bad performance on a night when rookie Darius Butler started at left corner and Springs finally got on the field.
New England threw it around the yard. Randy Moss didn't catch a pass, yet the Patriots still completed passes to 13 different receivers. They targeted 15, with Moss and tight end Alex Smith being thrown to twice without a connection.
Fred Taylor and Wes Welker made their preseason debuts. Neither played in Philadelphia, but both were in the starting lineup Thursday night. Taylor ran hard, getting seven carries for 26 yards. He also made a nice spin move for extra distance on a 12-yard pass play. Welker had a 32-yard catch and dash.
Kevin O'Connell was the No. 2 quarterback. Last week's middle reliever, Andrew Walter, had the night off. O'Connell was a ho-hum 8 of 15 for 84 yards. Undrafted rookie Brian Hoyer made his NFL debut and looked better than some veteran depth quarterbacks you may have seen this month. Hoyer was 11 of 19 for 112 yards and absorbed two jarring sacks.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick re-inserted O'Connell with 1:48 left in the game to run the two-minute offense from their own 18, but they barely got past midfield before running out of time.
Believe it or not, Jerod Mayo registered his first NFL sack. He said during OTAs that he wasn't satisfied being a tackling machine, that he wanted to take the next step and become more of a play maker. As if he had an invitation to the Bengals' backfield, last year's Associated Press defensive rookie of the year came through unchecked to clobber J.T. O'Sullivan on the first series. Mayo led the Patriots in tackles last year, but had zero sacks -- in the preseason or regular season.
Chad Ochocinco would have looked better in the single-bar facemask. As I wrote last week, the former Chad Johnson attempted to wear the old-school facemask a couple years ago but was barred from doing so. The getup would've looked natural when he filled in for Shayne Graham, who got the night off to rest a groin injury.
Ochocinco kicked Cincinnati's extra point in the second quarter -- the eventual deciding point -- and then impressively booted the post-halftime kickoff inside the 10-yard line. Bengals punter Kevin Huber kicked off to start the game.
"Esteban Ochocinco is back, the most interesting footballer in the world," Ochocinco said in a quote released by the Bengals. "Everyone has to remember, I've always said that soccer is my No. 1 sport. I think Ronaldinho would be proud of me right now."
The only other non-kickers to score on kicks in Gillette Stadium were Doug Flutie on a dropkick in January 2006 and Welker with a 29-yard field goal in October 2004.
Julian Edelman was quiet. A week after Edelman's coming out party (team-high five receptions and a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown), the seventh-round pick was less conspicuous with Welker in service. Edleman, the converted Kent State quarterback, made one catch for 3 yards and returned two punts for 9 yards.