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After a shaky pre-season, the Patriots got off to a rousing start, beating the Cincinnati Bengals in Foxboro 38-24. The game was highlighted by Wes Welker’s return, Tom Brady’s return following a car accident, and the regular season debut of the most prolific trio of teammates ever: Terrell Owens (dubbed Batman), Chad Ochocinco (dubbed Robin), and Adam “Pacman” Jones (let’s say, Wonder Woman). The Patriots worked a few rookies into their scheme, and began much like they did during their famed 18-1 season.
After forcing a punt, Tom Brady wasted no time in finding his favorite weapon Wes Welker for five yards on the Patriots’ first play of the game. Brady also hooked up with tight end Aaron Hernandez for 45 yards, and two plays later, he found Welker again for a nine-yard touchdown pass. After Brandon Tate returned his first ever punt, for four yards, Stephen Gostkowski hit a 32-yarder to go up 10-0. Rob Ninkovich also recovered a fumble at the Cincinnati 28.
Wes Welker had another TD reception with 9:04 left in the half, for four yards, and it was upheld in a coach’s challenge on whether or not the ball had crossed the plane. The very next drive, Gary Guyton returned an interception 59 yards for the touchdown, giving the Pats a 24-0 lead. Cincinnati managed a field goal, and just before the half, completed a 51-yard hail mary just before the half that came up three yards short of a touchdown, leaving the score at 24-3 New England at the half.
Brandon Tate returned the opening kick 97 yards for a touchdown (31-3). Nice, huh? Well, thanks to some effective, long drives, Cincinnati threw two touchdown passes, taking up 11:40, and making the score 31-17 just in time for the quarter’s end. In between the TDs, Zoltan Mesko’s 1st punt went 44 yards, and was downed.
New England bullied their way down to the Cincinnati 1, before Rob Gronkowski caught the touchdown pass (38-17). After a one-yard rush made it 38-24, the Patriots went into clock-kill mode, and brought the time down to 1:10 left, leaving the Bengals little option but to wave the white flag.
Welker’s back; he caught two touchdowns amidst eight receptions, putting him on track for another season with 100+ receptions (128).
Gostkowski missed two field goals (of 47 and 56 yards) in the 2nd quarter; both had the distance but were booted. Belichick went for it on 4th and 2 (sound eerily and disgustingly familiar, anyone?) on that last drive in the 4th quarter from the Cincinnati 7 (incomplete pass). An easy field goal would have made it a three-possession game, making three hail maries and two onside kicks even more impossible than two hail maries and one onside kick.