CINCINNATI — The most debated call was made by Drew Bledsoe.
Corey Dillon rushed for 104 yards and Jon Kitna threw a touchdown pass--a rarity for the Bengals--as Cincinnati held on for a 23-17 victory Sunday over the New England Patriots.
The Bengals had a close call with 2:28 left and the Patriots driving. Bledsoe changed the play to a quarterback sneak on fourth and two around midfield, but came up a fraction of an inch short.
"In retrospect, I should have dropped back and thrown the ball," Bledsoe said.
The Bengals won their first opener since 1997, though it's not necessarily a sign of good things ahead. They beat Arizona, 24-21, that year, then lost their next seven.
New England got a glimpse of what's ahead--a lot of Bledsoe and not much else. The Patriots had no consistent running game--68 yards on 21 carries--and no clue how to contain the shifty Dillon, who scored one touchdown and repeatedly cut back for big runs.
The Patriots also had trouble covering Darnay Scott, who caught five passes for 104 yards after missing all last season with a broken leg.
It marked a dramatic shift for the Bengals, who threw only six touchdown passes last season and relied on Dillon for to be virtually a one-man offense. This time, he didn't have to do it all.
Bledsoe, playing his first game under a 10-year, $103-million contract extension, completed 22 of 38 for 241 yards and was sacked four times by a defense that had an NFL-low 26 sacks last season.
Kitna, who led the NFL with 17 fumbles last season, did better than expected. He completed 18 of 27 passes for 204 yards after a shaky start.