Foxborough, Mass. - Patriots wide receiver David Givens was late scratch from Sunday's 35-28 win over the Cincinnati Bengals due to an unknown leg injury.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick deactivated Givens prior to the game when he found out the injury would prevent the Patriots leading receiver from making his 11th start of the season. Givens, who had played and caught a pass in each of the Patriots 12 games entering Sunday, wasn't on the team's official injury report during the week.
]()"David practiced the whole week, and unexpectedly this morning I got the word that he was kind of tight," Belichick said. "He went out and tried to run on it, but couldn't do much."
Givens leads the Patriots with 52 receptions and 780 receiving yards this season to go along with three touchdowns.
Without Givens, David Patten was inserted into the starting lineup opposite Deion Branch. Patten led the Patriots in both receptions (5) and receiving yards (107), including his career-high seventh touchdown of the season. Tied 7-7 midway through the second quarter, Patten beat Cincinnati cornerback Tory James on a post route from the left side of the field, hauling in a perfect pass from quarterbackTom Brady for a 48-yard touchdown reception. The score marked the longest passing touchdown of the season for the Patriots and the second-longest play from scrimmage.
Branch finished with three receptions for 44 yards. Brady, meanwhile, rebounded from two mediocre efforts by completing 18-of-26 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
"As much as you'd love to have [Givens], it's just you have to go out and play anyways," Brady said. "Other guys just kind of bump over. We have the flexibility on offense to do that."
Poole Makes Return
Although it was limited, veteran cornerback Tyrone Poole returned to the field Sunday after missing the last seven games with a knee injury. Poole, who played sparingly in the first half during passing situations, hadn't played since the first half against Seattle on Oct. 17. Asante Samuel also returned after missing the last two games with a shoulder injury, starting opposite Randall Gay as Eugene Wilson moved back to safety after starting the last two games at cornerback.
With Poole sitting the entire second half, cornerback Earthwind Moreland saw action in passing situations. The idea, according to Poole, was to test the knee in a game situation and begin the process of working his way back into playing condition.
"For me, I felt like it was a great start," Poole said. "I felt comfortable. A little rusty, but that will come. I just wanted to get a few reps in, next week take more reps, and come playoff time hopefully I'll be back in the groove. I didn't get a great physical test, but it was enough for me to just know that I can go back out and play."
Pats Clinch AFC EastBy virtue of Sunday's win and a loss by the New York Jets to Pittsburgh, the Patriots clinched the AFC East and their eighth division title. It's famiar territory for the Patriots, who have won the division in three of the last four seasons and have qualified for the playoffs in seven of the last 11 seasons.
"Everyone's goal is to play in the postseason," safety Rodney Harrison said. "We're excited about that, but we want more. We're going to enjoy this victory for a day or two and then we'll focus on Miami. We still have a lot of work to do. We have to get ready because we didn't fair well today."
]()Samuel Gets Returns** Samuel scored his second career touchdown in the second quarter when he stepped in front of aCarson Palmerpass intended forT.J. Houshmanzadeh and returned it 34 yards for the score. It was the third career interception for Samuel, who returned after missing the last two games with a shoulder injury. Samuel returned his first career interception 55 yards for a touchdown in the second game of his career against the New York Jets on Sept. 21 of last season.
"I just read the quarterback," Samuel said. "He was in a three-step drop, so I just read it and broke on it and made the play."
No Cincinnati KidCincinnati played almost the entire second half without Palmer, who left the game after the Bengals first drive of the third quarter and then left the field after the drive, presumably to go into the team locker room. It was later announced that Palmer, who left the field under his own power, had suffered a knee sprain. On third-and-5 from their own 11-yard line, Palmer was hit low by Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour after an incompletion to Chad Johnson. Palmer was impressive before leaving, completing 18-of-24 passes for 202 yards along with two touchdowns and one interception in leading the Bengals to 21 points.
Palmer was replaced by Jon Kitna, who completed 9-of-13 passes for 126 yards, one interception and a late 27-yard touchdown pass to Kelly Washington.
"They kept rolling," safety Rodney Harrison said. "Obviously he is their starter. So he's the man. Kitna, he's been a good quarterback for a lot of years in this league - he played well last year - but Palmer, he's their guy. There's definitely a change of pace when Palmer leaves the game, because he's the man."
Any Which Way
One of Sunday's most interesting plays occurred early in the third quarter when Brady completed a pass while planted on his rear. On second-and-8 from their own 38-yard line, Brady took the snap but was tripped up when running back Corey Dillon picked up the blitz. Brady fell backwards, but had the presence of mind to look to his left and complete a 7-yard pass to fullback Patrick Pass.
"It was one of those things, tomorrow it will be like, 'hey, good play, don't ever do that again," Brady said. "I was on my butt. It happened so fast I realized I had a little time and I tried to get my eyes over there to see where Patrick was and he was standing all by himself. Like I said, you don't want to do that too often."
What Brown Does
Defensive back Troy Brown's third interception of the season was crucial for the Patriots. With the Patriots holding on to a 35-21 lead early in the fourth quarter, Brown ended a nine-play, 69-yard drive by the Bengals when he intercepted Kitna in the end zone. Brown, who was again utilized as an extra defensive back in nickel and dime packages, is now tied with safety Wilson for the team-lead.
Scoring Streak Extended
When Dillon scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to cap a 13-play, 84-yard drive, it marked the 18th consecutive regular season game the Patriots scored first, extending their current NFL record. The last time the Patriots did not get on the board first was on Nov. 23, 2003 in Houston, when the Texans took a 3-0 lead in a game the Patriots eventually won 23-20 in overtime.
Game Day Inactives
The Patriots deactivated eight players for Sunday's game: Givens; tight end Daniel Graham; cornerback Ty Law; linebackers Matt Chatham and Roman Phifer; and defensive linemen Marquise Hill and Ethan Kelley. Jim Miller was designated the third quarterback.
The Patriots donned their alternate silver jerseys for the first time this season. They improved to 3-0 all-time wearing silver. ... Christian Fauria started at tight end for the injured Graham. Fauria finished with a season-high three receptions for 33 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. ... Linebacker Tedy Bruschi finished with a game-high 14 total tackles. Harrison recorded 11 tackles, including nine solo stops. ... The Patriots have now won 36 straight games when scoring 21 or more points. ... Cincinnati converted a well-executed fake field goal for an 11-yard touchdown run by punter Kyle Larson in the third quarter. ... Houshmanzadeh had a career-high 12 receptions for 145 yards. ... Reserve linebacker Justin Kurpeikis saw action as the third tight end, joining Seymour and linebacker Mike Vrabel in short yardage situations on offense. Vrabel made a key block on Dillon's first quarter touchdown run. ... Dillon finished with 88 yards rushing and one touchdown on 22 carries. Dillon now has 10 rushing touchdowns this season, tying his career high he set as a rookie in 1997 and again in 2001. Dillon's 10 rushing touchdowns are the most by a Patriot since Antowain Smith had 12 in 2001. ... The Patriots improved to 22-3 (.880) all-time at Gillette Stadium with the win. They have won 18 consecutive regular-season and postseason contests at home, compiling the longest current home winning streak in the NFL.