Maroney wasted little time flashing his talents, ripping off gains of 12 and 27 yards on his first two carries. The 27-yarder came on a well-blocked third-down draw out of the shotgun, but Maroney showed good elusiveness in the open field and shook off a tackle attempt to gain an extra 10 yards.
With wide receiver Deion Branch AWOL, rookie second-rounder Chad Jackson stalled by a lingering hamstring injury and 35-year-old Troy Brown being rested in the preseason opener, the Patriots were shorthanded at that spot. And it showed against the Falcons, who limited New England's wideouts to three catches for 28 yards.
Bengals: Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer worked out on the field some two hours before kickoff Sunday night. Palmer, wearing workout shorts but no brace on his surgically reconstructed left knee, threw under the watchful eye of quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese. Palmer did not play Sunday night. He is not expected to play in the second preseason game Friday night at Buffalo, either. The hope among the Bengals coaches is Palmer can play in the final two preseason games.
Bills: LB Takeo Spikes, working his way back from Achilles' tendon surgery, did not play in Saturday's preseason opener against Carolina as a precautionary move. The veteran Pro Bowler has worked his way up to taking some repetitions in 11-on-11 drills in practice. He was given two days off late last week to rest and had the entire weekend free.
Dolphins: Free safety Jason Allen got his money and the chance to play against Jacksonville. Miami's first-round draft choice, free safety Jason Allen ended a 10-day holdout last Monday. Allen wasn't expected to dress against the Jaguars, as it bucks Saban's stated philosophy about using players who report late to camp.
"I have a theory that a guy probably ought to practice eight to nine (times) before you put him in that kind of situation in terms of game-like (conditions)," Saban said before the game. Allen showed that Saban should have stuck to his guns, struggling in pass coverage on a defense that allowed four touchdown throws of 50-plus yards.
Jets: Without the injured Curtis Martin (knee), the Jets' running game struggled against the Buccaneers, although part of that may have had to do with a revamped offensive line that is starting two rookies. The Jets gained only 44 yards on 16 carries, with Cedric Houston leading the way with 17 yards on five attempts. He actually gained 15 yards on his first three carries. The Jets did have 38 yards on 10 carries when the first-team offense was on the field.
Broncos: Defensive end Courtney Brown will miss the entire preseason after having knee surgery Aug. 9 to clean up some cartilage. Brown was bothered by the knee so he got the procedure done in time to heal for the season opener.
Jay Cutler's first NFL action went even better than the Denver Broncos could have expected. Cutler, the Broncos' first-round pick, looked like a veteran against the Detroit Lions. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown, and just as impressive as the numbers was the way he handled himself.
Cutler ran the offense well, displaying no nerves during his two quarters of action. He wasn't sacked and didn't throw an interception. When the pass rush came, he felt it and moved in the pocket, buying time to get a pass to his receiver. Cutler fired a couple of rockets, especially when he hit rookie tight end Tony Scheffler on a seam route for a 24-yard gain. But on his first NFL touchdown, he showed great touch. Receiver David Kircus got behind the defense on a hook-and-go pattern and Cutler floated the ball to him perfectly for a 26-yard score.