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Maroney (groin) is sidelined

Running game doesn't suffer without him

Linebacker Mike Vrabel celebrates with Tom Brady after making his ninth career TD catch. Linebacker Mike Vrabel celebrates with Tom Brady after making his ninth career TD catch. (MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF)

CINCINNATI - Laurence Maroney's first career 100-yard game came against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium last season. Last night, the second-year running back didn't get a chance for a repeat performance.

Maroney was inactive for the Patriots' prime-time contest against the Bengals, sidelined by a groin injury. He had been listed as questionable leading up to the game.

Maroney, who watched from the sideline in street clothes, was coming off the second 100-yard rushing performance of his career, as he ran 19 times for 103 yards Sept. 23 against the Bills.

In last year's 38-13 win over the Bengals, Maroney had the best game of his young career, slicing through Cincinnati for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries with a career-long run of 41 yards. Entering last night, Maroney was the Patriots' leading rusher this season with 252 yards on 54 carries and was 3 yards shy of 1,000 for his career.

Kevin Faulk got the start in his stead as the Patriots opened in the shotgun. Faulk took a dump-off from quarterback Tom Brady on the second offensive snap and turned it into a 23-yard gain, passing Jim Colclough for sole possession of seventh place on the team's all-time receptions list.

But the star was Sammy Morris, who had a 49-yard run to set up the Patriots' first touchdown and had 13 rushes for 98 yards in the first half. He finished with 117 yards on 21 carries.

The Bengals were also without their leading rusher, as Rudi Johnson was out because of a hamstring injury. The other notable Cincinnati inactives were linebacker Ahmad Brooks (groin) and wide receiver Tab Perry (hamstring).

While Maroney was absent for the first time this season, defensive lineman Mike Wright (knee) was active for the first time this season.

The other Patriots' inactives because of injuries were right guard Stephen Neal, who missed his third straight game because of a shoulder injury, and wide receiver Kelley Washington (hamstring).

Linebacker Chad Brown, defensive linemen Santonio Thomas and Kareem Brown, and reserve offensive tackle Ryan O'Callaghan were all team decisions. O'Callaghan cleared the way for Wesley Britt to be active for the first time this season. Britt's first career start came last year against Cincinnati.

Matt Gutierrez was designated as the third quarterback.

Jeff Rowe was designated as the third quarterback for the Bengals, whose remaining inactives were safety Ethan Kilmer (knee), linebacker Caleb Miller (back), linebacker Rashad Jeanty (shin), and center Dan Santucci (team decision).

Picking up where he left off

Asante Samuel, who had an interception for the second straight game, said that he's starting to feel like the player who tied for the NFL lead in interceptions last year after working his way back from a contract dispute that cost him all of training camp.

"I'm starting to feel good. Feel like last year a little bit," he said. "I'm making my groove being that I missed camp and stuff. I'm feeling pretty good. It's early in the year. I just have to keep it moving and keep chopping the wood."

Seeing red (zone)

Entering last night, the good news for the Patriots' defense in the red zone was that they had allowed only five trips. The bad news was that all five had resulted in touchdowns.

But the Patriots snapped that streak in the second quarter, when on second and 9 from the 20, Samuel intercepted a Carson Palmer pass intended for Chad Johnson.

"I think we're feeling good about some of our red zone stops," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "We forced them into some field goals and we got a big interception before the half and that was definitely an emphasis point for us this week and all season because teams have gotten down there and we haven't stopped them."

Thomas goes down

Tight end David Thomas left the game in the first quarter because of a leg injury. Thomas, who broke his foot during the offseason program, was playing in just his second game of the season. He had made his debut last week against Buffalo.

Center Dan Koppen was shaken up on Morris's third-quarter touchdown run, but walked out of the locker room on his own after the game.

The Bengals, already banged up at linebacker, lost Lemar Marshall on the second play from scrimmage to a left Achilles' tendon injury. He did not return.

Not a numbers guy

Patriots placekicker Stephen Gostkowski doesn't get caught up in stats. It's something he learned on the baseball diamond - Gostkowski was an all-state pitcher in high school in Mississippi and also played baseball at the University of Memphis.

"I don't look at my stats and compare myself to other people," said Gostkowski, who entered last night's game 3 for 4 on field goals. "That's something I learned from baseball. Guys get caught up after every game in looking at their batting average. It took away from their concentration on their job."

Last night, Gostkowski drilled a 31-yard field goal to cap the Patriots' opening drive, then added a 36-yarder early in the fourth quarter. In the preseason, his longest kick was a 37-yarder.

His lone miss this season was a 41-yard field goal against the Chargers in Week 2. Gostkowski is 2 for 5 during the regular season on kicks between 40 and 49 yards, although he made 40- and 43-yarders in the playoffs last season.

Last season, Gostkowski went 1 for 2 in the Patriots' 38-13 win at Paul Brown Stadium. He connected on a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter, after missing a 48-yarder wide right in the third quarter.

Eckel is added

The Patriots signed fullback Kyle Eckel from the practice squad before the game. Eckel was used on the kickoff return team and had three carries for 11 yards. To clear space for Eckel on the active roster, New England released linebacker Corey Mays . . . On a 17-yard reception on the Patriots' first drive, Randy Moss became the 27th player in NFL history to record 700 receptions . . . The Patriots have won 11 of their last 12 regular-season road games, and are 15-3 in the month of October since 2003 . . . Brady improved to 11-1 against AFC North teams (including playoffs) . . . Last night marked the 100th career regular-season game for both Brady and linebacker Adalius Thomas . . . Forty-five children from West Virginia were in attendance at the game, courtesy of Moss, who annually pays for children from his home state to attend an NFL game. The group sat in section 344 and they were all wearing Moss masks and sporting replicas of his unbraided Afro.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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