CINCINNATI — From the second he came sprinting onto the FieldTurf at Paul Brown Stadium two hours before Sunday’s kickoff, Danny Amendola had the look of someone who was physically ready to play.
Amendola had missed the Patriots’ three previous games after suffering a groin injury in the season-opening win at Buffalo, and was listed as questionable on the injury report. But the veteran receiver had consistently practiced and said Friday that he was looking forward to Sunday, prompting speculation that he’d be active.
He was, and was targeted a team-high nine times by Tom Brady. Amendola caught four of those nine passes for 55 yards. It came in a losing effort — the Bengals held the Patriots without a touchdown in a 13-6 win — but Amendola showed no signs of the injury.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “It was good to get back out there.”
Amendola nearly reached the end zone, catching a 16-yard pass in the third quarter and rolling toward the goal line. He was touched by a defender at the 1; the Patriots had to settle for a field goal.
“I knew I was close,” Amendola said. “I thought I was going to be in.”
He also couldn’t hold on to a pass on a second-and-10 play from the Bengals’ 44 after the Patriots recovered a fourth-quarter fumble. They had to punt two plays later. It was the last pass Amendola had thrown his way.
“That was a play I need to make. It was a big play in the drive, big play in the fourth quarter. I’ve got to get that,” Amendola said. “I’ll get it next time.”
It’s a coin toss
If it’s left up to Brady, you can bet the quarterback will vote never to elect to receive whenever the Patriots win the coin toss.
In a shocking turn of events, the Patriots won the toss for the first time this season (with Vince Wilfork out, Jerod Mayo made the call). Even more shocking, they chose to take the football, ending a streak that spanned more than five seasons. The previous 38 times they had won the toss (playoffs included), the Patriots chose to send the defense out first.
Before Sunday, the last time the Patriots had won the toss and taken the ball was Sept. 7, 2008, at home against the Chiefs. In that game, Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury. Five years later, the Patriots again went against the script, rolling the dice and taking the ball. Another negative day for Brady, although far less painful. His streak of games with at least one touchdown pass ended Sunday at 52, two games shy of the NFL record held by Drew Brees.
Making a list
With Rob Gronkowski, Stevan Ridley, and Tavon Wilson ruled out prior to Sunday, it left the Patriots needing to place four more players on the inactive list. Matthew Slater wasn’t a surprise, since he had missed the previous two games with a broken wrist and didn’t return to practice until Friday. The other inactives were newly signed receiver Austin Collie, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, and offensive lineman Chris Barker.
Those moves put Amendola back on the field for the first time since Week 1, and running back Leon Washington in uniform after missing three of the first four games. Washington left the game in the first half with an ankle injury, and did not return.
If you were expecting Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to have a friendly postgame reunion with his former Patriots teammates, think again. Green-Ellis had to be restrained while exchanging words with Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes.
“Just a little competitive fire,” said Green-Ellis, who rushed for 67 yards on 19 carries. “You know how it goes.”
Green-Ellis and Spikes weren’t the only ones jawing. Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib was also vocal with the Bengals after the game while leaving the field.
“It’s just football, man,” Talib said. “You get 22 guys out there banging into each other all day long, you might have a little bit of that.”
Allen did his job
There wouldn’t be many bright spots for the Patriots in their first game without a touchdown since Sept. 20, 2009, when they lost to the Jets, 16-9. One bright spot, though, was Ryan Allen, who punted on eight of the Patriots’ 12 possessions.
In a low-scoring, defense-dominated game, field position was going to be key, and Allen provided it. Five of his eight punts finished inside the Bengals’ 20-yard-line, and four of those kicks pinned Cincinnati inside its 10. The first, late in the first half, set the Bengals up at their 7, and combined with a defensive three and out, helped lead to the ensuing Patriots field goal that tied the game at 3.
All three of Allen’s second-half punts had the Bengals starting drives inside their 10, at the 9, 7, and 9. Unfortunately for the Patriots, those first two drives by the Bengals resulted in points. They went 59 yards and cashed in a 50-yard field goal, then went 93 yards for the game’s only touchdown.
Allen finished with a 44.1-yard average.
No flags didn’t help
The Patriots were not penalized, the first time that happened since Nov. 30, 2009. Like this game, that one ended in defeat. New Orleans beat the Patriots on “Monday Night Football,” 38-17 . . . Julian Edelman maintained his lead as the NFL’s all-time punt return king, but he had the margin trimmed. Edelman had four returns against the Bengals for a 10.8-yard average, with a long of 24. That actually dropped his average to 12.862 yards on 87 career returns. He’s still No. 1 in league history, barely ahead of George McAfee’s 12.776 . . . The Patriots extended their streak of forcing at least one turnover to 32 games, the longest current mark in the league. The Patriots forced two: Spikes intercepted an Andy Dalton pass at the Patriots’ 5 on the final play of the first quarter. In the fourth quarter, Devin McCourty forced a fumble from rookie running back Giovani Bernard, which was recovered by Jerod Mayo . . . Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, safety Steve Gregory, and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly briefly left the game with injuries, but all returned . . . For the second straight week, Slater traveled with the team despite not being active. He’s still wearing a cast on his left hand . . . Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett was the only Patriots player not to get in the game.Michael Whitmer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.