FOXBOROUGH — Aaron Dobson, who had missed two straight games as a healthy scratch and, along with his head coach, refuted a Globe report during the week that it was because he got into a verbal altercation with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, was active for Sunday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
It was Dobson’s second game action of the season, after sitting out in Weeks 1, 3, and 4. The receiver, a second-round draft pick last season, had just one reception on the season. His chances of being active against the Bengals improved on Saturday, when the Patriots released receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.
Dobson played 10 offensive snaps and had one pass thrown his way. He caught it for a fourth-quarter gain of 16 yards.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower missed his first game since Week 6 of the 2012 season, when he was a rookie. Hightower had been limited in practice with a knee injury, which he suffered in Monday’s loss at Kansas City. The Patriots had promoted linebacker Ja’Gared Davis from the practice squad on Saturday, perhaps a signal that Hightower wouldn’t be available.
Nate Ebner and Cameron Fleming had already been ruled out, both missing practice all week with finger injuries.
The other inactives were running back James White, who rushed for 21 yards in his NFL debut against the Chiefs; cornerback Malcolm Butler; defensive lineman Zach Moore; and offensive lineman Josh Kline, a Cincinnati-area native who now has been a healthy scratch in four of the Patriots’ five games.
Those moves also ensured that cornerback Alfonzo Dennard would return to the lineup. He had missed three straight games with a shoulder injury, and was designated as questionable to play. Dennard got the start.
At least three players Brady has publicly praised while teammates have been either traded (Logan Mankins), released (Thompkins) or not re-signed (Wes Welker). The ESPN report said Brady’s frustration centers on the “downsizing” of the offense, due to personnel changes and the retirement of former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
The report, citing multiple sources, said that the Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo to be Brady’s successor, and that the change could happen “sooner rather than later.”
After the game, Brady said, “I’ve never had any tension with any of them. It’s unfortunate that things get said and talked about, especially when it doesn’t come from me. I have a lot of love and trust in everybody in this building.”
Still was on the Bengals sideline as the video was airing, and when a camera showed him, tears were in his eyes. Patriots cheerleaders were wearing No. 75 Still jerseys during the tribute; all proceeds of the sale of his jerseys are going to pediatric cancer research, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft pledged $25,000 to the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center in the name of Leah Still.
“I was surprised. Playing the video, it definitely made it emotional, and seeing the cheerleaders take off their jackets and seeing the jerseys took it over the top for me,” said Still. “We come in here to play a football game with an opposing team. We don’t expect them to show the support they did today. It was amazing what they did, and they can continue to show it’s more than about football. Everyone is trying to chip in for a cause.”
Rookie defensive tackle Dominique Easley got the start at defensive end in place of Chandler Jones, who had been limited in practice with a shoulder injury. But Easley suffered a shoulder injury himself and did not return. Jones played, mostly on third downs.
Receiver Danny Amendola (one catch, 7 yards) left in the second quarter with a head injury after taking a hard hit, but returned to the game. Cornerback Devin McCourty left with a rib injury, and like Easley did not return.
“I know what the kid’s capable of,” said White, who made his NFL debut a week ago at Kansas City. “He works hard, he’s very dedicated. He’s a good kid, and I’m just happy for all the success he’s been having. He’s been a guy that can make something out of nothing.”
Bernard has made a big enough impact that the Bengals deemed former Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis expendable, releasing him and giving Bernard featured-back status. He came into Sunday’s game averaging 18 carries per game, and was also tied for the team lead with 12 receptions. On Sunday night, Bernard had 13 rushes for 62 yards, and caught two passes for 10 yards.
Michael Whitmer can be reached at email@example.com.