CINCINNATI -- Carson Palmer's nose was scraped and swollen. Both nostrils were bleeding. A nasty cut on his lower lip left a trail of blood that dribbled down his chin and deposited red dots on the white No. 9 on the front of his jersey.
As he walked off the field in pain, the quarterback's face was a mess as big a mess as his offense.
"I'll tell you what makes me angry: Seeing my quarterback get off the ground," left tackle Levi Jones said. "It infuriates me, especially seeing blood on his face."
The Bengals couldn't move the ball or protect their franchise quarterback in the first half. Palmer left the game when Kevin Kaesviharn got to him on a third-down safety blitz with 2 seconds left before halftime.
As he walked to the sideline, Palmer's nose already had a prominent bump. He dabbed at the blood with a towel, then draped the towel over his head and walked to the locker room, prematurely done for the night. He went for further examination to see how badly the nose was hurt.
A line that gave up only 17 sacks last season was fuming at its inability to protect him.
"That's the thing that's hurting me right now, to see Carson getting hit," guard Bobbie Williams said. "It hurts me deeply."
With Pro Bowl receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh sidelined by injuries and two of their backups out as well, Palmer had nowhere to go with his passes other than the running backs and tight ends. That made it easy pickings for the Saints, who are trying to sort out their troubled secondary.
Cornerback Mike McKenzie made his first appearance since he tore a knee ligament last December, starting on one side. Second-round draft pick Tracy Porter started at the other cornerback spot, one week after he was repeatedly burned for long passes.
"This was the (type of) game we kind of looked at as a unit," McKenzie said. "We wanted to have a good showing defensively. They obviously didn't have their top guns."
None of the Saints' cornerbacks had much difficulty against a gutted offense that crossed midfield just once -- and, then, by only 1 yard -- on six possessions in the first half. The Bengals managed only 94 yards in the half and never advanced farther than the Saints' 47-yard line during the game.
They hadn't been shut out in the preseason since 1999 at Detroit. It was the first time in franchise history they were shut out at home during an exhibition.
The Saints were hoping to get tight end Jeremy Shockey into a game for the first time, but decided after the pregame warmups to sit him. Shockey, obtained in a trade last month for two draft picks, hasn't played since he broke his left leg Dec. 15.
"He had a good pregame, but I wanted to err on the side of caution," coach Sean Payton said. "I'm excited about where he's at right now, but I held him back. We didn't want to go through the scenario of him having a setback."
Running back Reggie Bush left the game in the first half with a bruised thigh that didn't appear to be serious. He walked to the locker room briskly and didn't return to the game.
"He's fine," Payton said.
The Saints' first-string offense moved the ball smoothly, but couldn't put up many points. Drew Brees was 14-of-22 for 199 yards and one touchdown before leaving late in the first half with a 10-0 lead. He threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ronnie Ghent, who beat linebacker Keith Rivers, Cincinnati's first-round pick.
Fans expressed frustration and disbelief over owner Mike Brown's decision to re-sign troubled receiver Chris Henry earlier in the week. The Bengals released him in the offseason after his sixth off-field run-in during his time with the Bengals. Brown brought him back over the strong objection of coach Marvin Lewis.
One banner behind the end zone read: "Hey Mike, Surely You Can't Be Serious." Another hanging from the upper deck read: "Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Six Times, Shame on Mike Brown." Both banners were taken down before the end of the first quarter.
Henry did not play, watching from the sideline in a white Bengals T-shirt and black shorts. He has to sit out the first four regular-season games, his latest suspension from the NFL for violating its conduct policy.
|Sat. Aug. 23||Final|
|NO - Pass: D. Brees (14-22, 199), Rec: L. Moore (4-79)|
CIN - Pass: C. Palmer (11-16, 105), Rec: B. Utecht (4-49)
|FG||Martin Gramatica 42 Yd, 11:34. Drive: 9 plays, 55 yards in 3:26.|
|TD||Ronnie Ghent, 1 Yd pass from Drew Brees (Martin Gramatica kick is good), 6:03. Drive: 6 plays, 65 yards in 3:20.|
|FG||Taylor Mehlhaff 45 Yd, 2:48. Drive: 7 plays, 40 yards in 3:50.|
|Complete Player Stats|