NEW ORLEANS -- Carson Palmer's left ankle was encased in a protective boot by the time his first appearance of the preseason was done.
His throwing arm, however, felt fine, and the numbers he put up in a short time bode well for Cincinnati's passing game.
Playing for the first time since an elbow injury sidelined him early last season, Palmer completed seven of 11 passes for 133 yards in the Bengals' 17-7 loss to New Orleans on Friday night in the preseason opener for both teams.
"I feel good," Palmer said. "A little rusty. ... We've got to keep working and get the rust off."
Palmer left the game late in the first quarter, moments after his quick sideline throw to Chad Ochocinco produced a 55-yard gain. Palmer was playing with a mild left ankle sprain by that point, but said the injury was minor and that he hoped it would not prevent him from practicing next week.
He was more concerned with his one mistake in the game, an interception by Jonathan Vilma.
"I've got a lot of work to do and I don't want to miss any time, so we'll see what happens," he said.
Brees, who passed for 5,069 yards last season, started slow but finished with six completions on nine attempts for 88 yards, with 61 of those yards coming on three passes to Shockey. Shockey, who did not score a touchdown last season, his first with the Saints, gained 33 yards on his first catch, setting up his TD later in the drive.
"For Jeremy, last year, I know it was disappointing season for him but also frustrating because he was hurt for the majority of it or just not quite right," Brees said. "I love what I've seen out of Jeremy this offseason and throughout training camp and I think that we are really starting to get on the same page."
Reggie Bush played early, but had only three carries for 5 yards.
Palmer missed 12 games during Cincinnati's 4-11-1 2008 season because of a partially torn ligament and tendon in his passing elbow. He could have opted for reconstructive surgery, but chose to see if it would heal on its own.
On his first-play, he slightly underthrew a deep pass, allowing safety Roman Harper to knock the ball out of Ochocinco's hands. Palmer's next throw was on the money, though, as he found Chris Henry in a seem between the Saints' short and deep coverages for a 27-yard gain.
A pair of turnovers and Shayne Graham's missed 30-yard field goal prevented the Bengals from scoring on the drives Palmer led.
The first drive ended when new Saints safety Darren Sharper jarred the ball loose from running back Cedric Benson. Vilma scooped up the fumble and rumbled 47 yards to the Bengals 6. New Orleans failed to score when Garrett Hartley hooked a 20-yard field-goal attempt wide left.
Vilma later cut in front of Palmer's short pass in the left flat and ran 65 yards to the Cincinnati 4 before receiver Andre Caldwell stripped him. Bengals' lineman Andrew Whitworth recovered, marking the second time New Orleans got inside the 5 without scoring.
"I was pleased with how we played defense and created turnovers," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "I thought we played physical. We gave up a couple plays but responded real well in the red area."
Palmer then marched Cincinnati back downfield, beginning when he quickly unloaded an 18-yard, third-down pass to Ochocinco as blitzing linebacker Scott Fujita arrived in the backfield. Palmer left a few plays later.
The Saints took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on Shockey's TD.
Cincinnati tied it at 7 before halftime on J.T. O'Sullivan's 14-yard pass to Henry, who caught the ball despite cornerback Jason David's illegal contact penalty.
O'Sullivan completed nine of 11 passes for 100 yards. Jordan Palmer finished at quarterback for the Bengals, playing most of the second half. He was 7-of-11 for 59 yards. Henry, playing into the fourth quarter, led all receivers with seven catches for 100 yards.
The 38-year-old Brunell looked sharp, particularly on his long scoring strike that hit Meachem in stride. He also fired a pair of strikes over the middle to Rod Harper for gains of 35 and 13 yards. He completed nine of 13 passes for 128 yards and was not intercepted.
- Bengals officials said FB Fui Vakapuna had a leg injury, but did not provide details.
- Saints DE Charles Grant injured his left hamstring in the first quarter. Reserve TE Darnell Dinkins sprained his ankle making a catch, and WR D'Juan Woods had a sore neck, Payton said.
- Saints DE Anthony Hargrove sacked O'Sullivan in the first half.
- Saints RB Lynell Hamilton fumbled twice in the second half.
- Hartley made a 54-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.