CANTON, Ohio -- Dennis Miller was there, Steve Young was not. Welcome to a new season of ''Monday Night Football.''
Kevin Faulk set up a field goal with a punt return, then turned a short pass into a 25-yard touchdown as the New England Patriots beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-0 Monday night in the Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibition game.
''The thing that I was most happy with is that we played hard and I've tried to emphasize that from Day One,'' said Bill Belichick, making his debut as the head coach of the Patriots. ''Coming to the Hall of Fame -- the legend we've been around here -- is really good for everybody on our team.''
Miller made his debut in the ABC booth, joining Dan Fouts and Al Michaels to add spice -- to say the least -- to an otherwise bland game. Before the second quarter started, the comic-turned-commentator had already made references to the Vatican, male genitalia and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
The preseason opener for both teams wasn't nearly as colorful as Miller's commentary. The crowd of 22,840 thinned out as the second half progressed. The loudest cheers of the fourth quarter came when the fans began chanting, ''Den-nis! Den-nis! Den-nis!'' and tried to get Miller to pop his head out of the press box.
New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe only played the first series. He was 2-of-3 for 20 yards before giving way to Michael Bishop.
In addition to throwing the TD pass to Faulk, Bishop also scored on a 22-yard run.
''It was nice to take a few snaps and get an opportunity out there,'' Bishop said. ''I got to learn from my mistakes.''
Belichick stuck to basics. Raymont Harris, a former Ohio State tailback, carried seven times for 42 yards on New England's second possession which ended on Adam Vinatieri's 21-yard field goal.
''That was a heck of a performance by Raymont on that drive,'' Bledsoe said. ''I'm really, really excited to see that and can't wait to work with him for the whole season.''
Midway through the second quarter, Faulk returned a punt 22 yards to the San Francisco 22. Four plays later, Vinatieri made it 6-0 with a 39-yard kick.
Faulk, a second-year back out of LSU, grabbed a short slant pass from Bishop and avoided three tackles, cutting back to the middle for a 25-yard touchdown just before the half ended.
On Saturday, three players who spent all or most of their careers with the 49ers were inducted into the Hall of Fame: quarterback Joe Montana, defensive back Ronnie Lott and linebacker Dave Wilcox. Joining them in the class of 2000 were former Raiders lineman Howie Long and Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney.
That was about it for the San Francisco highlights. There weren't many during the game itself.
Even with Montana back on the sidelines again the 49ers still floundered.
They managed just four first downs in the opening half -- matching the number of times their quarterbacks were sacked.
''Obviously we've sure got some work to do,'' San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci said. ''The thing you've got to remember is that to every season there is a start, a journey and a finish. We've got a long way to go in every area. But this is where we start.''
Garcia was 6-of-7 for 50 yards, while rookies Giovanni Carmazzi and Tim Rattay, the 49ers' third- and seventh-round draft picks, both suffered through off nights. Carmazzi was 3-for-7 for 19 yards passing and Rattay was 10-of-21 for 105 yards.
The 49ers' Jerry Rice, the NFL's leading career receiver beginning his 16th season, had one catch for a 4-yard gain, adding to his glittering stats on ''Monday Night Football.'' He has 205 catches for 3,290 yards in 39 appearances on MNF.
Both teams are hoping a new season will erase the memory of dismal finishes a year ago. The Patriots lost six of their last eight games to fade to 8-8 and miss the playoffs. With Young missing all but the first three games, the 49ers lost 11 of their last 12 to finish 4-12. It was the franchise's worst record since a 2-14 mark in Bill Walsh's first year as head coach in 1979. Two years later, the 49ers won the first of their five Super Bowls.
Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns for five seasons, including in 1995 when Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore. Partisan Browns fans were expected to boo Belichick during pregame introductions, but Belichick's name was not announced.
''This is a great football area. The tradition just oozes out,'' Belichick said. ''And it's a thrill to be back. I'm sure there were mixed opinions of me but that's their opinions and I can't worry about it.''
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