EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey - When you least expect it, expect it. Or that which you can expect least should be expected. Or sometimes things happen you weren't ready for. And the Patriots are doing something not expected. Undermanned on defense, they've unloaded a nastier pass rush on the Jets than we've seen all season. On offense, they look shaky despite the 13-9 halftime edge. Here's your Four. OCHOCINCO GOES OFFChad Ochocinco caught two passes in the first quarter. The first came on a nice route where he turned Antonio Cromartie inside out. Ocho caught the ball on the right sideline with plenty of room to roam and . . . stepped out of bounds. 12-yard gain. On the next Patriots' drive, a coverage miscue by the Jets led to Ocho running alone down the numbers. Brady found him and Ocho reversed field, albeit at a breathtakingly slow rate of speed. A gain of 53. His two catches set up field goals. STAGNANT PATS OFFENSETom Brady continues to look mortal. He finished the first half 12 for 22 for 194 yards but he had some heinous misses and looked indecisive at times. The Patriots took a safety when Jamaal Westerman bulldozed Sebastian Vollmer and Danny Woodhead and forced Brady into an intentional grounding. That happened after a snap by Dan Connolly went back to Brady before he was ready. Word is that Patriots tackle Matt Light lost it after that drive, complaining that the OL was getting its line calls too late and not getting set. Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien said he wasn't getting the booth calls quickly enough (likely personnel). Tight ends coach Brian Ferentz was seen running to the elevator after the safety. Coincidence or not, the Patriots offense ran smoother after that. Perhaps he was involved, perhaps not. CARTER AND ANDERSON TICKETMark Anderson and Andre Carter have made a bigger impact coming off the edge in the rush game than at any time all season. Carter has two sacks and forced an intentional grounding. Mark Sanchez is playing like the 09 version. It's bad over there. The Patriots also seem to be taking more blitz chances which is a good idea since they are so banged up in the secondary they can't afford to have too long to cover. SO LONG DEVINPatriots corner Devin McCourty got his shoulder dinged good when Sterling Moore sailed in on a pass intended for Plaxico Burress and buried his shoulder in the shoulder of McCourty. The Patriots Pro Bowler then joined Patrick Chung and Brandon Spikes on the sidelines with a shoulder injury. The defensive performance without McCourty was surprisingly efficient.
BALTIMORE — If you suspected Eduardo Rodriguez’s knee created a residual effect with his mechanics as he struggled in the second half, you were correct.
It was here in Baltimore on June 1 that Eduardo Rodriguez hurt his right knee, suffering another subluxation, which he’s prone to. Once he came back — a month and a half later, after the All-Star Break — his performances didn’t match the competency he’d shown pre-injury.
Through the first nine starts back, Rodriguez had a 5.47 ERA. He appeared clearly outside of the playoff rotation picture.
The last three outings have left a different impression, and are a product of improved mechanics. The Red Sox feel Rodriguez is lifting right leg, his lead leg, higher now.
“I think Eddy’s regained more confidence physically over his last three starts,” pitching coach Carl Willis said. “We’ve seen a better delivery. Really since he had come back the injury here, a little bit of abbreviated leg lift. He finally got a little more confidence in picking that knee up and getting a little more drive from his lower half. I think that’s made a huge difference. He’s using his changeup more which is also a huge difference, but I think that lower half has allowed him to do that.”
Rodriguez has a 2.55 September ERA. He has strikeout ability that could be appealing in a postseason setting, but he’s young and inexperienced compared to Rick Porcello and Doug Fister. The fact he’s had confidence issues with his delivery could factor into how the Sox decide their playoff rotation, but his upside and strikeout potential are undeniable.
Rodriguez had a knee subluxation in 2016 that affected his mechanics for a time as well.
FOXBORO - If Alan Branch is worried about his spot with the Patriots, he isn’t acting that way. A notorious slow starter, Branch played just six snaps in Sunday’s win at New Orleans. And to hear him talk, it’s business as usual.
“It’s not like you can practice 3 technique on a store clerk,” said Branch late Wednesday afternoon. When informed that he probably could if he wanted, Branch smiled and noted “you’d probably get arrested for that.”
All kidding aside, it was stark to see Branch’s ample behind stapled to the bench. He earned a two-year contract this offseason, and his presence on the interior has been critical to the defense’s success. But after getting pushed around a bit too often in that opening night loss to the Chiefs, Branch spent a lot more time watching then playing. Did he know that he wasn’t a big part of the plan?
“That’s another question you gotta ask Bill, man” said Branch. “That’s not something I can talk about.”
Branch has - at times - come off as nonchalant about the game. Wins, losses, big plays, no plays, none of it seems to change his demeanor. Knowing that, I asked him if he was frustrated by his lack of playing time.
“I mean every player wants to be on the field so it is what it is,” he responded.
Does he think that he’ll be more involved Sunday against the Texans?
“I don’t know what they plan to do with me,” he said. “i just need to go in there and keep my head to the grindstone and work.”
That may be Bill Belichick’s plan: sitting the player to motivate him. It would also seem to be potentially the last resort, and with someone who clearly marches to the beat of his own drum, it’s unclear how he’ll respond.