- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are seven notes and observations from Week 3 in the AFC East:
New England Patriots receiver Chad Ochocinco is struggling with his new role. Ochocinco was the No. 1 option his entire career in Cincinnati. He's very much a rhythm player who needs the ball in his hands to stay mentally involved in games. The Bengals knew this and did everything they could to keep Ochocinco happy and productive. But the Patriots do not care about those things. They're (rightfully) more concerned about winning and the team concept. Ochocinco now is the third or fourth option on most routes. And by the time the Patriots went to Ochocinco for a big play Sunday, he wasn't ready. He had a huge drop of a potential touchdown in the fourth quarter of New England's 34-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Ochocinco needs to do a better job of staying ready when his number is called, even if it's only a few times per game.
This is a small observation, but the Patriots' defense was gassed at the end of the first half. The result was Buffalo scored 10 points in the final two minutes, which eventually led to the Bills' second-half comeback. Injuries to defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth (back) and safety Patrick Chung (thumb) hurt New England's depth. The Patriots couldn't do their usual amount of substituting and the defense was on the field a lot. Buffalo's spread offense kept the pressure on and New England's defense wasn't able to recover in the second half.
Here's the next step in Buffalo's maturation process: Getting off to fast starts. The Bills (3-0) have proven they're a great second-half team. That's good to know. But the Bills also have been a team that starts slow, particularly at home. Buffalo has been outscored 42-13 in the first half the past two weeks. Let's see if the Bills show growth in that department next week against the Cincinnati Bengals (1-2).
I thought the refs were too involved in the Patriots-Bills game. Officials ruined the flow by calling 17 penalties in an otherwise entertaining game. The "defenseless hit" call against Patriots receiver Wes Welker was questionable. New England's pass interference during an interception in the end zone also was debatable, because Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick did not throw a catchable ball.
Maybe it's time for the New York Jets to try LaDainian Tomlinson as the starting running back. Shonn Greene hasn't done much in three weeks as the primary tailback. He has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in three games. Yes, New York's offensive line is probably the biggest reason the team can't get the ground game going. But the Jets don't have depth there to make major changes. Tomlinson has shown burst coming off the bench. He caught five passes for 116 yards and rushed for 39 yards on six carries (6.3 yards average) in a Week 3 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Now, New York is in a very tough spot. The Jets are 2-1 but have a pair of tough road games upcoming against the Baltimore Ravens (2-1) and New England Patriots (2-1). If the Jets play like they did in Oakland, New York could be looking at a three-game losing streak. The Jets and coach Rex Ryan have a lot to fix this week. New York gave up a season-high 234 rushing yards.
The Miami Dolphins (0-3) probably have eight-win talent, but execute like a three-win football team. Miami controlled the game against the Cleveland Browns but had 10 penalties and was awful in the red zone. The Dolphins made the mistake of letting a home team stay in the game late, and it cost them. Some of it falls on the players. But coaching and preparation have to take a big part of the blame.
4dField Yates and Rich Cimini