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Ocho struggling in Patriots' offense

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John Czarnecki

John Czarnecki has been the editorial consultant for "FOX NFL Sunday" since its 1994 inception. This season marks Czarnecki's 32nd year covering the NFL. He is one of 44 selectors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Besides his three Super Bowl rings, what makes the Patriots' Bill Belichick such an interesting coach is that he’s willing to roll the dice with players a lot of others wouldn’t touch. He got great seasons out of Corey Dillon and Randy Moss, just to name two.

This season’s experiments are Albert Haynesworth, who is not as great as we thought he was, and Chad Ochocinco, who once fashioned his own Hall of Fame jacket on the sidelines in another of his celebration acts. You know — hey, look at me. I’m great!

Well, this is Ochocinco’s 11th year in the NFL, and only he knows for sure how many years he has lined up as a receiver in the game of football.

I mean, how difficult is it for a receiver to look back toward the center of the field to see how his teammates are lined up? But in last Monday’s Miami game, Ochocinco didn’t look or didn’t even realize he was covering up the tight end — a high-school mistake, and the miscalculation caused the Patriots to have a 41-yard pass reception by tight end Rob Gronkowski wiped out.

I’ve seen high-school coaches slam their clipboards when such stupid penalties happen. But for some reason, Belichick and the Patriots moved on, no one really jerking Ochocinco by the back of his neck. I know Jimmy Johnson pretty well, and all I can say is he’s happy that Chad changed his name from Johnson to Ochocinco.

Finally, in a game in which Tom Brady threw for 517 yards, Ochocinco accounted for 14 yards on one catch. Brady tossed two others that were incomplete toward Ochocinco, who was only on the field for 18 snaps. Let’s just say Brady has a bit more confidence in Wes Welker.

As a first-game experiment, Ochocinco’s performance was dud worthy.

Maybe he’ll get better and really learn the New England offense, and maybe he won’t.

On Tuesday, though, Ochocinco tweeted to the world, “Just waking up after a late arrival, I’ve never seen a machine operate like that n person, to see video game numbers put up n person was WOW.”

That tweet simply infuriated ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, a former New England linebacker who was a pro’s pro. In playoff games, Bruschi created or recovered turnovers. He wasn’t as gifted as some, but few outworked or out-studied him in the Patriots locker room.

“Drop the awe factor, OK, Ocho? Chad, drop the awe factor,” Bruschi said.

“You’re not a fan, all right. They want you to be a part of it. So get with the program, because obviously you’re not getting it and you’re tweeting because you’re saying, ‘It’s amazing to see’? It’s amazing to see because you don’t understand it. You still don’t understand it and it’s amazing to you because you can’t get it. Stop tweeting and get in your playbook.”

Bruschi then encouraged Ochocinco to get to Gillette Stadium and watch some film.

Who knows how important Ochocinco’s role will be today when the Chargers come to Foxborough for a big AFC showdown. The Chargers and Patriots may have the two best offenses in the AFC.

Belichick was asked if Ochocinco might be a key player against San Diego. And Belichick replied in typical fashion.

“I think all the players that participate in the game will have an important role in it, absolutely,” the coach said. “But it’s not really my job to try to pad up individual statistics for any player on the team. The only statistic really I care about is the final score. That’s what our goal is.”

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Although both Belichick and Brady said that Ochocinco knows and understands the offense, it’s obvious after one game that neither one has total confidence in him. Brady and his receivers generally make adjustments on every play, making decisions based on the anticipated defensive coverage.

Right now, Ochocinco is struggling to assimilate Brady’s audibles while failing to make the proper adjustments. The expectations were that Ochocinco would have a bigger impact on the offense than Deion Branch. All of New England is waiting to see when, or if, the lights will go on.

NFL ON FOX GAMES

Dallas at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m. ET

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: More than a decade ago, these were the two best franchises in the NFC. But times have changed, and now both are trying to regain their former luster.

The Cowboys are desperate to win, and may have to do it without WR Dez Bryant, and thus avoid dropping to 0-2 on the season. There already are echoes of last season ringing in their heads. The Cowboys feel confident about controlling Frank Gore, and want to force 49ers QB Alex Smith to beat them in the passing game, even though the Cowboys will be without DBs Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick.

With coach Jim Harbaugh’s encouragement, Smith has been running more out of the pocket. He ran seven times against Seattle and it also helped him find TE Vernon Davis for a 27-yard completion.

Cowboys QB Tony Romo must avoid the mistakes and turnovers that cost his team last Sunday night. If he doesn’t have Bryant, look for the offensive focus to shift to Felix Jones and reliable TE Jason Witten. Ted Ginn Jr. scored touchdowns on a kickoff and punt return in a minute’s span against Seattle, and you can bet that Dallas won’t allow him to break from the middle to the outside, the circle route.

CZAR’S SCOOP: Derrick Dockery will start for Dallas guard Bill Nagy, who’s out with a neck injury. There has been a lot of focus this week on Romo and also coach Jason Garrett’s play calling, but it seems unlikely that the Cowboys will get too conservative. Remember, Romo made his mark on the Dallas scout team as an undrafted free-agent, and that’s where his gambling tendencies began. Coaches want scout-team quarterbacks to take chances and put the ball up for grabs in order to test the first-string defense. Romo simply has to find a way to curb those instincts and learn how to better protect the football especially when guarding a fourth-quarter lead.

Second-year linebacker Sean Lee is looking like a star in the making in Rob Ryan’s new defense for Dallas. San Francisco WR Michael Crabtree continues to struggle with a foot injury and probably won’t play. 49ers CB Carlos Rogers, a former Redskin, is sharing with his teammates all the offensive tendencies he ever saw while playing Dallas twice a season.

OTHER SUNDAY GAMES

San Diego at New England, 4:15 p.m. ET: The Chargers got off the mat last Sunday and pulled out a win with Philip Rivers throwing short passes against a fierce Minnesota rush. The Patriots aren’t as strong up front, and Rivers may have more time to find Vincent Jackson and Patrick Crayton deep against a young, under-sized New England secondary. QB Tom Brady has won 28 consecutive regular-season home games, an NFL record. The Patriots plan to give every fan attending a pin honoring the late Myra Kraft. These are two of the best offensive teams in football, so the team that makes the fewest bad plays will win. This is the ninth time since 2001 that these teams have played. Pats own 5-3 record, including two playoff wins.

Cincinnati at Denver, 4:15 p.m. ET: The Broncos spent the entire week talking about Tim Tebow’s billboards and whether he’s the backup QB or third-string. Yes, Kyle Orton had an erratic game (two costly turnovers despite 304 passing yards) against the Raiders, but new coach John Fox is sticking with him because that’s what his receivers want. Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton will start again despite suffering a wrist injury last Sunday. These are two evenly matched teams. The Broncos, however, will be without stars Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams and possibly Champ Bailey and Brandon Lloyd.

Houston at Miami, 4:15 p.m. ET: Last season’s rushing champion, Arian Foster, will make his first start of the season, against a Miami defense that was torched by Tom Brady for 517 yards Monday night. The Texans, who are 5-0 against the Dolphins, have a more balanced attack with Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson. Chad Henne played well in the opener, but he still needs to be more consistent and make better decisions under pressure. Dolphins are talking about getting Reggie Bush more touches.

Philadelphia at Atlanta, 8:20 p.m. ET: Yes, Michael Vick threw for a touchdown in mop-up duties in his last visit to the Georgia Dome, but fans forget that Kevin Kolb was the Eagles quarterback in last season’s blowout win over the Falcons in Philadelphia. The Falcons' best chance to win and keep Vick off the carpet is to sustain a running game with Michael Turner. The Rams showed where the holes are in that Eagles’ defense. Vick was awesome (7 of 8) on third-down passes against the Rams, and the Falcons may have a new nickelback in Kelvin Hayden.

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