EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The much-maligned Patriots secondary suffered a blow last night when it was announced about 75 minutes before kickoff that top safety Patrick Chung would not play because of a right foot injury.
And compounding matters, cornerback Devin McCourty was knocked out of the game in the first half with a shoulder injury caused by his own teammate.
Rookie defensive back Sterling Moore was trying to tackle Jets receiver Plaxico Burress at the same time as McCourty, and drilled McCourty in the shoulder. The second-year corner quickly walked to the locker room, not moving his right arm.
A league source said last night that nothing was broken. WBZ-TV, citing sources, reported that McCourty had a separated shoulder.
Chung, who was hurt last week against the Giants, was questionable after sitting out practice Wednesday and Thursday and being limited Friday.
A couple of hours before kickoff, Chung was on the field stretching and doing drills with assistant strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera. Several minutes later, head strength coach Harold Nash and a couple of trainers and doctors also began watching Chung.
Moore was an unlikely candidate to step in. An undrafted rookie out of Southern Methodist, Moore was originally signed by the Raiders but New England added him to its practice squad Oct. 5 and he was promoted to the 53-man roster last week.
He had never played safety before arriving in New England.
“When I got here they said to learn all three positions [boundary corner, slot corner, and safety], and that’s what I’ve been doing,’’ said Moore.
Moore said he apologized to McCourty for causing the injury. Oddly enough, Moore was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play even though he never hit Burress.
Other players inactive for New England last night were linebackers Brandon Spikes (knee) and Dane Fletcher (thumb), receiver Taylor Price (hamstring), running back Shane Vereen, offensive lineman Donald Thomas, and quarterback Ryan Mallett.
Undrafted rookie Jeff Tarpinian, who hadn’t played a snap on defense in his first six games, started at middle linebacker in place of Spikes.
Running back Kevin Faulk (knee) and defensive end Shaun Ellis (rib) returned after sitting out last week’s game.
For the Jets, injured safety Brodney Pool was among the inactives. So was former Patriot Kevin O’Connell, New York’s third quarterback.
Back to relevance
Chad Ochocinco broke his silence on the field with a 12-yard reception in the first quarter, his first catch since Oct. 9 against the Jets.
On the Patriots’ next possession, Ochocinco broke free and went 53 yards to the Jets’ 18-yard line before Antonio Cromartie and Donald Strickland tackled him.
The drive ended with a 36-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, giving the Patriots a 6-0 lead.
They were Ochocinco’s only two catches, but they accounted for 65 yards, his season high.
500th for Welker
The Jets promised to be physical with Wes Welker and they limited his impact.
Welker had two catches for 12 yards in the first half, and didn’t make his first reception until there was 1:10 left before the break. But his two catches were part of a touchdown drive that gave the Patriots a 13-9 lead.
Welker finished with six catches (for 46 yards), including his 500th as a Patriot. The only other players in franchise history to reach that milestone are Troy Brown (557) and Stanley Morgan (534).
The Patriots threw Niko Koutouvides into the special teams mix days after he was signed and he came up with a big play in the third quarter.
The Jets’ Joe McKnight muffed a punt and several players failed to pounce on the ball. Not Koutouvides, who secured possession at the Jets’ 13. The Patriots turned the turnover into a field goal.
Giving them a leg up
Gostkowski kicked three field goals, covering 50, 36, and 27 yards. The last one gave the Patriots a 16-9 lead with 9:55 left in the third quarter.
Gostkowski is now 5 of 7 in his career from 50 yards or better.
Goodell checks in
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was on hand. Before the game, he addressed football players from three New York City high schools about health and safety matters . . . Kansas City QB Matt Cassel left Arrowhead Stadium after the Chiefs’ loss to Denver with a cast on his right (throwing) hand, and his index and middle fingers immobilized. According to the Kansas City Star, Cassel told reporters he’d be ready to play against the Patriots a week from tonight . . . The Patriots were given today off and will return to practice Wednesday.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung. Monique Walker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @monwalker.