FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots’ defense picked the perfect time to deliver its best performance of the season.

A unit struggling mightily against the pass this year dominated quarterback Mark Sanchez and his New York Jets offense last Sunday.

And to think the Pats did it without the invaluable services of linebacker Jerod Mayo, a defensive captain who has led the team in tackles three years running but is suffering from a sprained knee.

“Not having a guy like Mayo on the field is obviously going to hurt your defense,” Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich said Thursday. “But I think that we did a good job of everyone stepping up and knowing that without him out there, everybody has to step up. I think that we did well as a defense.”

The Patriots (4-1) plays host to Dallas (2-2) on Sunday and the challenge now is proving their defense has yet to peak.

New England had little trouble eliminating the Jets’ primary offensive threats. A unit ranked last in the league in passing defense – permitting 326.6 yards per game – limited New York to 255 yards of total offense. Jets receivers Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason were held to a combined eight catches.


“That’s the most simple way I can put it: just doing your job and just limiting the plays after a catch, getting the tackles,” Patriots safety Patrick Chung said. “Little things like that make a big difference.”

New England placed defensive lineman Mike Wright on injured reserve because of his second concussion in 10 months. He was hurt Sept. 12 in the season opener at Miami and was inactive for the last four games.

TRADE: Oakland acquired linebacker Aaron Curry from Seattle for a seventh-round draft pick in 2012 and a conditional fifth-rounder in 2013.

BROWNS: Cleveland will pay injured defensive end Marcus Benard for the remainder of the season as he recovers from a motorcycle accident, a person familiar with the decision said on condition of anonymity because of privacy laws.

The Browns didn’t have to continue paying Benard because he sustained a nonfootball-related injury that ended his season after four games.

STEELERS: Running back Rashard Mendenhall will start Sunday against Jacksonville after missing a game because of a hamstring injury.


SAINTS: Safety Roman Harper said he does not regret a late hit on Carolina receiver Steve Smith that drew a $15,000 fine from the NFL this week.

Harper said the fine was worth it and his decision to shove Smith as the receiver slowly crossed the goal line last Sunday was good for his team and got his point across.

Harper said after the game he was not going allow anyone to just “walk it in” the end zone against the Saints.

Smith said he slowed down not to disrespect anyone but because he wanted to decelerate comfortably without concerning himself with padded walls surrounding the end zone.

VIKINGS: Receiver Percy Harvin did not practice because of sore ribs, but Coach Leslie Frazier said he expects Harvin to play Sunday night at Chicago.

Harvin missed time in training camp because of the rib injury, then aggravated it last weekend in a win over Arizona


Frazier said Harvin saw a doctor and X-rays showed no ribs were broken, but the team decided to give him the day off to rest.

BILLS: Starting defensive tackle Kyle Williams missed his second straight practice because of a sore left foot and will be a game-time decision Sunday when Buffalo travels to play the New York Giants.

COLTS: Running back Joseph Addai said he’s a “long shot” to play Sunday at Cincinnati because of a strained hamstring.

Addai was hurt on a carry late in the first quarter of last Sunday’s game against Kansas City. He said he doesn’t know when he will return to action.

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