NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
The AFC’s two best teams couldn’t have looked more different on Monday night, and it appears the New England Patriots aren’t ready to pass on the mantle of AFC East champions to the New York Jets quite yet.
Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, including the 250th of his career, and moved into 13th place all-time as the Patriots turned their date with a fierce division rival into a 45-3 laugher in Foxborough, Mass.
The Patriots (10-2) were never even seriously challenged after scoring on their first three possessions. For the Jets (9-3), nothing went right.
Brady carved up their vaunted defense. The New England backs and receivers broke nearly countless tackles. New England’s pass defense, ranked dead last in the NFL, forced quarterback Mark Sanchez into three interceptions in a span of six passes. The special teams units couldn’t get on track, with an early missed field goal and a couple of poor punts that gave the Patriots strong field position.
Kicker Shayne Graham capped New England’s first drive with a 41-yard field goal into a stiff wind, and after the Jets’ Nick Folk missed a 53-yard try woefully wide left, the Patriots took a two-possession lead. Wes Welker caught a pass for 14 yards on third-and-7 and the Jets’ Eric Smith was flagged for pass interference in the end zone to set up BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 1-yard touchdown run.
Jets punter Steve Weatherford then uncorked a 12-yard punt to his own 32-yard line, and on fourth-and-3, the Patriots elected to go for it instead of trying a 43-yard field goal.
Smart choice. Brady found Deion Branch with a short pass left, and Branch took it 25 yards to the end zone for a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Folk and New York broke into the scoring column early in the second quarter. After Braylon Edwards dropped a pass that would have given the Jets a first down on third-and-3 when hit by New England’s Kyle Arrington, Folk hit a 39-yard kick.
New England responded by augmenting its lead on the next possession. Danny Woodhead, who was cut by the Jets this season, caught a pass out of the backfield for 35 yards, Brady ran for the first down on third-and-2 and Green-Ellis picked up 13. Brady rolled left and found a leaping Brandon Tate in the end zone for a touchdown for a 24-3 halftime lead.
Things only got worse for the Jets to begin the second half, with a couple of interceptions turning into long touchdown drives. Patriots rookie Brandon Spikes snuffed out a promising New York drive, picking Sanchez at the New England 2 for his first career interception.
Brady then hit Rob Gronkowski for 12 yards on third down, Aaron Hernandez for 35 and Welker for an 18-yard touchdown down the sideline, capping the 93-yard drive.
Rookie Devin McCourty intercepted a deep Sanchez throw on the Jets’ ensuing drive, and New England marched 94 yards to yet another touchdown. Brady flipped the ball to Woodhead, who ran for 50 yards. Green-Ellis broke several tackles for a gain of 11 before Brady and Hernandez hooked up for a 1-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 38-3 edge.
James Sanders intercepted one more Sanchez throw and returned it 28 yards to the Jets 28 to set up the Patriots’ final points. Green-Ellis ran for 10 yards on fourth-and-inches and finished off the drive, powering into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. Graham’s extra point capped the scoring at 45-3.
The Patriots tied the Falcons (10-2) for the best record in the NFL, while the Jets’ eight-game road winning streak came to an emphatic end.
NOTES: Brady passed Drew Bledsoe to move into 13th place on the all-time touchdown pass list, finishing with 252. … Folk has missed six of his last 12 field goal attempts. … The Jets were playing their first game without safety Jim Leonhard, who is out for the season. … New York has not scored a first-quarter touchdown in the last eight games, the longest drought in the league. … Brady and coach Bill Belichick have won 107 games together, tied for second in NFL history for wins by a quarterback-coach tandem, with Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll. … Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson passed Eric Dickerson to move into sixth place on the all-time rushing list. … The Patriots have won 26 straight home games with Brady under center, the longest streak for a quarterback. … The Jets beat New England 28-14 at home in Week 2. … New York hadn’t trailed by 42 points since losing 45-3 to Miami on Nov. 24, 1986. … New England travels to Chicago Sunday afternoon. The Jets host the Dolphins Sunday.
Photo above: Tom Brady throws Monday night. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Video credit – ESPN