Monday, November 14, 2011

Brady, Patriots take control of AFC East with win over Jets

New England, facing the prospect of dropping three successive games for the first time since 2002, instead gained the upper hand in the AFC East by silencing the New York Jets 37-16 Sunday night.

Defending champion New England, New York and the Buffalo Bills had all owned a share of the division lead when the day began at 5-3. But Buffalo was pummeled by the Dallas Cowboys 44-7 one week after the Jets handed the Bills a damaging 27-11 loss at home.

New England got it done in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams.

Quarterback Tom Brady regained his hot hand, completing 26 of 39 passes for 329 yards without tossing an interception. He twice found tight end Rob Gronkowski for TDs, hitting him from 18 yards out to establish a 13-9 halftime lead before they connected on a 5-yarder for a 23-9 margin late in the third quarter.

After New York responded with a 10-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in Mark Sanchez's 7-yard pass to Plaxico Burress, narrowing the deficit to 23-16 at the start of the fourth quarter, Brady took his club on a surgical 84-yard march that required 13 plays and burned 6:51 off the clock. Brady hit Deion Branch for an 8-yard scoring strike with 8:04 remaining.

New England's maligned defense, ranked last in allowing 416.3 yards per game and last in surrendering 314 yards passing when play began, finally rose up after the Patriots were outscored at the Pittsburgh Steelers (25-17) and against the New York Giants (24-20).

The latter ended New England's 20-game regular-season home winning streak, marked its first loss to a visiting NFC team since 2002 and spurred talk that the perennial power was primed for a mighty fall.

Such talk now appears to be as much off target as the boast by Jets coach Rex Ryan that his club will win the Super Bowl after consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship Game.

The Patriots' defense kept New York from moving the chains consistently and linebacker Rob Ninkovich produced a pair of key interceptions of Mark Sanchez. He returned the second of those 12 yards for a back-breaking touchdown that produced the final margin.

New York began the game driving from its 33 to first-and-goal at New England's 9. But Shonn Greene's 3-yard run off left tackle was followed by two incomplete passes. It was bad enough that the Jets were turned away without a TD. It got worse when Nick Folk missed the 24-yard field goal attempt.

New England, meanwhile, produced field goals on its first two possessions, with Stephen Gostkowski connecting from 50 and 36 yards out. He would add a 27-yarder early in the third quarter.

News by US Today

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