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All is where people thought it would be at this point in the season. The New England Patriots are 1st in the AFC East and the New York Jets are chasing them for the divisional title as usual. Led by Tom Brady’s three touchdown passes, two which went to tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC East with a convincing victory over the Jets at MetLife stadium on Sunday Night.
Brady finished 26 of 39 with 329 yards and the three scores, the biggest which came after the Jets pulled within a score 23-16 early in the fourth quarter. Brady led the team on an 84 yard drive capped by an 8 yard touchdown catch by Deion Branch who burned nickel back Kyle Wilson.
The victory was sealed with linebacker Rob Ninkovich intercepted Mark Sanchez on the next possession and returned it 12 yards for the score. The game was for first place in the East, and the Patriots cruised, snapping their two game losing streak and the Jets three game winning streak, while sweeping the season series.
The Bills entered Sunday tied for first, but were blown out in Dallas earlier 44-7. For the Jets this marked their first home loss of the season entering the game 4-0 at home. Coach Rex Ryan insisted that his team had greatly improved since losing to the pats a month ago in New England, but tonight wasn’t indicative of that. The Jets still have a lot to do if they want to take over the AFC East.
All day the Jets secondary had no answer for Rob Gronkowski who finished with 8 catches and 113 yards and kicker Stephen Gostkowski was good on his three attempts. The Patriots, who ranked last in the league coming into the game in sacks, saw Andre Carter collect 4 ½ alone as the Patriots were in Mark Sanchez’s face all game.
Sanchez had a dreadful game. He finished 20 of 39 for 306 yards a touchdown and two interceptions. He was also sacked five times. A 7 yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress had the Jets right back in the game, but then Brady took over leading the Patriots down the field for a 13 play 84 yard drive using a no-huddle offense to keep the Jets off balance. The drive ate up half of the fourth quarter.
The key play came when Joe McKnight bobbled a muffed punt which set up a field goal. Isaiah Trufant had two chances to recover the punt, and Donald Strickland who let the ball squirt out of his hands, failed to recover the punt which eventually was recovered by Niko Koutouvides at the Jets 13.
The Patriots capitalized with another field goal to increase the lead. They got the ball right back when a Sanchez pass went off Shonn Greene’s hands and was deflected by Jerod Mayo into Ninkovich’s hands. The Jets played well early getting on the scoreboard with a safety when Jamaal Westerman got to Brady in the end zone forcing an intentional grounding.
The Jets took the ball and went down the field on a 7 play 65 yard drive capped by a 2 yard draw by Mark Sanchez to put them up 9-6. Though they got the score Sanchez made the mistake of calling a timeout instead of letting the clock run out. This gave Tom Brady plenty of time to drive down the field and answer with a touchdown right before the half.
Ryan, angry with Sanchez, told NBC at the half that the timeout call was the “stupidest play in NFL history.” The Jets opened the game with an impressive drive, but couldn’t punch it in and got no points when Nick Folk missed a 24 yard field goal wide left.
The Jets have a quick turnaround as they head to Denver to face Tim Tebow and the suddenly relevant Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football. The Patriots look to continue their good play as they head home to face former quarterback Matt Cassel and the Kansas City Chiefs who have lost two straight since winning four in a row.
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