The New England Patriots and Tom Brady pulverized the New York Jets 45-3 on Monday night to take command of the AFC East and brand themselves as a Super Bowl favorite by improving to 10-2.
New England turned the highly-anticipated clash of 9-2 teams into a rout by scoring the first four times they had the ball on their way to a 24-3 halftime lead and had no second-half let-up against the NFL’s third-ranked defense.
Brady, throwing with pinpoint accuracy, tossed four touchdown passes and set an NFL record by winning his 26th consecutive regular-season start at home, breaking a tie with Brett Favre, who won 25 successive games with Green Bay from 1995 to 1998.
On a windy, frigid night at Gillette Stadium, the inhospitable Patriots showed how rudely they treat visitors, especially late in the season. The victory gave New England a 17-1 home record in December games dating back to 2002.
The Patriots joined the NFC’s Atlanta Falcons as the only teams with 10-2 record, and took the upper hand in earning a first-round playoff bye and home field advantage as the Jets slipped to 9-3.
Brady completed 21 of 29 passes for 326 yards, including touchdown throws to Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Brandon Tate and former Jets running back Danny Woodhead.
“It’s one win. There’s many more big games for us down the stretch,” Brady said.
The Jets had beaten the Patriots at the New Meadowlands Stadium in the second game of the season and would have been in the driver’s seat in the AFC playoffs picture with a win.
The Patriots marched 52 yards to set up a 41-yard field-goal by Shayne Graham after the opening kickoff. After that they rattled off six touchdowns in their romp to victory.
The first touchdown came after a 36-yard pass interference call on Eric Smith on an end zone throw intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski. The ball was placed on the one-yard line and BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran in on the next play to make it 10-0 for his first of two touchdown bursts.
On the next possession, Brady hit Branch on a short slant on a fourth-and-three from the New York 25-yard line and the Pats receiver broke tackles and raced to the end zone to make it 17-0 with a minute left in the first quarter.
Jets second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez was intercepted three times and finished 17 of 33 in passing for 164 yards.
“This was a good old fashioned butt-kicking, there’s no two ways about it,” Sanchez said.