Patriots dominate Jets

The New England Patriots out-hustled, out-hit and out-executed the Jets on Sunday – and if Gang Green fails to win their regular season finale next week at St. Louis they will likely be out of the playoff picture.<p>

The few thousand hearty souls who remained at the frigid Meadowlands until the end of the game told the story of the Patriots' decisive 23-7 win over the languid Jets, who looked like the polar-opposite of a team with playoff aspirations. The victory guaranteed a first-round bye for the AFC East champion Pats and put the 10-5 Jets' backs against the proverbial wall.

It wasn't pretty.

"[The Patriots] just flat came down here and kicked our behinds – offense, defense and special teams," Jets head coach Herman Edwards said. "We knew what was at stake – we needed to win a game at home to get back in the playoffs. We didn't do it…They came down here and kicked our tails."

"You feel shocked…Then you feel frustrated. There's so many emotions that go through your head," noted Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, who threw two interceptions in another erratic performance. "We got another game and our backs are against the wall. No doubt about it."

The Jets faced a similar situation in the 2001 season, when they had to beat the Oakland Raiders on the road in the final week of play. They were successful that afternoon, but were eliminated the following week in a Wild Card rematch in the Bay Area.

"We gotta go [to St. Louis], play and win," said defensive end Shaun Ellis. "It's tough. We'll put this loss behind us and look forward to next week. It's another big game for us. I'm confident we'll bounce back. We just gotta regroup, but St. Louis is not a pushover. It will be a great test for us."

The Patriots made the victory look easy, shutting out Gang Green until 9:32 remained in the fourth quarter. The Patriots' defense held the hosts to only 46 rushing yards – including a season-low 33 on 13 carries by Curtis Martin. New England quarterback Tom Brady threw touchdown passes of 16 yards to tight end Daniel Graham in the second quarter and six yards to wide receiver Deion Branch for the capper in the fourth quarter, while kicker Adam Vinatieri booted three field goals.

New England scored 13 points in the second quarter on Vinatieri's 28- and 29-yard field goals and Graham's touchdown reception. On the Patriots' touchdown drive, the Jets had difficulty getting the proper personnel on the field and looked downright confused.

Brady, meanwhile enjoyed an impressively solid afternoon, competing 21 of 32 passes for 264 yards and a rating of 112.0 – and giving the impression to observers that it was the Jets' secondary, not New England's, that was decimated by injuries to key starters. The Patriots' quarterback connected on seven passes to Branch for 82 yards and spread the ball around to six different receivers.

Pennington completed 22 of 36 passes for 252 yards. He gave the Jets their only score with a 15-yard TD pass to Santana Moss in the fourth quarter.

The Jets' QB was picked off by linebacker Tedy Bruschi in the first quarter, killing a Jets drive into Patriots territory.

"They played soft zone and [Bruschi] backed right up into it. From my point of view, I forced it," Pennington explained.

But Pennington's second interception, on the first play of the fourth quarter, was the more costly of the two. Safety Eugene Wilson stepped in front of Wayne Chrebet at the Jets' 39-yard line and raced 24 yards to the 15. Four plays later, Brady threw his 6-yard TD to Branch to give New England a 23-0 lead.

"Their offense did a great job," Pennington said. "We give the Patriots credit. They came in here, they knew what they had to do and they executed. They executed better then we did as a team."

For Gang Green, it's do or die next week in St. Louis.


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