PHOTO: New England Patriots' Roman Phifer and Jarvis Green, center,
celebrate after Green recovered a New York Jets fumble during the fourth quarter
as Jets' Pete Kendall (66) and Jason Fabini (69) look on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2004,
at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Umpire Bill Schuster, left, signals
the turnover. The Patriots beat the Jets, 23-7. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Pats Ground Jets, Earn Playoff Bye
by Chris Timoney
Ted Bruschis opening drive interception set the tone early for the Patriots in their clash with the Jets in the Meadowlands on Sunday The interception was just the beginning of a defensive dominance which led to a 23-7 Patriots win. New Englands victory over their division rival also earned them the all important bye for the first round of the playoffs.
After last Monday nights tough loss in Miami many questions were raised regarding the Patriots depleted defense. Well those questions were answered early and often by the defending Super Bowl champions. As early as the first series by the New York Jets.
On 3rd and 11 from the Jets 27 Pennington completed to Martin for 22 yards.
Pennington followed that up with a 7 yard completion to Jerrold Sowell. A short dump to Martin for 2 yards and a short run up the middle by the Jets QB brought the Jets into Patriots territory. On first and ten from the New England 40 that Patriots D reared its dominant head. Pennington stepped up in the pocket and threw to over the middle. Thats when linebacker Ted Bruschi, who had been keying in on Pennington, leaped up to make the interception and returned it to the Jets 38.
New England wasnt able to turn the turnover into points, but the interception sent an early message to the Jets offense. A message that carried over throughout the game and held Curtis Martin to just 33 yards rushing. On their next possession the Jets did manage to get down to the New England 32, but on 3rd and 2 Curtis Martin was swallowed up by Willie McGinest for a 4 yard loss and the Jets were forced to punt.
The first points of the game came midway through the second quarter. Much like has been the case in the last 23 games, the Patriots scored first.
Starting out at their own 31 the Patriots moved the ball deep into Jets territory using a well formulated mix of Dillon runs and Tom Brady passes.
The drive also featured the use of Patrick Pass both as a receiver and a runner. A 4 yard completion to Patrick Pass brought New England to the Jets 10 yard line. A pass attempt to Deion Branch fell incomplete on 3rd down and brought up 4th down. With 7:52 remaining in the half Adam Vinatieri came out and converted on the 28 yard field goal attempt putting New England up 3-0.
New England got the ball back less than two minutes later after the Jets brief possession following the Vinatieri kick. The Toby Gowin punt pinned the Pats back at their own 14 yard line. After a false start on Stephen Neal the Patriots were faced with a 3rd and 7 situation from their own 22.
Tom Brady completed to Branch to the 33 yard line and a first down. A 14 yard completion to tight end Daniel Graham moved the Pats into Jets territory to the 48. Brady & Co. wasted no time from there. On the very next play Brady found wide receiver David Givens deep down the left sideline for a 35 yard completion to the 17 yard line. A Corey Dillon run to the left only mustered 1 yard and set up a 2nd and 9 from the 16. On 2nd down Brady fired over the middle to the endzone and found Daniel Graham for the touchdown. Up 10-0 with under two minutes to go in the half the Patriots were in control.
A quick three-and-out by the Jet, punctuated by a Mike Vrabel sack of Chad Pennington, brought out the boos at Giants Stadium and gave the ball back to the Patriots with over a minute left in the half. As has been the case throughout the season, for Brady & Co. 1:13 was plenty of time. Troy Brown returned the Gowin punt for 23 yards out to the Jets 43 and set up the Patriots with good field position for an end of the half scoring drive.
Working out of the shotgun Brady worked quickly and completed to Branch twice for 26 yards and to Patrick Pass for 6 yards moving the ball down to the 11 yard line with 23 seconds left in the half. Brady tried to squeeze in an end of the half touchdown but pass attempts to tight end Jed Weaver and wide receiver David Givens fell incomplete. With no hesitation coach Bill belichick brought out Adam Vinatieri for the short field goal.
Vinatieri easily converted from 29 yards out and the Pats were headed to the locker room at the half up 13-0.
Before the half there was still 7 seconds left on the clock. Seven seconds the Jets were hoping to use to come up with a score. Vinatieris kickoff bounced off a Jets special teams player up front and Tully Banta-Cain recovered the ball at the Jets 32 for New England. With just one tick of the clock left in the half Belichick opted to go for the 50 yard field goal. Vinatieris kick had the distance but was pushed wide by the strong Meadowlands wind. The missed field goal attempt left the score at 13-0 at the half.
At the outset of the second half both teams struggled to move the ball.
The Patriots only gained 8 yards to start out the second half before punting and the Jets moved 15 yards in 8 plays before another Gowin punt.
New England took possession at their own 13 midway through the third quarter. The Pats used up most of the remaining time in the quarter in driving 79 yards down to the Jets 8 yard line. A third down completion for 10 yards to Deion Branch left the Pats 3 yards short of a first down and again Vinatieri was brought out for the 3 points. The 26 yarder moved New England to a 16-0 lead with 37 seconds left in the third.
The Jets offensive struggles continued on the ensuing possession. Jarvis Greens sack of Pennington on second down put New York in a third and 19 situation from their own 21. A false start penalty moved them back even further to the 16. On third and 24 Penningtons pass intended for Wayne Chrebet was intercepted by Eugene Wilson . Wilson returned the pick down to the Jets 15 yards line and set the Pats up for another score. Score they did.
Four plays later on second down from the Jets 6 Brady(21 of 32 for 264 yards) found a wide open Deion Branch in the endzone for the touchdown and the 23-0 lead with most of the fourth quarter left. On the play Branch (7 catches for 82 yards, 1TD) faked out the defender completely in the endzone a made himself very open towards the side of the endzone.
Playing a type of prevent defense in the secondary the Pats allowed Pennington to finally put some offense together. Starting out at their own 33 the Jets, on the arm of Pennington, the Jets moved swiftly down the field and into Patriots territory. On first down from the New England 15 Pennington found Santana Moss for the first time of the day near the goal line. Earthwind Moreland slipped on the coverage at the goal line, allowing Moss to make the catch and make it into the endzone. On the touchdown drive Pennington (22 of 36 for 252 yards, 1TD and 2 INTs) threw for all of the Jets 67 yards of the drive.
Penningtons touchdown pass was too little too late in a game against the defending Super Bowl champions and AFC East division champs.
Both teams teams turned the ball over on downs on the following drives.
The Jets offensive ineptness on the day came full circle on their final possession. With just under two and-a-half minutes left in the game the Jets had the ball on the New England 35 after a 36 yard pass play to Justin McCareins. On first down from the 35 Pennington was sacked by linebacker Roosevelt Colvin. Colvin forced a fumble and Jarvis Green recovered, sealing the game for the Patriots.
The win moves the Patriots to 13-2 on the season and clinched the defending champions a first round bye in the playoffs. The loss drops the Jets to 10-5 and combined with a Bills victory denied them the opportunity to clinch a Wild Card spot.
The Jets gained a total of 9 yards in the second quarter. Tom Brady has now thrown a touchdown pass in 15 straight road games. Tom Brady is now 7-0 following a game in which he threw 2 or more interceptions. Tom Brady has the best regular season winning percentage of all active quarterbacks at 77% with a record of 47-14. Running back Kevin Faulk was inactive for the game. All-Pro defensive lineman Richard Seymour went down with a leg injury early in the second half and did not return, his status is unknown.
Chris Timoney provides is a site contributor for the Patriots Insider. You can find him in the forums under the name: jakbrown. You can also find archives of his columns on the Insiders by using the search feature on this site.
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