This was supposed to be the New York Jets’ turn to take over the AFC East from the rival New England Patriots. Many had predicted the Jets, winners of three straight coming in, to knock off the ice-cold Patriots. But maybe everyone forgot for a week that Tom Brady was still the Patriots’ quarterback. And in New England’s 37-16 victory over the Jets on Sunday night, Brady was brilliant.
As for his counterpart, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez? Still a long, long way to go.
Brady led drive after impressive drive against a Jets defense that struggled throughout the game, as the Patriots improved to 6-3 and took control of the AFC East. The Jets could not get to Brady consistently – as the Giants did last week, painting the blueprint for beating New England. Brady carved the Jets’ secondary apart, twice finding tight end Rob Gronkowski for scores, including one to make it 23-9 New England in the third quarter. The Jets battled back to 23-16 when Sanchez connected with Plaxico Burress on a score, but that’s as close as the Jets would get the rest of the day.
Brady’s eight yard touchdown strike to Deion Branch with 8:10 remaining in the game capped a 13-play, 84 yard drive and gave New England a 30-16 lead. For good measure, Rob Ninkovich intercepted Sanchez on the ensuing possession and returned it 10 yards for a score. It was an emphatic exclamation point, the exclamation being that the Patriots are still the class of the AFC East.
Brady finished with 329 yards passing and three touchdowns, while Sanchez padded his stats after the game was essentially over. He finished with 306 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, while also adding a rushing touchdown.
The Jets have to get their act together quickly, as they head to Denver to take on Tim Tebow and the Broncos on Thursday night in a short turnaround. The Jets have wins on their schedule, but they’ll need as many of them as possible if they want to make the postseason.
At 5-4, there is little room for error.