Jets provided the slapstick, Patriots the roast on Thanksgiving night
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. _ At least the Jets didn't get Gronked by New England.
Instead, they got punked.
The Patriots humiliated the Jets by taking advantage of a second quarter of home-team slapstick that made the Rich Kotite era look dignified, and went on to a 49-19 victory at MetLife Stadium on Thanksgiving night.
Despite the absence of injured Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and ran for one. And the Patriots scored twice in the second quarter when their offense wasn't on the field, off fumbles by Mark Sanchez and Joe McKnight.
Instead of turning their season around, the Jets (4-7) have faded from contention in the AFC East with New England (8-3) again in complete control of the division. The Jets' wild-card chances also took a huge hit, as they likely would have to run the table to have a chance.
Both teams went three and out on their first possessions, then New England blew a scoring chance. After a 28-yard pass from Brady to Aaron Hernandez gave the Patriots a first down at the Jets' 22, two plays gained only 1 yard. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt wide left.
The Jets, however, returned the favor. They drove from their 30 to a second-and-6 at the New England 23 when Sanchez had his pass intercepted by safety Steve Gregory, who missed the first meeting between the teams last month with a hip injury.
New England used the momentum for a 15-play, 84-yard touchdown drive, capped by Wes Welker's 3-yard reception from Brady on the first play of the second quarter. He beat cornerback Ellis Lankster, who may have thought he had help from Kyle Wilson, but did not.
That was only the beginning of the Jets' worst quarter of 2012, and worst in many years.
On their next drive, the Jets moved to the Pats' 31, where they faced a fourth-and-1. Shonn Greene tried to extend the ball for a first down and Brandon Spikes popped it free. It went forward and Gregory recovered at the New England 19 and was tackled on the 17. On the next play, Brady threw to wide-open running back Shane Vereen along the right sideline, and he outraced the entire Jets defense for an 83-yard score with 9:43 left in the first half.
It was the first of three New England touchdowns in a span of 52 seconds. On the second play of the following possession, a broken play resulted in Sanchez having no running back to take his handoff. He turned upfield and gained a yard, but slid into the rear end of right guard Brandon Moore. It looked comical, but it wasn't funny for the Jets. The ball came loose and Gregory, a Staten Island native, returned it 32 yards for a 21-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, McKnight had the ball punched loose by Devin McCourty. Julian Edelman picked it out of the air and raced 22 yards for another embarrassing touchdown at MetLife. New England led 28-0 with 8:51 remaining in the second quarter.
The Jets finally held on to the ball on their next series and managed two first downs, but the possession ended when an unblocked Jerod Mayo sacked Sanchez for a 9-yard loss. New England then took all of 1:53 to go 73 yards in four plays, the payoff being Brady's 56-yard strike to Edelman. Safety LaRon Landry was beaten badly on the deep pass.
The Jets cut their deficit to 35-3 on Nick Folk's 32-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half, and after the final play, they departed the field to a chorus of boos from a rapidly diminishing crowd.
After being stopped on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1 in the third period, the Jets got a safety when New England running back Stevan Ridley was called for a chop block while trying to pass protect for Brady. After the free kick, the Jets quickly went 71 yards in four plays and scored on Bilal Powell's 4-yard run. They trailed, 35-12, with 4:41 left in the third.