NFL: New York Jets at New England Patriots

Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy runs for a touchdown after scooping up a fumble during Sunday’s game in Foxborough, Mass. At right is Jets offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum. New England cruised to a 38-3 victory to assure itself of a first-round bye for the upcoming NFL playoffs.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — They’re on to the postseason.

The Patriots took care of the formality of clinching a first-round bye — and an important week of rest — with a 38-3 blowout of the Jets Sunday, finishing the season at 11-5 as Tom Brady threw for three first-half touchdowns and became the fourth passer in NFL history with 6,000 regular season completions.

“Essentially we won next week because we won today,” Bill Belichick said after securing the bye with the easy win.

Said Brady: “We needed it and I’m glad we got it.”

The win completed an 8-0 home schedule for the Patriots (the only undefeated home team in the league), who are just 3-5 on the road. The game ended with New England having an extremely long shot chance of finishing with the top seed — both Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers had to lose later in the day — but K.C. blew out Oakland to end any suspense.

Regardless of the late outcomes, the Patriots, earning their ninth straight bye, will host the divisional playoff game in two weeks. And, they still have a chance at hosting the conference title game even as the No. 2 seed.

But the first key was Sunday, the second straight game against a weak division foe after what happened at Miami and Pittsburgh. The Pats won the two games by a combined 62-15 with the only touchdown, by Buffalo, coming at the end of last week’s game.

“We had a great opportunity for (the bye). I’m just glad we could close it out,” said Brady. “You’d hate to have that opportunity and not handle what we needed to handle and just glad that we did. It just ended up being a great way to finish the year – win two games at home and against our two division opponents after two pretty tough losses.

“We showed some resiliency. We’re gonna need it going forward and we’ve got certainly a lot of things to learn about ourselves, a lot of things that we can improve on, see if we can win a game here in two weeks.”

After running for 273 yards on a sub-par afternoon by Brady against Buffalo, the Pats went to the passing game against a New York defense decimated by injury. Also, the Jets may have been playing their last game for coach Todd Bowles, reported to be on the hot seat.

Brady, who had his lowest passer rating since 2006 against the Bills, finished 24 of 33 for 250 yards against the Jets. He threw his fourth TD pass of the game (the 29th time he’s had four) with 3:26 left and many wondering why he was still playing in a blowout.

Forgotten receivers Philip Dorsett and Chris Hogan, neither targeted a single time in the Buffalo game, combined for 11 catches (on 16 targets, with Cordarelle Patterson hurt), including a nifty Dorsett touchdown catch that made it 21-3 in the second quarter.

Julian Edelman (five catches, 69 yards) caught the late touchdown – on his 499th career catch – and Kyle Van Noy romped 46 yards with a fumble by rookie QB Sam Darnold (one of three fumbles recovered by the home team).

“We’re happy to win, happy to be moving on,” said Belichick. “We’ll take it.”

Said Hogan, summing up what was the post-game mood: “It’s essentially like winning a playoff game.”

The Patriots defense, playing against a rookie QB missing his two top receivers, allowed the Jets (4-12) to get inside the New England 10 twice in the game — both times without scoring. Darnold, who was injured and didn’t play when the Patriots won Nov. 25 at the Meadowland, was sacked four times.

“It’s embarrassing,” Darnold said. “It’s embarrassing to go out here and lose 38-3. I’m really proud of the way we fought, the way we competed. It just wasn’t enough.”

Patriots defensive captain Devin McCourty left the game in the third quarter with a head injury. He left the field and entered the tent before heading down the stairs to the locker room. There was no word on him after the game, but he did not meet the media post-game as he usually does. He was, however, spotted in the locker room.