By: Bob George/BosSports.net
November 14, 2011

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Maybe Rex Ryan needs to start flapping his yap again and torquing off the Patriots. For the Jets, that seems to yield better results.

Instead, the Patriots took it to the Jets on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. The Patriots dominated the Jets with a blitzing defense, used a hurry-up offense to build a lead in the second half, and seized control of the AFC East with a 37-16 win. The Patriots now win a tiebreaker with the Jets based on a head-to-head sweep, and suddenly things look great for the team with the worst defense in the league now heading into the easy part of the schedule.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady became the winningest head coach-quarterback combination in NFL history with the win, their 117 wins together passing Miami's Don Shula and Dan Marino. Brady was able to solve the Jet defense in the second half, something the Patriots have generally not been able to do in New Jersey since Ryan took over as Jet head coach in 2009. Brady threw for 329 yards and three touchdown passes, finishing with a passer rating of 118.4.


Andre Carter set a Patriot record on Sunday night with 4.5 sacks of Jet QB Mark Sanchez. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
But the star of the game had to be Andre Carter. Using a defense which seemed to revert back to the 3-4 base thanks to the mid-week release of Albert Haynesworth, Carter led a terrific pass rush with a team record 4.5 sacks of Mark Sanchez. Rob Ninkovich had two interceptions, one of which was returned for a fourth quarter touchdown.

Perhaps the most endearing element of this game was that the Patriots won with a defense filled with a lot of players that Belichick is lucky that he knows. It was a defense that was perhaps best characterized by Herald columnist Ron Borges. On a local sports television show, Borges commented on the defense, saying that "If they were a rock band, they would be known as 'The Who'!" Guys like Sterling Moore, Jeff Tarpinian, Ross Ventrone and Philip Adams saw significant game action, and they wound up reminding you of such guys as Randall Gay, Earthwind Moreland and Matt Chatham.

Hopefully Moore will have fewer moments like a second quarter play which knocked Devin McCourty out of the game. This game had several wacky plays, but this one was a head scratcher. Sanchez tried to hit Plaxico Burress on a deep intermediate route, and McCourty defended the play. But Moore came in late and clobbered McCourty in the shoulder, separating it and knocking him out of the game. To make matters worse, Moore was called for a personal foul on a defenseless receiver, but the officials did not see that it was McCourty that Moore clobbered, not Burress.

Later in the second quarter, there was another wacky play which sent Ryan into a halftime flameout. As the clock was winding down in the first half, Sanchez called a timeout with 1:24 left. Sanchez scored on a two-yard scramble on the next play to give the Jets their only lead at 9-6. But Brady had 1:20 left on the clock, and he led the Patriots on a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive. He hit Gronkowski from 18 yards out with nine seconds left in the half. Ryan would refer to the play as the "dumbest play I had ever seen".

Sanchez was sacked a total of five times (Mark Anderson had the other half-sack), and finished with with a rating of only 64.7 despite throwing for 309 yards.

Gronkowski is emerging as Brady's top go-to guy. As defenses continue to key more on containing Wes Welker, Gronkowski is becoming the biggest benefactor. He finished with eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Wearing the same number as Ben Coates did, who was famously known as Drew Bledsoe's main receiving threat, Gronkowski combines terrific hands with great agility and athletic ability. On one of his touchdowns, he was flipped completely over yet managed to hold onto the football.

Despite all the goodwill the Patriots earned in this important division road victory, a lot of shame befalls the Jets. The Jets did a lot of things which normally should have helped them win the game, but it simply did not work out in the end. They held the Patriots to only two field goals in the first half until the final nine seconds. They managed to induce Brady to commit an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone for a safety in the second quarter one play after Brady muffed a shotgun snap but managed to recover his own fumble. The Patriot running backs only averaged 2.1 yards per carry as a team.

But Jet Nation must be ashamed at how their team played at home on national television against their hated rival. The Patriots had the worst NFL defense coming into the game, yet the Jets brought their D game into this important matchup. Sanchez continues to befuddle his fan base as well as his coaching staff with his flashes of brilliance combined with a maddening penchant for making bad plays and bad decisions at the worst possible times. To have a coach who is so player-friendly as Ryan call out Sanchez for that second quarter timeout is very telling.

As for the Patriots, they now head into their easy part of the season. They get eight days off before they return to action at home against Kansas City and old friend Matt Cassel. Then they get their one last tough matchup on paper as they head to Philadelphia to take on a troubled Eagle team, then return home to face winless Indianapolis. The game with the Colts was originally supposed to be on NBC, but the Colts' season went up in smoke thanks to the season-ending injury to Peyton Manning and that game has been pushed back to a 1:00 PM EST start.

After that game, the Patriots travel to Washington and to Denver, then come home to Buffalo and Miami. The Patriots have never won in Washington in the regular season and always have trouble in Denver, but Washington and Denver have major issues and no one really knows how good or bad Tim Tebow is. The Patriots, given all that has gone wrong with their defense in 2011, stand a pretty good chance to finish with at least 11 wins and maybe as many as 13. They can pretty much lock up the division by beating Buffalo barring a succession of unspeakable collapses, assuming Buffalo is still a playoff factor when the teams meet on New Year's Day to finish the regular season.

This all makes Sunday night's win very important, never mind very sweet. And the Jets have to be wondering what to make of it.

Sooner or later, the talk will get back to how well the Patriots will do in the playoffs. But for now, as the real The Who used to sing, the kids are all right.


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