The New England Patriots tied for the National Football League’s best record and seized control of their division by sending the rival New York Jets to their worst loss in 24 years.
Tom Brady threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots’ 45-3 rout last night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The fourth “Monday Night Football” game in 40 years between teams with records of 9-2 or better was one-sided from the start, as New England scored on its first four possessions.
The Patriots improved to 10-2 on the season, tying the Atlanta Falcons for the NFL’s best record, and moved a game ahead of the Jets (9-3) in the American Football Conference’s East Division. There are four games left in the regular season and the AFC East winner likely will get a first-round bye in the playoffs and at least one home game in the postseason.
“All in all, it was a fun night,” said Brady, whose touchdown passes went to four different receivers.
The Patriots intercepted New York quarterback Mark Sanchez three times in avenging a 28-14 road loss to the Jets on Sept. 19. New England is 9-1 since then.
It was the Jets’ worst defeat since 1986, when they lost by the same score at Miami after a 10-1 start and finished the regular season with a five-game losing streak.
“It was the biggest butt whipping I’ve ever taken as a coach,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said during a news conference. “We got outcoached and we got outplayed.”
The Jets’ 9-2 start was their best since the 1986 season, and as the final minutes ticked off the clock those remaining from the crowd of 68,756 chanted “overrated.” The Patriots have won the AFC East six of the past seven years.
The Jets’ defense, which had surrendered the third-fewest yards in the league entering the game, allowed the most points in Ryan’s two seasons as coach.
“This humble pie tastes like a car tire and it goes down like peanut butter,” Jets defensive tackle Sione Pouha said in the team’s locker room.
The Patriots’ defense, which had given up the most yards in the NFL coming into the game, limited the Jets to a second-quarter field goal by Nick Folk.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s a good lesson for us -- you’ve got to play well in these big games,” said Sanchez, who had 164 yards passing. “You never imagine this.”
The Jets lost for the first time in six road games this season. They had won eight straight regular-season road games dating back to a Nov. 22, 2009, loss at New England, when Sanchez threw four interceptions as a rookie.
“Our preparation was great,” Ryan said. “I thought we were going to have a huge game and it was just the opposite.”
The Patriots opened the scoring with a 41-yard field goal by Shayne Graham less than four minutes into the game. After a missed 53-yard field goal by Folk on the Jets’ first possession, the Patriots went ahead 10-0 on a 1-yard run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
The touchdown came two plays after a 36-yard pass interference penalty on Jets safety Eric Smith put the ball on the New York 1-yard line.
A career-low 12-yard punt by the Jets’ Steve Weatherford preceded the Patriots’ next scoring drive, which was capped by Brady’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Deion Branch on a 4th-and-3 play. Branch caught a quick slant pass, slipped a tackle and raced to the end zone for a 17-0 first-quarter lead.
After Folk’s 39-yard field goal, Brady answered with his 250th career touchdown pass on the Patriots’ next drive, hooking up with Brandon Tate from four yards out for a 24-3 halftime lead.
Brady led scoring drives of 93 and 94 yards on the Patriots’ first two possessions of the second half.
He threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker with 4:47 left in the third quarter and a 1-yard score to Aaron Hernandez on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Patriots’ final touchdown -- a 5-yard run by Green-Ellis -- came after Sanchez was intercepted for the third time and James Sanders returned the ball to the Jets’ 28-yard line.
“It was the best 60 minutes of football we’ve played all year,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “We just got a lot of solid play from everybody.”
The Patriots next play Dec. 12 at Chicago, which leads the National Football Conference’s North Division at 9-3. The Jets host the 6-6 Miami Dolphins the same day.
“We’ll fight another day,” Ryan said. “As bad as this loss was -- and it feels like three losses -- it only counts for one. We’ll roll our sleeves up and get back at it.”