Dion Lewis ran for a touchdown and caught a scoring pass, helping the New England Patriots clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the top seed in the AFC with a 26-6 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
The win clinched the seventh 13-win season for the Patriots (13-3), which is second in NFL history to San Francisco’s nine seasons. It was also Bill Belichick’s 250th career regular-season win, moving him into a tie with Tom Landry for third all-time among head coaches.
New England has defeated New York in four straight meetings, and the Patriots (13-3) haven’t lost to the Jets (5-11) at home during the regular season with Tom Brady starting since 2006. Brady’s 13th win as a starter this season tied him with Brett Favre for the most by a starting quarterback at age 40 or older.
Lewis finished with a season-high 26 carries for 93 yards . Brandin Cooks had 11 catches for 79 yards and touchdown for New England, which will have a first-round bye in the playoffs. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was held without a catch for the first time this season. It was only the third time in his career that he was blanked for a game that he played in. It was also the first game in his career he was not the target of a pass for an entire game.
James Harrison, signed by New England last Tuesday after being cut by Pittsburgh, had two sacks — on consecutive plays to end the game — and finished with five total tackles and a forced fumble.
Temperatures dipped into the low-teens at kickoff, but it didn’t stop the Patriots from being aggressive at the outset.
They won the coin toss and elected to receive, going away from their typical decision to defer until the second half. Brady and the offense went to work, quickly moving 75 yards in just 13 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard TD run by Lewis. The drive included a fourth-down pass conversion, one of three hookups between Brady and Danny Amendola in the series.
Penalties on the Jets’ defense aided New England’s final two scores of the first half. Safety Marcus Maye was called for a 39-yard pass interference penalty early in the second quarter that set up a 5-yard TD pass from Brady to Cooks that made it 14-3.
Then just before halftime, New York cornerback Juston Burris was flagged for defensive holding on a Patriots’ third-down pass attempt. New England got into the end zone three plays later via another 5-yard TD pass, this time from Brady to Lewis.
The Jets’ offense was anemic throughout with Bryce Petty playing the entire game at quarterback after it appeared Christian Hackenberg might see his first regular-season action at some point in the finale. New York was 0 for 12 on third down and 0 for 1 in its lone trip into the red zone.
Jets: CB Morris Claiborne left briefly in the first quarter, but was able to return. … Maye limped off the field in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. … WR Robby Anderson left after a fourth-quarter hit from Stephon Gilmore to have his head evaluated. Coach Todd Bowles said after the game that Anderson suffered a concussion.
Patriots: LB Elandon Roberts was shaken up on a play in the third quarter.
The Patriots have three players with 1,000-plus scrimmage yards in the same season for the first time in franchise history: Lewis, Gronkowski, Cooks.
Gronkowski’s previous low this season was two catches, in the season-opening loss to Kansas City.
A three-time All-Pro, Gronkowski finished the regular season with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns. ESPN reported that he was due to receive a $2 million bonus if he caught 80 passes, had 1,200 receiving yards or played in 90 percent of the team’s snaps (which he also fell short of). He would also earn the bonus if he is selected to The Associated Press All-Pro team.
It was 13 degrees at kickoff, and the Patriots wanted to make sure their visitors knew it.
A thermometer was hung in the Jets’ tunnel on Sunday. New York players filed past on their way to and from the field before the game .
It was the coldest regular-season home game in Patriots history. They had a playoff games that was colder — a divisional round game against the Tennessee Titans on Jan. 10, 2004, when it was 4 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like minus 10.
Brady’s 48.6 completion percentage (18 of 37) marked only the second time this season he completed less than 50 percent of his passes. He completed 44.4 percent (16 of 36) in the Patriots’ season-opening loss to Kansas City. Prior to that it hadn’t happened since Oct. 20, 2013 in a 30-27 road loss to the Jets.
Patriots: Have a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Source: Associated Press