If you heard that Antowain Smith ran for 121 yards and the Patriots had five interceptions, you'd probably think the Jets had just been blown out.
Not so fast.
A Jets team that would not give in despite time and again turning the ball over, gave New England all it could handle. But like it has all season, the Patriots did just enough to win and advanced to 13-2.
Tom Brady had a decent night with 15 of 25 passing for only 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. Smith had his 121 yards on 18 carries.
On the other side of the ball, Chad Pennington threw for 229 yards on 24 of 43 passing and 5 -- count them -- 5 interceptions. Curtis Martin was held to 89 yards on the ground on 22 tries.
New England wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. On Pennington's second pass of the game, Bruschi snared it to give his offense the ball on the Jets 35. On first and 10, Brady looked down the left sideline to a streaking David Givens for six points. In 48 seconds of play, the Patriots were up 7-0.
The Jets regrouped and bounced back from the quick strike with a 16-play, 83-yard drive that ended with a Pennington 1-yard run for the score. With Martin running and Pennington content with short passes, the Jets methodically moved down the field for the score.
As the second quarter began, the Jets had a lopsided advantage in the time of possession category but the score remained 7-7. As far as where each team's drives were starting, New England had that advantage and it finally made it pay dividends when Willie McGinest picked off Pennington as the Jets quarterback dropped back from his own 15. McGinest had an easy trip into the end zone to give his team the lead once again.
Despite continued drives starting in Jets territory, the Patriots offense could not put points on the board aside from the early pass to Givens. As the two-minute warning approached, it looked like New England might add to its lead with a drive that started on the Jets 43. A 13-yard pass to Brown led things off but not much more ensued. After Kevin Faulk dropped a fourth and 5 pass the Jets took over at their own 25.
Pennington went to work, hitting Santana Moss for 15 and Kevin Lockett for 23. On second and 10 from the 21, Chris Baker was wide open in the middle of the field and Pennington found him for a gain of 16. New York was first and goal from the 5 with 31 seconds left in the half. A motion penalty on Jerald Sowell knocked them back to the 10 and then Pennington hit Martin, but for a loss of 1.
On second down Pennington threw incomplete and with only six seconds left on the clock, the Jets were forced to have Doug Brien kick a 29-yard field goal on third down to close the Patriots lead to 14-10.
Brady began the second half hitting Givens a second time for six. New England started once again with good field position at its own 40. During the drive Smith took a toss left play and banged out a nice 23-yard gain down to the Jets 19. The scoring pass to Givens came from 5 yards out for a 21-10 Patriots lead.
It appeared the Jets would answer with a score of their own when they marched down to the Patriots 22. On first and 10, however, Vrabel hit Pennington forcing a fumble which the Jets recovered. After a Martin run for 2 yards, Pennington threw a fade into the end zone intended for Moss. Pro Bowler Ty Law played the pass perfectly and picked it off to extinguish the threat. It was Pennington's third interception of the night.
The third quarter ended with the Jets threatening again. Pennington converted a third and 11 from his own 41 with a 12-yard pick-up to Baker. Another third and 11 was converted a few plays later, this one a 24-yard pass to Moss down to the New England 24.
A holding penalty on Jason Fabini knocked the Jets back 10 yards and a McGinest sack went for another 2-yard loss. On the play, Pennington fumbled but managed to recover again. The failure to recover by the Patriots proved costly. On the very next play – third and 22 – Pennington threw a ball downfield that should have been picked off by Tyrone Poole. Poole brought his hands down too soon and the ball deflected right into the hands of Curtis Conway for 22 yards and the first down.
On third down, Pennington scored his second rushing touchdown of the night, a 10-yard run, and the Jets were within five at 21-16 (New York tried a two-point conversion but failed).
Pennington threw his fourth interception on the Jets next offensive try. He rolled right with plenty of time and threw an ill-advised pass downfield intended for Moss. Rodney Harrison, patrolling the deep part of the field, simply fielded the pop-up on the sideline to give the Patriots the ball.
Instead of playing ball control, the Patriots got greedy. After Smith rambled for 13 yards to go over 100 for the night (the first time for a Patriots runner this season), Brady handed the ball to Givens and Givens threw downfield to Deion Branch and double coverage. Tyrone Carter of the Jets made the interception and returned the ball 23 yards to the Jets 46.
As it turned out, the play did not hurt New England – other than thwarting the drive – due to McGinest and Richard Seymour leveling Pennington on third and 7 forcing the Jets to punt.
The Patriots took some time off the clock with five Smith runs but could not convert a third and 2 and punted from their own 44.
With 2:12 left to play, the Jets took over from their own 18. They got as far as their own 45 but on third and 10 Pennington threw his fifth pick, this one to Eugene Wilson and with Brady taking a knee the Patriots had their 13th win of the season, 11 in a row.
Despite the win, the Patriots were still not guaranteed a bye as a three-way tie with Kansas City and Indianapolis would actually have the Patriots as the No. 3 seed. However, a loss by the Colts on Sunday to the Broncos would give the Patriots the first week of the playoffs off.