]()It wasn't a thing of beauty but it served to keep the Patriots above .500 at 7-5 and in solid control of the AFC East.
With the Jets in worse shape injury-wise than the Patriots, if that's possible, the Patriots defense simply had to not make any big mistakes while its offense just had to take care of the ball. With the return of Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk to the line-up, New England had more than enough punch to score enough points against a tough Jets defense.
Tom Brady finished 27 of 37 passing for 271 yards, bouncing back from his 4-pick performance last week. Dillon ran well in combination with Faulk. The two combined for 100 yards with Dillon picking up 65 on 16 carries and Faulk 35 yards on 10 carries. Dillon also had a 1-yard touchdown run.
]()The Jets offense was listless. Brooks Bollinger had only 135 yards (15 of 37 passing) and Curtis Martin only 29 yard rushing.
New England had a chance to take an early lead in this one. After both teams went three and out on their first possessions, Brady hit Benjamin Watson in stride over the middle for 25 yards. That set up a Vinatieri 45-yard field goal attempt but the kick was no good.
It wasn't until 5:40 left in the second quarter that either team was able to put points on the board. It was another Vinatieri attempt, this one good from 21 yards out, for a New England 3-0 lead.
The Jets took over after the field goal and drove from their own 34 into the Patriots end. Tedy Bruschi took a swipe at a pass intended for Doug Jolley and just missed. Jolley made the catch for 15 yards into Patriots territory. Two plays later, Bollinger ran out of the pocket on second and 8 for a gain of 12 yards to the 21. After a 1-yard run by Martin, Bollinger dropped back on third down and was slammed from behind by Rosevelt Colvin. The ball came loose and Mike Vrabel scooped it up. He was credited with the recovery but then flagged for an illegal forward pass when he tried to lateral to Willie McGinest. Flags flew everywhere and besides the penalty on Vrabel, one of them included a facemask on Richard Seymour before the fumble and one on the Jets while tackling McGinest. The personal foul penalties offset and the Jets kept the ball.
After all that, it was back to third and 5 for the Jets. Martin ran for no gain and Mike Nugent of the Jets came on for a 38-yard field goal which he made.
After Mike Cloud took a short kickoff to the New England 40, the Patriots had 58 seconds and a timeout left in the half to break the 3-3 tie.
]()That's all Brady needed to put his team in position to score. He hit Troy Brown for 16 yards and Faulk twice for 9 and 18, the second completion taking matters to the Jets 22. One more catch, by Deion Branch, for 6 yards set up a 34-yard field goal for Vinatieri that he nailed.
With the kick, Vinatieri became the Patriots all-time scoring leader, passing Gino Cappelletti with 1,131 points. More importantly, it gave his team a 6-3 lead heading to the locker room for the half.
New England opened the second half scoring with a 14-play, 85-yard drive that took 8:32. Corey Dillon was his old self along the way, picking up chunks of yards on the ground. Through the air, the big play was Brady to Kevin Faulk for 13 yards on third and 11. Later in the drive and down at the Jets 25, Brady was flushed out of the pocket and hit Branch for 10 yards on third and 6. That play and a John Abraham penalty for roughing moved the ball to the Jets 7. Two plays later, Dillon pounded it in from the 1 for a 10-point Patriots lead.
As the third quarter ended, New England was poised to add to that lead. Other than his own rush for 6 yards, Brady was moving his offense through the air with his pass at the end of the quarter an 18-yarder to Watson down to the Jets 12. After two incompletes, Brady kept again, for 7 yards, and Vinatieri tacked on three points with a 22-yard field goal.
While the game was still within reach for New York points-wise, its offense wasn't exactly instilling any hope that a comeback was in the works. To that point Bollinger had only passed for 67 yards while Curtis Martin was being held to 22 yards on the ground.
Bollinger had a bit of improvement on his next series with completions to Martin for 5 and Laveranues Coles for 14. Ellis Hobbs was flagged for interference and suddenly the Jets were first and 10 from the New England 36. But on the next play, Bollinger felt pressure from both sides and started running up the middle. Jarvis Green flashed in for a 4-yard sack. That was followed by two straight incompletes and the Jets once again punted.
It was a great punt by Ben Graham, downed at the Patriots 2-yard line. Dillon ran for 3 on first down and then Brady threw incomplete on second. On third down, Dillon went around left end and came up just short of the first down marker. The Patriots challenged the spot but the call on the field stood. and New England punted.
After the punt, the Jets set up first and 10 at their own 47. They managed to move the ball to the New England 19 due in large part by a 17-yard Joel Dreessen catch that Bollinger dumped over the onrushing Willie McGinest. The 19 was as far as New York could get, going for a fourth and 4 and then turning the ball over on downs.
New England played it conservative on offense, giving the Jets another chance to close the gap but it didn't matter. With just over four minutes left in the game and down 16-3, Bollinger threw up a pass to Coles on third and 9. Hobbs set up underneath the floater and made the interception to seal the win for the Patriots.
The Patriots were able to run the final 4:04 of the game off the clock by simply running Mike Cloud up the middle.
Notes: Patriots inactives: Patrick Pass; Heath Evans; Matt Light; Billy Yates; Daniel Graham; Dan Klecko; Marquise Hill, Matt Cassel (3rd QB).
Jets inactives: Jay Fiedler; Derrick Blaylock; Darrien Johnson; Norm Katnik; Isaac Snell; Sione Pouha; Kliff Kingsbury (3rd QB).