East Rutherford, N.J. – Despite two first half turnovers by the Patriots, they made it look easy against their AFC East rival, New York Jets, marching to a 44-7 win and a 2-0 start to the season.
The weather turned nasty early into the first quarter and it looked like the rain might keep the scoring low, but no sooner did the rain subside in the second quarter, did the Patriots mistakes also end and that spelled doom for the Jets. The World Champs certainly played the part as they dominated New York in all facets of the game.
New England finished with 165 yards on the ground and Tom Brady passed for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Troy Brown led all Patriots receivers with nine catches for 94 yards while Deion Branch once again had a fine game with four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. The Patriots defense held Curtis Martin to 5 yards on four carries and Vinny Testeverde to 150 yards on 23 attempts.
The driving rain hindered both teams' offenses in the first quarter, but it was the Patriots that made the mistakes. Tom Brady threw his first interception of the season on the Patriots second possession, yet New England's defense held the Jets -- which started at the Patriots 35-yard line -- off the scoreboard. Then, on the Patriots next series, it looked like they would take advantage until Troy Brown fumbled on the 1-yard line and the Jets amazingly escaped again. It was Sam Garnes of New York who forced the turnover with a solid hit just as it appeared Brown would go in for the score.
But New York could not create any points from the turnovers and when the rain let up in the second quarter, the Patriots finally put together a drive with a happy ending. It began with an 18-yard run by Antowain Smith behind a nice block by Marc Edwards. On the play, Smith had his right ankle twisted, but he returned later in the drive. Passes to Marc Edwards and Brown put New England on the Jets 43 when a little trickery took place that had even the Jets fans oohing.
Brady looked to hand off, faked, then looked to give it to Brown on a reverse – another fake. Brady then looked downfield to a wide open David Patten and hit him in stride. Patten went down at the Jets 4-yard line. Two plays later, Brady hit Cam Cleeland for the score.
New England ended the first half with a clock-consuming 19-play drive that went 70 yards in 6:40. It ended with a 28-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal for a 10-0 lead. A note on the drive was that it was the most plays on a scoring drive in Patriots history. Although the Patriots were only up by 10 they had dominated in every category, particularly first downs in which they held a 17-1 advantage.
The second half began much like the first half for the Jets offense, with one exception – turnovers. It happened on the Jets first possession when on third and 2, Tebucky Jones started creeping up on the outside of the line to his right. As the ball was snapped, he went around end untouched. There was Vinny Testaverde, set up to pass, unaware of what was coming from his blindside. Jones made the hit, and the ball squirted free. Jones also made the recovery, scooping up the loose ball and going 24 yards for the score and a 17-0 New England lead.
The Patriots tacked on three more on their next drive, a 12-play, 65-yarder that ended in a 31-yard field goal. The highlight came when, on third and 6 from the Jets 45, Brady looked left for a quick sideline pass, pumped, and then gave the ball to Kevin Faulk on an inside handoff. Faulk gained 25 yards on the play.
Just when it looked like the Jets' fortunes might change, Victor Green slammed the door shut on his former teammates.
Jets punter Matt Turk had just successfully pulled off a fake punt to give his team a first down on the Patriots 47. Testaverde then hooked up with Santana Moss on a nice catch and run and the Jets were down to the New England 18. Perhaps Testeverde got a little too comfortable when, on the very next play, he threw to the left sideline to Wayne Chrebet. Green had absolutely no problem stepping in front and taking the interception all the way for a 27-0 New England lead.
But the Jet have never been a team to mail it in and they came right back with a four-play drive for seven. The big play came with a 33-yard reception by Chrebet that had 15 yards tacked on to the end for a face mask penalty on Lawyer Milloy. That put New York on the 11 where Testeverde found Anthony Becht in the end zone for the Jets first score of the day coming at :51 of the third quarter.
That score did nothing to change the fate of the Jets defense, however. New England easily went down the field to start the fourth quarter. Branch caught a Brady pass over the middle and the 49-yard touchdown and subsequent extra point gave the Patriots a 34-7 lead with 10:54 left in the game. It was raining and pouring over the Jets and their fans in their home opener.
Down by 27, the Jets were forced to go for it on a fourth and six from the New England 24. Chad Pennington, in for Testaverde, missed the mark on his pass attempt and the Patriots took over and wound up with a 40-yard Vinatieri field goal for a 30-point lead at 37-7.
With Damon Huard in the game and Patrick Pass carrying, New England seemingly strolled into the end zone for yet another score with a little over three minutes left in the game to make the final score 44-7.
The impressive win puts New England atop the AFC East along with the Miami Dolphins. Next up are the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium