Less than a month removed from the last meeting, the New England Patriots handed the New York Jets the same end result on Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
But this time, it wasn’t close. It was far from it.
The numbers behind New England’s 41-3 win over New York told the story. Here’s a glance back through them before the page turns to the final week of the regular season.
Since New England handed New York a 49-19 defeat on Nov. 22, 2012, the average margin of victory over last seven meetings between the AFC East rivals had been just 3.85 points. But that recent history of things coming down to the wire would not be on display Saturday. The difference would be 38.
As his 29-yard attempt went through the uprights on the Patriots’ opening drive, kicker Stephen Gostkowski went over 300 converted field goals for his career. New England’s all-time scoring leader is now the 30th kicker in NFL history to hit 300. Gostkowski, now at 301, is fifth among active kickers in made field goals behind Matt Bryant, Phil Dawson, Sebastian Janikowski and his predecessor, Adam Vinatieri.
By picking off Jets quarterback Bryce Petty in the first quarter, Malcolm Butler picked off a new career-high in interceptions. And the Patriots cornerback would proceed to pick off another in the third quarter, courtesy of a tipped pass thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick, for his fourth of the season. It is a new-career high for Butler after he collected two during his Pro Bowl 2015 season.
In the process of snaring a five-yard pass in the back of the end zone, Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett tied a career-high with his sixth touchdown catch of the year. Bennett, now nine seasons in, also caught six for six while with the Chicago Bears in 2014.
Jets running back Khiry Robinson’s first carry of the season would result in the first forced fumble of Elandon Roberts’ NFL career. The rookie linebacker, drafted in the sixth round last spring, forged through to hit Robinson for a two-yard loss in the second quarter of action. And the impact of the 5-foot-11, 235-pound Patriot greeting the 6-foot, 220-pount Jet would send the ball free for Butler to fall on.
Late in the second quarter, Patriots corner Eric Rowe extended down the left sideline for his second career interception. His first also transpired versus the Jets – and Fitzpatrick – on Sept. 27, 2015. Rowe was three games into his rookie year with the Philadelphia Eagles at the time.
The first catch on tight end Matt Lengel’s NFL resume would arrive Saturday. It would be on a post pattern. And it would be good for an 18-yard touchdown from quarterback Tom Brady, making the tight end the 64th different player to be on the receiving end of a Brady TD toss. Lengel, who spent all of 2015 and the first two months of 2016 on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad, was signed to the Patriots’ active roster in November.
New England’s defense headed in having conceded a league-leading 16.6 points per game. Now, that stands at 15.7 points per game after holding the Jets’ offense to only a field goal on a drizzly afternoon at Gillette.
Nine quarters have passed since the Patriots’ defense let up a touchdown to an opposing offense. The last time that occurred was on Dec. 12 against the Baltimore Ravens, when quarterback Joe Flacco found running back Kenneth Dixon for an eight-yard score with 5:29 to play in the third quarter of a 30-23 New England victory.
Health and continuity have been key for Dante Scarnecchia’s Patriots offensive line in 2016. Center David Andrews and right guard Joe Thuney have started all 15 games, while left guard Shaq Mason as well as tackles Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon have started 14 apiece. As noted by NFL Network researcher Evan Lazar, only two members of last year’s Patriots O-line started 13-plus games. And as PatsCap.com’s Miguel Benzan pointed out, that front cycled through 13 different starting combinations under Dave DeGuglielmo.
A week after surpassing Hall of Famer Curtis Martin for the most single-season rushing touchdowns in franchise history, Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount got his 16th and 17th of 2016. Blount, who scored on one-yard rumbles in the third and fourth quarters, is now tied with Martin for the third-most touchdowns – rushing or receiving – in one Patriots season. Martin had 14 rushing and three receiving in 1996, while Rob Gronkowski racked up 18 in 2011, and Randy Moss reeled in 23 in 2007.
When Jimmy Garoppolo stepped onto the field along with the rest of the Patriots’ offense, 15 minutes and 27 seconds of game clock remained. Brady’s day was done after going 17-of-27 for 214 yards and three touchdowns, and Garoppolo’s day would also soon be over after going 1-of-2 with a six-yard connection to recent waiver claim Michael Floyd.
With one week left in the regular season, the Patriots check in with 13 wins for the first time in five years. Since the 2011 team finished 13-3, New England had posted four consecutive 12-4 records.
A wheel-route drop would not keep Brady from looking James White’s way. And when the QB looked back to the back shortly before intermission, a 25-yard touchdown over linebacker David Harris would be the byproduct. For White, it sent him into rare air as the first back in the Brady era to go over 500 receiving yards in a single season. White stands with 56 catches for 530 yards and five touchdowns – all career-bests.
It is the number of passes Petty – who exited with a shoulder injury – and Fitzpatrick combined to complete against New England. The two Jets quarterbacks went a collective 8-of-24 through the air for 136 yards and three interceptions.
Forty-five receiving yards separate Julian Edelman from the second 1,000-yard season of his NFL career. The Patriots wideout, who grabbed five passes for 89 yards versus the Jets, has 90 receptions for 955 yards and two touchdowns heading into Week 17.
Since resigning as “HC of the NYJ” in early 2000, Bill Belichick has collected 200 regular-season victories as head coach of the Patriots. That puts him in the company of only Curly Lambeau, George Halas, Don Shula and Tom Landry as head coaches who won 200 with one club. The Patriots have lost 71 regular-season games – an average of only four per campaign – over the course of Belichick’s 17-year tenure.