Not since the Pilgrims at Plymouth had a group from Massachusetts enjoyed a feast quite as much, and the New York England Patriots were certainly thankful that the New York Jets were so giving on Thanksgiving night.
After a scoreless opening quarter, four first-half turnovers, a trio of Jet penalties on a single Patriots drive and a couple of blown pass coverages helped New England (8-3) score 35 straight points during the second quarter of a 49-19 humiliation of New York (4-7) at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, as coach Bill Belichick collected his 200th career win.
Saying the Jets played the quarter like turkeys would be an understatement, as underscored by Jet fans who held an “X-REX” banner (in reference to New York head coach Rex Ryan) and let out a collective sarcastic cheer when their team finally got on the scoreboard with a field goal moments before those same fans booed the Jets off the field at halftime.
Initially, things weren’t so lopsided, as each team started with a sack on its first offensive play and finished its opening series with a three-and-out before moving the ball well, only to come away with nothing the next time they touched the ball.
On the Patriots’ second possession, quarterback Tom Brady (18-for-28, 323 yards, three touchdowns) completed a short pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez (two catches, 36 yards), who tipped the ball before hanging on and turning that reception into a 28-yard gain to the New York 22-yard line, but that only led to kicker Stephen Gostkowski hooking a 39-yard field goal just outside the left upright.
Running back Shonn Greene (14 carries, 71 yards) then carried four times for 26 yards and caught a six-yard pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez (26-for-36, 301 yards, one touchdown, one interception, two sacks) to help the Jets move 47 yards to the Patriots’ 23-yard line, but Sanchez was intercepted by safety Steve Gregory (six tackles, five solo, one touchdown, one fumble recovery, one pass deflection) at the New England 15-yard line, while looking for rookie running back Bilal Powell (12 carries, 40 yards).
The Patriots scored first on the opening play of the second quarter when Brady completed a three-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Wes Welker (seven catches, 71 yards, one touchdown) to cap a 15-play, 84 yard drive and stake New England to a 7-0 lead.
Brady only threw for 11 yards on the trip as the Patriots rushed for 53 yards and were helped by three New York penalties that totaled 20 yards.
The Jets then went 37 yards to the New England 31-yard line, but Greene, who would have been stopped short of a first down anyway, fumbled on fourth-and-one, and the ball squirted forward where Gregory recovered and was tackled at the Patriots’ 17-yard line.
Then, the floodgates opened – so fast, that if some of the aforementioned disgruntled Jet fans might have gone to the concession area for a snack, they might have returned with indigestion, wondering how they could have missed a previously close game getting so out of hand by the time they got back to their seats.
Three plays from scrimmage, in a span of a mere 52 seconds, remarkably yielded three New England touchdowns.
Just that quickly, a one-touchdown lead morphed into a commanding 28-0 advantage.
One play after Gregory’s recovery, Brady threw short to running back Shane Vereen (ten carries, 42 yards; two receptions, 91 yards, one touchdown), who turned what should have been a modest gain into an 83-yard touchdown up the left sideline.
Two plays later, Sanchez ran into his own guard, Brandon Moore, and fumbled. The loose ball was picked up by Gregory, who was once again in the right place to score on a 32-yard touchdown return.
On the ensuing kickoff, kick returner and running back Joe McKnight (seven returns, 168 yards; one carry, six yards) was hit by cornerback Devin McCourty (nine tackles, six solo, one forced fumble) and fumbled. The ball popped up where it was taken out of the air by wide receiver Julian Edleman (two catches, 64 yards, touchdown), who brought it back 22 yards for another score, only nine seconds after Gregory’s.
The Jets managed to hang on to the ball on their next possession, but punted, and Brady needed just four more plays to get Edelman another touchdown on a deep 56-yard pass up the left side that stretched the Patriots’ margin to 35-0 with 3:17 left in the first half.
New York finally responded with a 14-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard field goal by kicker Nick Folk that negligibly trimmed New England’s lead to 35-3 by intermission.
Taking advantage of a Patriots’ fumble, the Jets drove 56 yards to the New England one-yard line, but Greene was stopped on a fourth-and-goal early in the third quarter.
A chop block in the end zone resulted in a safety on the next play, producing the unusual score of 35-5, and one play after a free kick, Sanchez completed a 39-yard pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland (four catches, 58 yards) to help set up a four-yard touchdown run by Powell that started to give New York some momentary hope, down 35-12, with 4:45 remaining in the period.
But, any optimism gained from that score was rapidly squashed with two more New England scores in a period of just 53 seconds.
Brady capped a 17-play, 87-yard drive on a one-yard touchdown run to extended New England’s lead to 42-12 with 12:06 left in the fourth quarter.
Wide receiver Chad Schilens (two catches, 28 yards) then caught a pass for 22 yards on the next play, but he fumbled and the Patriots took over at the Jets’ 37-yard line.
From there, Brady immediately threw for 28 yards to Welker, which allowed running back Stevan Ridley (21 carries, 97 yards, one touchdown) to score on a nine-yard touchdown run that put New England ahead, 49-12.
Coming off of a 59-24 home win over Indianapolis last week, in which they matched their franchise record for points scored, the Patriots’ 108 points over their past two games were the third-most in NFL history in consecutive weeks.
Late in the game, Sanchez directed a harmless six-play, 80-yard drive that ended on a one-yard touchdown throw to tight end Dustin Keller (five catches, 64 yards, one touchdown), but it was far too little, too late for the Jets, just like running the table over the final five weeks might be to save their season.
The final outcome was in sharp contrast to the AFC East rivals’ only other meeting this season, five weeks prior in New England, one in which the first-place Patriots were on the verge of losing to the last-place Jets before rallying for an overtime victory.
Since that game, New England has averaged an astounding 47.5 points per game over its past four contests and leads the NFL in scoring (35.8 points per game) and yards (431.9 per game).
Sitting in the 12th position in the AFC, New York trails Indianapolis and Pittsburgh by 2½ games for the two conference wild-card playoff spots, with five other teams in between.
Trying to desperately cling to any postseason possibilities which might still remain for them, the Jets will host Arizona (4-6) a week from Sunday at 1pm ET.