The defense Bill Belichick didn’t want to put on the field a week ago kept the offense of the New York Jets off it Sunday.
Leigh Bodden had three of the four interceptions thrown by Mark Sanchez and the New England Patriots defense allowed just one touchdown and 226 yards in a 31-14 win. The victory gave them a two-game lead in the AFC East and sent the Jets to their sixth loss in seven games.
Now the critics of the Patriots coach can take a week off.
They questioned Belichick for going for it on fourth-and-2 at his 28-yard line rather than punt to the Indianapolis Colts and hope his defense could stop Peyton Manning last Sunday night. The play failed and Manning and the Colts moved 29 yards to Manning’s scoring pass and a decisive extra point in their 35-34 win.
But in the first half Sunday, Bodden returned an interception 53 yards for the game’s first touchdown and the Patriots held the Jets to 34 yards and two first downs.
There also were plenty of offensive stars for the Patriots (7-3).
Tom Brady completed 28 of 41 passes for 310 yards, his fifth straight game with more than 300. Wes Welker set career highs with 15 receptions and 192 yards. And Laurence Maroney ran for two touchdowns, his fifth consecutive game with at least one.
For the Jets (4-6), this game was decided long before the final seconds, unlike the previous Sunday. They lost a week ago 24-22 to the Jacksonville Jaguars on a field goal on the last play. The next day, New York coach Rex Ryan cried at a team meeting, explaining later that he’s an emotional person.
There was a lot more for him to feel bad about Sunday, when there were only two major failures by the Patriots.
Eric Smith blocked Chris Hanson’s punt and Brad Smith returned the ball 4 yards for a touchdown as the Jets cut the halftime margin to 24-7. Then they began the second half with an outstanding 80-yard drive capped by Sanchez’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery.
The lead was down to 24-14 and the Patriots punted on their next possession. But then the Jets also had to punt, and whatever momentum they had gained disappeared on their next two series with interceptions by Bodden and Brandon Meriweather. Maroney scored on a 1-yard run after Meriweather’s catch.
Sanchez now has 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, five of them against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 18. Any chance the Jets had for a late rally ended with the rookie’s final turnover when he was sacked by Tully Banta-Cain, forcing a fumble that Derrick Burgess recovered with 3:24 left in the game.
After Bodden’s touchdown in the first quarter, the Jets punted on their next two series and the Patriots capitalized with touchdowns – a 4-yarder on a slant-in pass from Brady to Randy Moss and a 2-yard run by Maroney.
Bodden grabbed his second interception on the next series and the Patriots made it 24-0 on a 26-yard field goal with 4:14 left in the half.
About the only player the Patriots defense couldn’t control was Thomas Jones. He gained 103 yards on 21 carries for the Jets, who entered the game with the NFL’s most productive running attack.
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