FOXBORO, Mass. — Just when you thought the Patriots’ defense was beyond repair and quarterback Tom Brady was beginning to look washed, New England went and clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC with an all-around dominating performance in a 38-3 win over the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
New England’s much-maligned defense was lights out Sunday. The Patriots held the Jets to 239 total yards, while forcing three turnovers and scoring a touchdown on a scoop-and-score by Kyle Van Noy. New York also went 0-for-2 in the red zone and 0-for-2 on fourth down Sunday against the Patriots.
Van Noy’s touchdown was the headline of a banner day for New England’s defense, as it pushed the lead to 28-3 in the third quarter and effectively put the game away.
With the ball on the Patriots’ 49-yard line, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold dropped back and felt pressure from the ends. The young signal-caller tried to scramble up in the pocket but was hit by Trey Flowers and Adam Butler, who stripped the ball out of his hands and Van Noy did the rest.
“I think we’re just, we’re playing more physical,” Butler said of the defense’s recent strong play, “up front and on the back end, too. You know, we’re playing more aggressive and more confident and it’s paying off for us.”
New England now has put together two good defensive performances in a row and the unit is playing its best football at the right time. Flowers, who finished the season with a career-high 7 1/2 sacks, believes the strip sack of Darnold is an example of the great team defense the Pats have been playing.
“Yeah, it’s definitely coming together,” Flowers said after the win. “That’s one of the things that we have to build ourselves on and it starts in practice, so we go from the practice field, bring it to the game field, execution on Sundays. It’s just one of those deals where you have to play your top football at this point in the season, going against some great teams and you’re going to have to be able to execute well on Sundays.”
Van Noy, who scored his second touchdown of the season with the scoop-and-score, credited his team’s relentless work ethic for the turnaround.
“We have created an atmosphere that you don’t want to let the guy next to you down and we all take that to heart because we all see that next guy working hard and then you don’t want to work just as hard for him to make sure you don’t let him down.”
New England will rest and wait next weekend before it takes on the highest remaining seed during the AFC Divisional Round.