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Patriots Ground Jets 37-16; Regain AFC East Lead

Andre Carter was a force against the Jets, sacking Mark Sanchez 4.5 times. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots (6-3) used a complete team effort to top the New York Jets (5-4) on Sunday night, receiving contributions on offense, defense and special teams en route to a 37-16 win at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Brady, Offense Soar

Following a two-game skid that saw the Patriots’ signal-caller occasionally out of rhythm, QB Tom Brady dissected the Jets’ defense in the second half. Brady finished the game with 329 yards and three TDs on 26-39 passing.

Despite struggling in the first half, Brady’s second half adjustments were pivotal to the Patriots domination in the final 30 minutes. New England outscored the Jets 24-7 after leading 13-9 at the half, and scored points on three of five second half possessions.

Defense Finally Stands Out

Battling a rash of injuries at both linebacker and secondary, many thought Mark Sanchez would destroy the New England defense…they were wrong. The Patriots surrendered 268 passing yards and 110 yards on the ground, but allowed the Jets to convert just five of 13 third-down conversions.

New York committed a trio of turnovers, including a pair of interceptions by LB Rob Ninkovich and a crucial fumble recovery by Niko Koutouvides on a Joe McKnight muffed punt return, which led to 17 New England points.

Ochocinco Appearance

Held without a reception since an Oct. 9 win, Chad Ochocinco finally looked like a functional contributor to the Patriots offense on Sunday. Ochocinco finished the game with just two catches, but corralled a Brady 53-yard strike to set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.

Three Studs

Andre Carter
The offseason free-agent signing has provided immediate dividends to the Patriots’ puss rush. Carter finished the evening with 4.5 sacks, a Patriots franchise record, as well as eight quarterback hits and forced an intentional grounding in the first half. Carter now has nine sacks on the year, including 8.5 in his last four games.

Rob Ninkovich
Ninkovich continued his primetime excellence, intercepting two Sanchez passes to dramatically change the outcome of the game. Ninkovich intercepted a deflected Sanchez pass in the third-quarter, and sealed the game midway through the fourth with a 12-yard pick-six.

Rob Gronkowski
The sophomore tight end from Arizona was Brady’s primary target on Sunday night, hauling in eight receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns against a solid Jets’ defense. Gronkowski gave the Patriots a 13-9 lead with a 18-yard touchdown before extending the edge with a five-yard touchdown.

Three Duds

If the Patriots want to advance January’s postseason, they must cut down on the penalties that extend drives or result in points. New England was flagged nine times for 80 yards, including a second-quarter intentional grounding in its own end zone that resulted in a safety. This will be a point of concern for Bill Belichick and his staff throughout the week.

Running Game
The Patriots’ offense ground game was ineffective all evening against the Jets, totaling just 60 yards on 28 attempts, many of them in garbage time. New England’s 11 first half rushing yards forced Brady into a more effective hurry up mode in the second-half.

Third-Down Efficiency
New England finished the game just 4-13 on third-down, resulting in four Zoltan Mesko punts and three Stephen Gostkowski field goals.

Looking Ahead

The Patriots (6-3) remain on primetime next week, hosting the Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) on Monday Night Football at 8:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The Jets (5-4) will travel to Denver (4-5) to face Tim Tebow and the suddenly resurgent Broncos on Thursday, while the Bills (5-4) look to end their skid in Miami (2-7) on Sunday.

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