It was a night of records for the New England Patriots in their 37-16 win over the New York Jets in the Meadowlands.
Tom Brady surpassed Joe Montana for career 300-yard passing games. Perhaps even more impressive, Bill Belichick and Brady have surpassed Don Shula and Dan Marino as the Coach/QB tandem with the most wins together; now at 117. It's worth noting it took them far fewer games to get there as well.
Before this game it seemed it would take an absolutely spectacular performance by the New England defense to impress and show signs of a possible turn around from the back-to-back losses. Tonight was that night.
The score tells part of the story, but certainly not all of it, as the safety position continued to get thinner with Pat Chung out of tonight's lineup. By the final quarter, the defensive backfield consisted of Devin McCourty and some guys named Ross Ventrone, Philip Adams and Sterling Moore. Holy practice squad.
But performing in the clutch was Rob Ninkovich who came out with his biggest showing of the year, grabbing both of Sanchez's interceptions and returning one of them from a touchdown. That was just to add to Andre Carter's franchise record 4.5 sacks on Jets quarterback. Mark Anderson contributed the other half of the fifth sack to round out an unfortunate night for Sanchez who finished with just one touchdown and a QB rating of 64.7
Tom Brady on the other hand gave a performance worthy of his legacy, and of his record-breaking night, going 26/39 for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns. He started the game off shaky, looking slightly inaccurate and throwing with reduced velocity. In fact the whole first half was fairly unremarkable; besides the two Ochocinco catches for 65 yards, making it his best game of the season so far.
Although it wasn't as low scoring as last week's 0-0 against the Giants, until the waning seconds of the first half the score looked like it belonged to a baseball game.
In the first drive of the game, Mark Sanchez marched his team down the field in what seemed like a great way to set the tone for the Jets at home in MetLife Stadium. Yet after what-should-have-been-a-shocking-turn-of-events-but-wasn't-really, the Jets were stifled in the red zone and forced to attempt the field goal; which Nick Folk promptly shanked. The missed opportunity proved to be the start of a very long night for the green and white.
With just a pair of field goals from Stephen Gostkowski, Brady and the offense got the ball back with 1:20 to go in the half, and they began their usual last minute magic. With a little help from some Jets penalties, they converted five first downs in a row, culminating the drive with an 18 yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. It was Brady's first touchdown of the game, and it brought the score to a whopping 13-9 as the second quarter clock wound down.
Obviously the second half belonged to the visiting team, as the Patriots scored four times including Gronkowski's second touchdown, an 8 yard TD catch by Deion Branch and Ninkovich's pick 6.
The fourth quarter was a particularly disastrous one for Sanchez, as he threw eight incompletions and got sacked on two consecutive plays by Carter.
The Jets' only scoring play in the second half came on the first play of the fourth quarter when Sanchez connected with Plaxico Burress to reduce the Patriots' lead to 7. New England took over for good after that.
The Pats now have sole possession of first place in the AFC East, improving to 6-3 and maintaining a significant edge over the Jets with the season sweep. The Buffalo Bills join the Jets at 5-4 after getting blown out by the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.
New England will prepare this week for another primetime game, this time taking on the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football at Gillette Stadium.