He almost succeeded. Just a few hours before his New England Patriots played the New York Jets on Sunday, Brady was flipping through television channels and stopped when he saw his game-changing interception in a loss to Miami on Monday night.
Perhaps it served as motivation. Brady and his Patriots bounced back in a big way, blowing out their division rival 23-7 to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Jets (10-5) now must win their finale at St. Louis next week to be assured of making the AFC playoffs as a wild card.
“It was a long week,” Brady said. “Everyone who knows me knows how tough those weeks are. It was a great opportunity for this team to show what we’re made of. We suffered a tough one last week. This week that locker room is an elated group of guys.”
The Patriots (13-2) looked completely different from the squad that lost 29-28 to the lowly Dolphins and had some critics questioning whether the Super Bowl champions had finally lost a step.
“I guess we weren’t as beatable as everybody says we were,” Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel said.
Brady threw two touchdown passes and went 21-of-32 for 264 yards, making beautiful throws and good decisions after tying a career high with four picks against Miami.
“All the guys were embarrassed, ticked off, frustrated,” Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said. “You just can’t blow leads like that. It was very disappointing. Last week, a lot of guys got back to the basics. We came out and performed like the Patriots should perform.”
Pennington, who started a firestorm last week when he berated reporters for suggesting that he falls flat in big games, struggled again. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble while constantly overthrowing or underthrowing receivers.
He finished 22-of-36 for 252 yards, while Martin had season lows with 33 yards and 13 carries. Pennington is now 1-4 against the Patriots as a starter, with his lone win coming in 2002. The offense also failed to take advantage of a depleted New England secondary, which was without Ty Law (foot) for the eighth straight game and starting cornerback Randall Gay (arm).
“It’s one of those things that when it rains, it pours,” Pennington said. “We put a lot of work and preparation and it blew up in our faces. It’s disappointing, but thank goodness it wasn’t the last game of the season.”
But there was some bad news for the Patriots. Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour left the game with a leg injury in the third quarter. The extent of his injury was not immediately clear.
The Jets, desperate to prove they belong in the elite of the AFC, once again could not come through in a game against the upper echelon of the conference. They are 0-3 this season against New England and Pittsburgh, scoring a combined 20 points.
Fans booed their team in the home finale, and most headed for the exits in the third quarter.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma. “I’m not used to being on a team that’s considered second rate. I’m used to being on elite teams. We need to find a way to get the job done.”
Brady, meanwhile, had the Patriots humming. He led them to three scores in the second quarter, including a beautiful 16-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Graham. He added another touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, a 6-yarder to Deion Branch. One fan showed his disgust by throwing a plastic beer bottle on the field after the score.
Adam Vinatieri connected on three field goals (28, 29, 26) for New England.
“They just came down here and flat out kicked our behinds,” Jets coach Herman Edwards said. “We knew what was at stake. We needed to win a game at home to get in the playoffs and we didn’t do it.”
The Jets retired the No. 73 jersey of DL Joe Klecko at halftime. Klecko became the third player to have his number retired, joining QB Joe Namath and WR Don Maynard. … Curtis Martin set a career and team record for single-season rushing yards with 1,544, breaking his old mark of 1,513 set in 2001. … Corey Dillon set a New England record for single-season rushing yards with 1,519, breaking the old mark of 1,487 set by Martin in 1995.