EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New England Patriots tied a franchise record by scoring 35 points in the second quarter -- a stretch in which they scored a touchdown in all three facets of the game in a 52-second span -- as they routed the New York Jets 49-19 on Thursday night at a rapidly emptying MetLife Stadium.
The Patriots (8-3) won their fifth in a row, a streak in which they have scored 219 points, and moved closer to locking up the AFC East for the ninth time in 10 years. That would tie the San Francisco 49ers (NFC West from 1986 through 1995) for the most division championships over a decade-long stretch. The Patriots have scored 108 points alone in their last two wins, the third-most all-time.
Tom Brady was 18-of-28 for 323 yards and three touchdowns, but the real star for the Patriots was safety Steve Gregory, who set up New England's first two touchdowns with an interception and a fumble recovery and returned a fumble 32 yards for the Patriots' third score.
The Jets (4-7) committed five turnovers and lost four fumbles in losing for the fourth time in their last five games as their playoff hopes were all but extinguished. Only the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars recovered from a 4-7 start to reach the postseason.
The Jets looked like anything but a playoff team during the Patriots' historic second quarter. After failing to score in the first quarter for the first time all year, the Patriots wasted no time beginning the rout as Brady tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker on the first play of the period.
The touchdown was set up by Gregory's interception of Mark Sanchez at the Patriots' 15-yard-line. Of Sanchez's 15 turnovers this season, 10 have come in the opponent's territory.
The mistakes were just beginning for the Jets, who, on their next series, went for it on 4th-and-1 from the Patriots' 31. But Shonn Greene had the ball punched out as he wrestled for the yardage and Gregory recovered it about 15 yards down the field. On the next play, Brady threw to a wide-open Shane Vereen in the flat and Vereen raced untouched 83 yards down the left sideline.
The Jets appeared to bottom out -- literally -- on their next series, when Sanchez ran into the backside of guard Brandon Moore on a scramble and lost the ball, which Gregory picked up and returned 32 yards for a touchdown.
Amazingly, things got even worse on the ensuing kickoff, which Joe McKnight fumbled and Julian Edelman returned 22 yards to put the Patriots up 28-0.
The Patriots extended the lead to 35-0 on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Edelman. The 35-point second quarter tied the franchise record for most points scored in a quarter, set when the Patriots put up 35 on the Titans in the second quarter of their 59-0 win on Oct. 18, 2009.
The Jets "closed" to 35-3 at the half on Nick Folk's 32-yard field goal, which was greeted with an untimely fireworks display as well as derisive cheers from the fans still in attendance. Many of those fans cheered for Tim Tebow throughout the second quarter, but the popular backup, who was listed as questionable with a rib injury, never saw the field in any capacity.
The beleaguered Sanchez was 26-of-36 for 301 yards and a touchdown for the Jets, who got within 35-12 thanks to a safety and a four-yard touchdown run by Bilal Powell before the Patriots opened the fourth quarter with 14 straight points.
NOTES: Edelman and Jets wide receiver Clyde Gates each left and did not return with head injuries. ... The Jets, whose active roster was at just 50 players following the release of Marcus Dowtin and Jason Hill earlier this week, signed wide receiver Jordan White and cornerbacks Darrin Walls and Donnie Fletcher from their practice squad prior to the game. ... The Patriots activated lineman Markus Zusevics from the non-football injury list and waived wide receiver Greg Salas. ... The Jets and Patriots were each playing on Thanksgiving for the fifth time since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. The Jets also played on Thanksgiving three times as a member of the AFL. ... The Jets honored 100 Hurricane Sandy first responders during pre-game ceremonies.