Tom Brady tried to avoid watching the highlights, or lowlights, of his performance against the Miami Dolphins. He almost succeeded. Just a few hours before his New England Patriots...
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Tom Brady tried to avoid watching the highlights, or lowlights, of his performance against the Miami Dolphins.
He almost succeeded. Just a few hours before his New England Patriots played the New York Jets yesterday, Brady was flipping through television channels and stopped when he saw his game-changing interception in a loss to Miami on Monday night.
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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) 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 completed 21 of 32 for 264 yards, making beautiful throws and good decisions after tying a career high with four interceptions against Miami.
The Patriots’ defense, which surrendered an 11-point lead with four minutes left in the Miami game, harassed Chad Pennington and stopped Curtis Martin, the NFL’s leading rusher.
“All the guys were embarrassed, ticked off, frustrated (about Monday),” 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 berated reporters last week 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 hit 22 of 36 throws for 252 yards, while Martin had season lows with 33 yards and 13 carries.
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.
Pennington is 1-4 against the Patriots as a starter — his lone win coming in 2002.
“It’s one of those things that when it rains, it pours,” Pennington said. “We put in 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.”