FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady turned this anticipated classic into a classic rout.
Brady doesn’t lose many big games, certainly not at home and definitely not with so much on the line. He threw for four touchdowns and 326 yards Monday night in New England’s 45-3 romp past the New York Jets for his NFL-record 26th straight regular-season home victory.
In surpassing Brett Favre’s mark for consecutive wins in the comforts of his own stadium, Brady also lifted the Patriots (10-2) to the best record in the AFC. If this was for bragging rights in the conference, Rex Ryan and the Jets (9-3) will have to be silent for a while.
“We don’t listen to the hype,” Brady said. “I don’t think we ever have. We really take after our coach and he says ‘When you win, say little. When you lose, say less.'”
It was a mismatch from the start. The Jets, who had won eight successive road games, five this season, came in with a vaunted defense and an offense that had come alive behind second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez and big-play receiver Santonio Holmes.
But Brady didn’t have to sweat anything in his second straight game with four TD passes and no interceptions — and 12th such game of his career. He hasn’t been picked off in seven consecutive games.
New York couldn’t produce a pass rush and its blitzes were fruitless most of the night. With 4:40 remaining in the third quarter, the Patriots already were over their 30.4 points per game average that leads the league.
And when the star quarterback wasn’t doing the damage, former Jets running back Danny Woodhead was. He turned a shovel pass into a 50-yard gain, had a 35-yard jaunt with another short pass and made Ryan even more regretful to have let him escape earlier this season.
Brady moved into 13th place all-time with 252 TD passes; he has thrown for 27 TDs and been intercepted only four times as the three-time Super Bowl winner makes a strong case for his second league MVP award.
“That’s what makes Tom the quarterback he is,” coach Bill Belichick said.
The Jets gave the Patriots plenty of help all night. Nick Folk’s missed field goal came before BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 1-yard run, and Steve Weatherford’s 12-yard punt led to Deion Branch’s 25-yard TD.
New England’s 32nd-ranked pass defense intercepted three of Sanchez’s passes in snapping the Jets’ four-game winning streak, all against teams with losing records. Indeed, every Jets victory this season except the one against New England in Week 2 is over a team currently with a .500 or worse record.
Conversely, the Patriots own wins over the Steelers, Ravens and Jets — by far the best teams in the conference thus far. And they are even with Atlanta, the NFC leader at 10-2.
New England moved swiftly downfield on the opening series before stalling on three straight incompletions — none close to hitting the target — from the Jets 23. It was the only time Brady struggled.
Shayne Graham’s 41-yard field goal made it 3-0.
Then the gambling began, with New York going on fourth-and-1 from its 46 and converting on Shonn Greene’s 2-yard run. But when Ryan took a chance on a 53-yard field goal, Folk came up well short.
The Patriots didn’t come up short after taking over at their 43. Helped greatly by a 36-yard pass interference penalty on safety Eric Smith, who was replacing regular Jim Leonhard (broken shin), New England needed just six plays to take a 10-point lead on Green-Ellis’ 1-yard plunge.
The expected classic was turning ugly early.
Weatherford didn’t help New York’s case, either, with his shank on the Jets’ next possession. He angrily pushed a chain gang member on the sideline after the kick, perhaps sensing Brady wouldn’t waste the opportunity from the New York 32.
He didn’t, but it took another risk as the Patriots went for a fourth-and-3 from the Jets 25. In the face of a yet another blitz, Brady calmly threw to Deion Branch, who broke Antonio Cromartie’s feeble tackle and sprinted into the end zone.
That brought a familiar sight for Brady and company: Gillette Stadium rocking while the Patriots are rolling past another opponent.
Although the Jets got a 39-yard field goal from Folk, they were totally outclassed. Their defense managed three sacks in the first half, which meant little because Brady found the range when he needed to — again and again.
Woodhead’s sprint with a short pass for a 35-yard gain spearheaded the next touchdown drive that Brady capped with a 4-yard throw to Brandon Tate. Although Tate’s arm came down out of bounds with only one leg landing in the end zone, the Jets didn’t challenge.
Actually, they never really challenged all night.
Notes: The Patriots honored former linebacker Tedy Bruschi at halftime. … It was the Jets’ worst loss since 45-3 to Miami on another Monday nighter, in 1986. New York was 10-1 then, but ravaged by injuries it lost its final five regular-season games. … The Jets lost S James Ihedbigo with a right ankle injury. … LaDainian Tomlinson passed Eric Dickerson for sixth in career yards rushing with 13,278. He had 47 yards Monday night.