FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady finally got plenty of help — from a running back who nobody drafted and a defense that everybody exploited.
The New England Patriots used their most complete game of the season to beat the New York Jets 30-21 on Sunday in the latest renewal of their fierce rivalry.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns, the Patriots allowed a season-low 255 and Brady threw for 321 after starting the day with an NFL-best 388 yards passing per game.
“Obviously, our passing game has been unreal,” said Green-Ellis, signed in 2008 as a rookie free agent from Mississippi, “so we want to be an offense that can be able to do whatever we want to do, run or pass, and complement our defense.”
The Patriots (4-1) never trailed and won their 19th straight regular-season game at home. The Jets (2-3) lost their third straight.
“I never thought we’d have a three-game losing streak like this,” quarterback Mark Sanchez said. “It’s just frustrating.”
The Patriots had allowed an average of 477.5 yards, the most in the league. But they held Sanchez to 16 completions in 26 attempts for 166 yards and two touchdowns one week after he threw for just 119 yards in a 34-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
“I think every week we’ve been getting better and better and better (defensively) and today was a good day to get back on track,” defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said.
And they did it without star linebacker Jerod Mayo, sidelined for the first time this season with a serious knee sprain.
“You can’t fill his shoes. He’s a playmaker,” Patriots safety James Ihedigbo said, “Gary Guyton and Brandon Spikes did a great job of communicating (in place of Mayo) and we played like a unit.”
In the most recent meeting of the rivalry, Sanchez outplayed Brady in New York’s 28-21 playoff win on Jan. 16. But the crowd was unusually subdued throughout the first half Sunday, perhaps because of the lackluster play that included six penalties by each team.
Few players referred to the rivalry after the game.
Brady had another strong game, completing 24 of 33 passes for one touchdown and one interception as the Patriots scored at least 30 points for the 13th straight regular-season game.
“Obviously, they’re the better team right now,” said Jets coach Rex Ryan, his usual bravado missing. “Against New England, you’ve got to get off the field. They did a great job sustaining drives. You’ve got to give them all the credit. They earned it.”
New England scored the first 10 points and led 10-7 at halftime.
The Jets staged a comeback after falling behind 27-14, marching 85 yards to a 21-yard scoring pass from Sanchez to Santonio Holmes. Sanchez was 5 for 6 on the drive for 65 yards — more than 40 percent of his total for the game.
But the Patriots came right back, holding the ball for 6:12 and scoring with 1:02 remaining on Stephen Gostkowski’s 28-yard field goal, his third of the game.
On the first play of the third quarter, Brady and Wes Welker connected for a 73-yard gain. Three plays later, a wide-open Deion Branch caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brady on the left side of the end zone.
“I took my eyes off of him,” cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. “I took one peep. As soon as I peeped, he went the opposite way. That’s all on me.”
The Jets struck right back when Joe McKnight returned the kickoff 88 yards one week after scoring on a 107-yard kickoff return. New York needed just three plays to reach the end zone on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Jeremy Kerley, cutting the lead to 17-14.
Green-Ellis, who had 27 carries, then scored his second 3-yard touchdown with 1:20 left in the third quarter, and Gostkowski added a 24-yard field goal with 12:57 to go in the game.
“BenJarvus is a great guy to block for,” Patriots guard Logan Mankins said. “He reads the play out, he finds the hole and he won’t fumble.”
The Jets failed to get a first down on their first four possessions, punting on each one.
“I don’t know the reason we came out so slow,” Sanchez said. “It’s really too bad.”
But on their next series, they held the ball for 7:54 and scored on Shonn Greene’s 3-yard run, the 13th play of a 78-yard drive, as they cut the lead to 10-7.
The Patriots got the ball with 3:17 left in the half and had a second-and-10 on the Jets 11 with 9 seconds remaining. Brady threw the ball to Aaron Hernandez at the goal line, but the tight end deflected it and Cromartie caught it behind him, returning the interception 42 yards as time ran out.
It was the first regular-season red-zone interception Brady has thrown at home in his career.
New England had taken a 7-0 lead when Green-Ellis scored on a 3-yard run midway through the first quarter.
It went to 10-0 on a 44-yard field goal by Gostkowski with 11:15 left in the second quarter. The Jets appeared to have the Patriots stopped when Hernandez failed to catch Brady’s pass on third-and-five at the Jets 39, but Kyle Wilson was called for illegal contact, giving the Patriots a first down.
Notes: The Patriots’ 13 straight regular-season games of at least 30 points are one less than the record set by the St. Louis Rams in 1999-2000. … Jets C Nick Mangold played after missing the past two games with a high right ankle sprain. … The Patriots had Hernandez and DT Albert Haynesworth back after they also were sidelined for two games. … Jets WR Plaxico Burress had three catches for 42 yards in his first game against the Patriots since catching the winning touchdown pass in the final minute of the New York Giants’ 17-14 Super Bowl win over New England in Feb. 2008.