EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Tom Brady and the New England Patriots put this game — and the New York Jets’ ugly season — away early.
At least it was competitive for a quarter. By halftime, it was a big-time laugher.
Brady threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score as the Patriots thoroughly embarrassed the Jets with a 35-point second quarter in a 49-19 victory Thursday night.
After a scoreless opening quarter, the Patriots (8-3) went on a touchdown spree despite holding the ball for only 2:14 as they took advantage of several mistakes by Rex Ryan’s hapless Jets (4-7). Their 35 second-quarter points tied for the fourth-most in a quarter in NFL history.
Fans were chanting for Tim Tebow to play before the second quarter of this Thanksgiving showdown was over, and booing as the team left the MetLife Stadium field at halftime.
New England, which beat Indianapolis 59-24 on Sunday, scored four touchdowns in just over 6 minutes — including three in a jaw-dropping 52-second span — helping Bill Belichick become the eighth coach in NFL history with 200 career victories, including the playoffs.
Julian Edelman returned a fumble for a touchdown and caught a 56-yard pass for a score before leaving with a head injury. Wes Welker and Shane Vereen had touchdown catches, Steve Gregory returned a fumble for a score, and Stevan Ridley ran for a touchdown.
The Patriots improved to 19-0 in the second half of the season since 2010. They were 8-0 that year and last year, and are 3-0 this season after the midway point.
Meanwhile, the Jets allowed their most points since giving up 52 to Miami in the 1995 season opener, and will likely have to win all of their remaining five games to even have an outside chance at the postseason.
New England was without star tight end Rob Gronkowski, out a few weeks after breaking his left forearm in the win Sunday against Indianapolis. They didn’t need him — not with the Jets fumbling and bumbling around.
Brady finished 18 of 28 for 323 yards before leaving with 2 minutes left in the game. He reached 3,000 yards passing for the 10th time, becoming one of six players to accomplish the feat. He also passed Dan Fouts for 10th place on the career passing list.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez returned after missing three games with a sprained ankle and had two catches for 36 yards.
New York’s Mark Sanchez was 26 of 36 for 301 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Tebow didn’t play at all — nursing sore ribs that made him questionable for the game — and stood on the sideline with a cap on throughout despite the occasional chants for him to get some snaps.
It looked as though this one might be a close one as both teams missed opportunities to score in the opening quarter, including Stephen Gostkowski being wide left on a 39-yard field goal attempt. The Jets were hoping to boost their playoff hopes and keep some momentum going after a 27-13 victory at St. Louis last Sunday that snapped a three-game skid.
But this one got ugly in a hurry.
The Patriots jumped on a poor decision by Sanchez, who ruined a nice drive by keying in on Jeremy Kerley on second-and-6 from the 23. Gregory read the play the whole way for an easy interception.
Brady then led the Patriots on a 15-play, 84-yard drive that was capped on Welker’s 3-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the second quarter.
New England was helped by a questionable neutral- zone infraction by Muhammad Wilkerson on third-and-4 from the Jets 49, and a facemask penalty on Ellis Lankster on second-and-10 from the 32 that gave the Patriots the ball at the 9.
The Jets made another costly mistake on their next possession when Shonn Greene fumbled on fourth-and-inches from the Patriots 31 and Gregory recovered.
Brady threw a swing pass on first down to Vereen, who zipped down the left sideline untouched for an 83-yard touchdown that made it 14-0 with 9:43 remaining in the opening half.
The Patriots were back in the end zone moments later when Sanchez fumbled on second down as he fell when right guard Brandon Moore’s backside slammed into him. Gregory picked up the ball and ran it 32 yards for a score to put New England up 21-0.
And, the Patriots weren’t done.
Joe McKnight, one of the league’s top returners, took the ensuing kickoff and fumbled it on a hit by Devin McCourty. Edelman picked up the ball and scooted 22 yards for yet another score, giving New England a 28-0 lead.
Edelman caught a 56-yard pass from Brady to make it 35-0 with 3:08 left in the first half. The receiver left the game early in the third quarter on a helmet-to-helmet hit by LaRon Landry on an end-around during which he fumbled.
Jets wide receiver Clyde Gates also left the game with a head injury in the second quarter after a hard hit from Kyle Arrington.
Nick Folk kicked a 32-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in the half — and a single firework popped above the stadium.
Ridley was called for a chop block in the end zone midway through the third quarter, giving the Jets a safety. Bilal Powell had a 4-yard touchdown run, his third in two games, to make it 35-12 late in the period.
Brady’s 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter gave the Patriots a 42-12 lead, and Ridley scored on a 9-yard run less than a minute later.
Dustin Keller caught a 1-yard scoring toss from Sanchez with just over 2 minutes left — long after most of the stadium had emptied.