EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- At least the Jets didn't get Gronked by New England.
Instead, they got punked.
The Patriots humiliated the Jets by taking advantage of a second quarter of home-team slapstick that made the Rich Kotite era look dignified, and went on to a 49-19 victory Thursday at MetLife Stadium.
Despite the absence of injured Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and ran for one. And the Patriots scored twice in the second quarter when their offense wasn't on the field, off fumbles by Mark Sanchez and Joe McKnight.
Instead of turning their season around, the Jets (4-7) have faded from contention in the AFC East Division with New England (8-3) again in complete control of the division. The Jets' wild-card chances also took a huge hit, as they likely would have to run the table to have a chance.
Both teams went three and out on their first possessions, then New England blew a scoring chance. After a 28-yard pass from Brady to Aaron Hernandez gave the Patriots a first down at the Jets 22, two plays gained only 1 yard. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt wide left.
The Jets, however, returned the favor. They drove from their 30 to a second-and-6 at the New England 23 when Sanchez had his pass intercepted by safety Steve Gregory, who missed the first meeting between the teams a month ago with a hip injury.
New England used the momentum for a 15-play, 84-yard touchdown drive, capped by Wes Welker's 3-yard reception from Brady on the first play of the second quarter. He beat cornerback Ellis Lankster, who may have thought he had help from Kyle Wilson, but did not.
That was only the beginning of the Jets' worst quarter of 2012, and worst in many years.
On their next drive, the Jets moved to the New England 31, where they faced a fourth-and-1. Shonn Greene tried to extend the ball for a first down and Brandon Spikes popped it free. It went forward and Gregory recovered at the New England 19 and was tackled on the 17. On the next play, Brady threw to wide-open running back Shane Vereen along the right sideline, and he outraced the entire Jets defense for an 83-yard score with 9:43 left in the first half.
It was the first of three New England touchdowns in a span of 52 seconds. On the second play of the next possession, a broken play resulted in Sanchez having no running back to take his handoff. He turned upfield and gained 1 yard, but slid into the rear end of right guard Brandon Moore. It looked comical, but it wasn't funny for the Jets. The ball came loose and Gregory, a Staten Island native, returned it 32 yards for a 21-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, McKnight had the ball punched loose by Devin McCourty. Julian Edelman picked it out of the air and raced 22 yards for another embarrassing touchdown. New England led, 28-0, with 8:51 left in the half.
The Jets finally held on to the ball on their next series and managed two first downs, but the possession ended when an unblocked Jerod Mayo sacked Sanchez for a 9-yard loss. New England then took all of 1:53 to go 73 yards in four plays, the payoff being Brady's 56-yard strike to Edelman.Steelers