EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. It took only 52 seconds for the New England Patriots to turn this into a laugher.
That’s how long it took to score three touchdowns in the second quarter and thoroughly embarrass the bumbling New York Jets 49-19 on Thursday night.
Even Bill Belichick couldn’t compare what he watched to any other regular-season game in which he has coached.
“I was unfortunately on the other side of that in a Pro Bowl where they scored on a fumble, then an interception,” Belichick said. “It doesn’t take a lot to score like that – defensive touchdowns, special teams, they can add up in a hurry.
“Nothing surprises me in the NFL.”
Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score as the Patriots (8-3) took advantage of five turnovers and used a 35-point second quarter to cruise past the Jets (4-7).
“It was a great job coming in on a short week against a team that knows us really well,” Brady said, “and playing all four quarters.”
It was a scoreless opening period, but the Patriots then went on a touchdown spree despite holding the ball for only 2:14 as the Jets kept giving the ball away. New England’s 35 second-quarter points tied for the fourth-most in a quarter in NFL history.
Disgusted Jets 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.
“Shoot, I don’t blame them for booing,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
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 Belichick become the eighth coach in NFL history with 200 career victories, including the playoffs.
“There’s no coach I’d ever want to play for than him,” Brady said.
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 as New England set a franchise record with 108 points in a two-game stretch.
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.
“It all happened so fast,” Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo said. “I’ve never been part of anything like that, but I’m glad that we were on the right side of it.”
Meanwhile, the Jets allowed their most points since giving up 52 to Miami in the 1995 season opener, and will likely have to win their remaining five games to even have an outside chance at the postseason.
“Discouraged? Of course,” Ryan said. “I’ll put it to you this way: We’re about as wounded as you possibly can be, but we’re not dead.”
New England was without star tight end Rob Gronkowski, out a few weeks after breaking his left forearm against Indianapolis. It 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 – revealing after the game that he has two broken ribs – 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 going wide left on a 39-yard field goal attempt for New England. 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.
“That was crazy,” Sanchez said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. This is a team you can’t turn the ball over against because they make you pay. That was a great display of that today.”
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 by 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, fumbled the ensuing kickoff on a hit by Devin McCourty. Edelman grabbed the ball out of the air and scooted 22 yards for yet another score.
“That was quick,” Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. “They were some of the quickest scores I’ve ever seen on any level. As a defense, that’s a good sign, when we’re putting good pressure on the ball. It then means something when the offense capitalizes on the mistakes we caused.”
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. Belichick would say only “we’ll see,” when asked about Edelman’s injury.