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Pats Edge Jets 17-16, Clinch 1st-Round Playoff Bye

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) scores a touchdown as New York Jets' Calvin Pryor (25) tackles him during the first half of Sunday's game on Dec. 21, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Bill Kostroun/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) scores a touchdown as New York Jets' Calvin Pryor (25) tackles him during the first half of Sunday's game on Dec. 21, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Bill Kostroun/AP)

Tom Brady and the Patriots can rest up during the first round of the playoffs.

Jonas Gray scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter after New England intercepted Geno Smith, and the Patriots clinched a bye with a 17-16 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.

Brady threw a 3-yard TD pass to Rob Gronkowski for the Patriots (12-3), who could earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs if Denver loses to Cincinnati on Monday night.

With the Jets (3-12) leading 13-10 late in the third quarter, Smith's pass for Jace Amaro hung in the air for an easy interception by Jamie Collins - which led to Gray's score minutes later.

Nick Folk had a 52-yard field goal attempt that could have given New York a lead with just over 5 minutes left. But it appeared to be partially blocked and fell short. Brady and the Patriots were then able to run out the clock for the win, sealed by Brandon Bolden's 17-yard run on third down with just under 2 minutes left.

Brady finished 23 of 35 for 182 yards, a modest showing while playing without wide receiver Julian Edelman (concussion) and running back LeGarrette Blount (shoulder).

Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis had a mostly quiet return to the Meadowlands, playing against his former team for the first time since signing with New England - except for the fans booing him when he made a tackle.

The game could have marked the final home appearance by Jets coach Rex Ryan, whose future with the team is uncertain in his sixth season. New York will miss the postseason for the fourth straight year, and Ryan and general manager John Idzik have come under heavy criticism by fans who have urged owner Woody Johnson to make changes.

Several waved yellow "penalty towels" at MetLife Stadium with the words "Fire Idzik!" printed in green. This latest loss certainly didn't make the Jets' faithful - or Ryan and Idzik - feel any better about their situation.

Gray squeaked into the end zone up the middle - a video review stood after Ryan insisted on the sideline that the running back's knee might have been down - to give the Patriots a 17-13 lead with 13:51 remaining.

The Jets then got into Patriots territory but stalled in the red zone - a common problem this season. They had to settle for a 37-yarder by Folk with 7:53 left that made it a one-point deficit at 17-16.

The Jets had a chance to take the lead with 5:16 remaining, but it appeared Vince Wilfork partially tipped Folk's try.

Marcus Williams' first NFL interception put the Jets in position to go ahead when Brady's pass tipped off Brandon LaFell and into his hands. But Dont'a Hightower sacked Smith on third-and-4 for a 10-yard loss, setting up Folk's long attempt.

Jets center Nick Mangold injured his left ankle in the second quarter and was carted off the field. New York also played without wide receiver Percy Harvin in the second half after he injured a rib.

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