Patriots rolling, Jets faltering as regular season nears end

For the season, the Patriots defense has forced 21 turnovers.

Eric Rowe, Brandon Marshall
New England Patriots defensive back Eric Rowe (25) intercepts a pass intended for New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Another week, another win, another reason to believe the Patriots are the team to beat in the AFC.

New England played it safe in the final two weeks of the regular season a year ago, and it might have cost them a trip to the Super Bowl.

But Saturday’s dominating 41-3 win over the Jets put the AFC on notice that the Patriots aren’t in cruise control this time around.

Patriots close in on AFC top seed with 41-3 win over Jets

Tom Brady did what he has done so many times during his career, throwing three touchdowns in three quarters of work to add to his growing MVP candidacy.

He said he has no plans of taking it easy in next week’s regular-season finale at Miami.

“No, we are pretty focused on this week,” Brady said. “It was just a quick six games before these last two games and the schedule has been pretty tough. We have eight days before we play Miami, but I expect to go out there and try to be at my best.”

This latest win wasn’t just all about Brady, though.

The defense also put together its second straight signature performance. It forced four Jets turnovers and allowed just eight completions by New York quarterbacks Bryce Petty and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

For the season, the Patriots defense has forced 21 turnovers.

“Once you start doing things week in and week out, you start to conquer teams,” said cornerback Malcolm Butler, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

INJURY UPDATE

For the second straight week, Petty’s day ended early when he went to the sideline in the first quarter with a dislocated left shoulder. Petty was also forced out of the game in last week’s loss to Miami.

On Saturday, he said he hurt his non-throwing shoulder, but it popped back in when he rolled over on it.

He was replaced by Fitzpatrick, but it did little to improve New York’s fortunes on offense.

Coach Todd Bowles said some tests need to be done on Petty to determine his status next week.

“He didn’t come back in, so I’m assuming it’s got to be somewhat serious,” said Bowles, who rejoined the team Saturday after being hospitalized Friday with what he said was “kidney stones, gallstones, gallbladder.”

INJURY PLAGUE

It’s no secret that injuries have ravaged the Jets. Cornerback Darrelle Revis acknowledged that they have been tough to overcome, but said the bigger issue has been keeping the healthy people on the same page.

“We’ve got … 15 guys, maybe, on (injured reserve). It’s just been tough,” Revis said. “Guys are not executing and they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do, (which is) follow the game plan.”

He said it’s not been an isolated issue.

“That’s been happening all year, though. It’s just been a struggle for us. It is what it is at this point. We’ve got one more game left and hopefully we’ll try to get a win and go into the offseason.”

SLEEPY FLOYD

Michael Floyd caught his first pass since the Patriots claimed him from Arizona following a DUI arrest in which he was found asleep behind the wheel of his SUV with a blood-alcohol content of .217 percent.

“It feels great,” said Floyd, who had one reception for 6 yards. “The capabilities and goals that they have on this team is great and I’m happy I’m on this team and can contribute whenever I can.”

Floyd was arrested Dec. 12 in Scottsdale, Arizona, with what police said was a blood-alcohol level almost three times the legal limit. He also had three alcohol-related incidents involving police when he was in college at Notre Dame, including a DUI arrest.

After the Patriots claimed him, they brought him to Denver to stand on the sideline but did not activate him for the game against the Broncos.

“I have a lot of confidence in him,” Brady said. “And hopefully he can add something.”

BACKUP GRONKS

Tight end Matt Lengel caught his first career pass for his first career touchdown, an 18-yarder across the middle to give the Patriots a 20-0 lead late in the first half. He’s the 64th player to catch a TD from Brady.

Call it an early gift of sorts for Lengel, who will turn 26 on Dec. 27.

“Definitely ranks as the best Christmas gift, and birthday gift I could ever have,” Lengel said.

The Patriots don’t seem to be having trouble replacing All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is out for the season with a back injury. In his first year in New England, Martellus Bennett has 52 catches for 668 yards and six touchdowns.

Lengel was an undrafted free agent who spent last season on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad. The Patriots signed him last month when Gronkowski was injured.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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