FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — They don’t talk much. They don’t strut much. They never have.

This year, all the New England Patriots are about is winning. And Monday night might have been their signature victory of the season.

In a game that meant everything for their playoff implications, the Patriots routed the rival New York Jets 45-3 before a raucous crowd at Gillette Stadium and a national television audience.

This was supposed to be a close game. Both teams were 9-2 coming in, but you couldn’t tell it once the game began.

Tom Brady, who ran onto the field for warmups clapping his hands and screaming, was surgical in cutting through the Jets’ third-ranked defense, throwing for 326 yards and four touchdowns – to four different receivers – to solidify his MVP credentials. The Patriots defense was ruthless in shutting down the Jets, intercepting Mark Sanchez three times in the second half – each one leading to a touchdown that expanded New England’s 21-point halftime lead to 42.

The quarterback ratings at the end of the game: Brady 148.8, Sanchez 27.8. Need you know anything else to know who won?

“That was a really great effort,” said Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. “It was the best 60 minutes of football we’ve played all year solid play, really from everybody.”

On a night where the Patriots honored retired linebacker Tedy Bruschi, called by owner Robert Kraft the “heart and soul of the Patriots” in his 13 years, they honored him further by playing with the kind of fury and passion that made him a fan favorite.

“I’m glad it could be on Tedy Bruschi Night,” said Belichick. “He was a part of a lot of games like this. I think we drew some inspiration from him.”

Because the Jets had already beaten the Patriots this season, 28-14 in Week 2, this was a game the Patriots had to win if they wanted any chance at the AFC East title and a first-round playoff bye.

“We needed to win the game,” said running back Danny Woodhead, the former Jet who caught four passes for 104 yards. “There’s a lot of good players on this team and the coaches put us in good positions to succeed. And I think you saw a lot of that in this game.”

Four games remain, and nothing is settled yet, but the Patriots, who at 10-2 share the NFL’s best record with the Atlanta Falcons, now have the upper hand over the 9-3 Jets.

Both teams still have to face Miami (6-6), Buffalo (2-10) and the Chicago Bears (9-3), who are playing as well as anyone right now. The Patriots still have a home game left with Green Bay (8-4), while the Jets have to play at Pittsburgh (9-3).

Belichick isn’t looking any further ahead than next Sunday’s game at Chicago.

“It’s nice to win, it’s great,” said Belichick. “There’s a quarter of the season to go yet.”

But the Patriots are in this position because their much-maligned defense – ranked 31st overall – continues to make plays and their rookies are no longer playing like rookies.

Two rookies made huge defensive plays in the third quarter.

Linebacker Brandon Spikes had the biggest pick of the game, leaping high to snag a Sanchez pass at the New England 2, the ball intended for Braylon Edwards in the end zone. The score at that time was 24-3.

The Patriots then drove 93 yards in eight plays to score on a Brady 18-yard pass to Wes Welker, who caught the ball at the 15 and overran a Jets defender into the end zone.

Next up, rookie cornerback Devin McCourty grabbed his sixth interception of the season, at the Patriots 6 on a deep ball to Edwards. The only Patriot rookie with more interceptions was Mike Haynes, who is now in the NFL Hall of Fame.

It took the Patriots just eight plays to go the 94 yards, with Brady throwing to a wide-open Aaron Hernandez for his fourth touchdown pass. That made it 38-3.

James Sanders’ interception led to BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ second touchdown, which made it 45-3.

“We got our butts kicked,” said Rex Ryan, the normally vocal Jets coach who simplified the outcome. “We got outcoached and outplayed.”


Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]