FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The knee was on the ground and the ball was punched out. The opposing receiver’s left toe appeared to touch the out-of-bounds line.

Bill Belichick, the head coach of the New England Patriots, didn’t have a lot of time to think about either play, but he reacted quickly. Twice Belichick challenged a ruling on the field. Twice he was right — and both were huge plays in the Patriots 30-21 victory over the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.

The first challenge came on the third play of the third quarter, with the Pats leading 10-7. Wes Welker had brought a Brady pass 73 yards to the Jets’ 7. On second down from the 6, Brady rolled right and threw to Deion Branch, who slid at the 2 to catch the ball. As he was trying to get up, Jets’ back Darrelle Revis reached in and punched the ball out and the Jets’ Mike DeVito recovered the ball at the 7.

Drive stopped. But Belichick challenged the play, saying Branch’s knee was down when Revis touched him. And replays showed he was right, so the Pats kept the ball at the 2 and scored on the next play, another pass to Branch — who confessed afterward that he wasn’t sure the call on the fumble would be reversed.

“Honestly, even when I saw it on the JumboTron, I knew it was going to be a close one,” he said. “I mean, it could go either way. It was one of those bang-bang plays. Yeah, my knee was down, but it could have gone the other way.”

He was glad it went New England’s way. “That would have been bad.”

Late in the third quarter, with New England ahead 24-14, Mark Sanchez threw a ball to Plaxico Burress that was ruled a 22-yard catch on the Patriots sideline. Again, Belichick challenged the call, thinking that Burress’ left toe didn’t come down in-bounds, and replays proved him correct, forcing the Jets to punt.

“Good plays, good calls from upstairs,” said Belichick, who went through what his assistants saw on the replays to prompt his challenges. “Good job by our assistant coaches, the guys upstairs, Ernie Adams and the other coaches that saw that.”

PORTLAND’S FAVORITE Patriot, Thomas Welch, saw more time in the Pats sub-package on offense. He was used as a third tight end several times, and sometimes lined up as the right tackle. Welch’s father, Dwayne, is from Westbrook and graduated from Cheverus High.

Welch, 6-foot-7, 310 pounds, was drafted in the seventh round by the Pats in 2010. He saw his first NFL action last week in Oakland and knows he’s in a good situation.

“We’ve got some good coaches here,” he said. “They tell you exactly what you’ve got to do. You just got to go out and execute and hopefully everything turns out well.”

Welch still has relatives in the Portland area and hopes to visit them soon.

“I used to get up there a lot, but not lately, I’ve been pretty busy,” he said. “I’m going to try to get up there pretty soon.”

FORMER UMAINE players Mike DeVito and Matt Mulligan did their thing for the Jets. DeVito, a defensive lineman, was credited with three tackles (though he seemed to be in a lot more plays), and Mulligan had one catch for four yards.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH