Final

Patriots 21

(13-2, 6-2 away)

Jets 16

(6-9, 4-4 home)

8:30 PM ET, December 20, 2003

 

1 2 3 4 T
NE 7 7 7 021
NYJ 7 3 0 616

New England assumes NFL's best record

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New England Patriots can thank their defense for wrapping up their 11th straight win.

Willie McGinest returned an interception for a score and the Patriots picked off Chad Pennington four other times, keying a 21-16 victory Saturday night. Tom Brady also threw two touchdown passes to David Givens, but the offense struggled most of the game, keeping the Jets in it until the end.

With Kansas City's loss earlier in the day, the Patriots (13-2) now have the best record in the NFL. If the Indianapolis Colts lose Sunday to Denver, the Patriots would clinch a first-round bye.

The Jets (6-9) will finish the season with a losing record for the first time since 1996, when they went 1-15.

Pennington helped the Patriots win, throwing a career-high five interceptions -- including one in the end zone to Ty Law. Pennington had seven interceptions going into the game.

Fittingly, the Patriots ended the Jets' final rally with an interception. Eugene Wilson picked off Pennington to preserve the victory. Pennington finished 24-of-43 for 229 yards and two running scores.

Tedy Bruschi got the first pickoff on the second play of the game. It took eight seconds for the Patriots to score, when Brady threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Givens for a quick 7-0 lead.

The Jets answered with a 16-play drive that chewed up 9:20 and ended with Pennington running for a 1-yard TD to tie it up. With the Patriots struggling offensively, the defense stepped up again. McGinest returned an interception 15 yards for another score, the fifth time this season the Patriots returned a pickoff for a touchdown, tying a team record set in 2001.

New England has a total of six defensive touchdowns this season, which leads the NFL.

The Patriots were not done making big plays. After Brady threw his second TD pass of the game to Givens to make it 21-10 in the third quarter, the Jets drove down the field. Pennington threw a pass for Santana Moss in the end zone on third down from the Patriots' 21, but Law was there to intercept it -- stopping yet another drive.

But the Jets would not go quietly. Pennington scored on a 10-yard run early in the fourth to make it 21-16. The 2-point conversion try failed when he threw incomplete to Kevin Lockett. The Patriots punted away, and the Jets had the ball with a chance to go ahead.

Rodney Harrison made sure that did not happen, intercepting a deep pass intended for Moss. Tyrone Carter gave the Jets one last hope, intercepting a pass from Brady on the following possession. After getting the ball at their own 46, the Jets could do nothing and the drive ended when -- appropriately enough -- McGinest and Richard Seymour sacked Pennington.

Brady finished 12-of-25 for 138 yards and two scores, while Antowain Smith had 18 carries for 121 yards.

The Patriots could not muster much offensively in the first half, even though they entered Jets territory on all of their possessions. They had plenty of chances. After converting a fourth-and-1 from the Jets 36, they lost 3 yards on three plays and punted.

On their next possession, they had fourth-and-5 from the Jets 25, but Brady threw incomplete. The Jets took advantage, driving down to the Patriots' 5. But Jerald Sowell was whistled for a false start, driving the Jets back to the 11. They settled for a 29-yard field goal by Doug Brien just before halftime to make it 14-10.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ESPNBoston.com ESPNNewYork.com 

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERNENYJ
neTD14:20Touchdown
Drive info: 1 plays, 35 yds, 0:00
60
SECOND QUARTERNENYJ
neTD14:00Touchdown
Drive info: 1 plays, 15 yds, 0:00
137
FIRST QUARTERNENYJ
ne14:20
Drive info: 1 plays, 35 yds, 0:00
70
SECOND QUARTERNENYJ
ne14:00
Drive info: 1 plays, 15 yds, 0:00
147
THIRD QUARTERNENYJ
neTD11:13Touchdown
Drive info: 7 plays, 60 yds, 3:40
2010
ne11:13
Drive info: 7 plays, 60 yds, 3:40
2110
SECOND QUARTERNENYJ
nyjFG0:11Doug Brien 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 11 plays, 64 yds, 1:49
1410
FIRST QUARTERNENYJ
nyjTD5:30Chad Pennington, 1 yd run
Drive info: 16 plays, 83 yds, 8:36
76
nyj5:30
Drive info: 16 plays, 83 yds, 8:36
77
FOURTH QUARTERNENYJ
nyjTD12:18Chad Pennington, 10 yd run
Drive info: 12 plays, 58 yds, 15:53
2116