Lewis scores twice, Patriots secure home-field with 26-6 win (Dec 31, 2017)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Bill Belichick made it a priority to get his team prepared for frigid weather leading up to the Patriots' regular-season finale against the New York Jets.
With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs following a 26-6 victory on Sunday, the AFC's road to the Super Bowl will again run through New England.
Dion Lewis ran for a touchdown and caught a scoring pass, helping the Patriots wrap up the top seed. The win clinched the seventh 13-win season for the Patriots (13-3), which is second in NFL history to San Francisco's nine seasons.
It was also Belichick's 250th career regular-season win, moving him into a tie with Tom Landry for third all-time among head coaches.
New England has defeated New York in four straight meetings, and the Patriots haven't lost to the Jets (5-11) at home during the regular season with Tom Brady starting since 2006. Brady's 13th win as a starter this season tied him with Brett Favre for the most by a starting quarterback at age 40 or older.
''Our biggest games are ahead of us,'' Brady said. ''We're 13-3, that's the best in the AFC, that's what we're playing for, so that's pretty good.''
Lewis finished with a season-high 26 carries for 93 yards . Brandin Cooks had 11 catches for 79 yards and touchdown for New England, which will have a first-round bye in the playoffs. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was held without a catch for the first time this season.
James Harrison, signed by New England last Tuesday after being cut by Pittsburgh, had two sacks - on consecutive plays to end the game - and finished with five total tackles and a forced fumble.
''I always wonder why I'm not playing,'' Harrison said when asked if this was statement game for him. ''Like they say, it's never easy and it's never late. It's just timing.''
Temperatures dipped into the low-teens at kickoff, but it didn't stop the Patriots from being aggressive at the outset.
They won the coin toss and elected to receive, going away from their typical decision to defer until the second half. Brady and the offense went to work, quickly moving 75 yards in just 13 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard TD run by Lewis. The drive included a fourth-down pass conversion, one of three hookups between Brady and Danny Amendola in the series.
Penalties on the Jets' defense aided New England's final two scores of the first half. Safety Marcus Maye was called for a 39-yard pass interference penalty early in the second quarter that set up a 5-yard TD pass from Brady to Cooks that made it 14-3.
Then just before halftime, New York cornerback Juston Burris was flagged for defensive holding on a Patriots third-down pass attempt. New England got into the end zone three plays later via another 5-yard TD pass, this time from Brady to Lewis.
The Jets' offense was anemic throughout with Bryce Petty playing the entire game at quarterback after it appeared Christian Hackenberg might see his first regular-season action at some point in the finale. New York was 0 for 12 on third down and 0 for 1 in its lone trip into the red zone.
''We stuck together,'' linebacker David Bass said. ''We went through adversity, ups and downs, but more downs than we wanted. We stuck together through it all.''
Patriots safety Devin McCourty said getting the top seed shows the toughness of a team that lost key players such as Julian Edelman and Dont'a Hightower to injury.
''Those things we went through, when you wrap up the 2017 season, molded us, shaped us,'' McCourty said. ''You look back on all that now, we needed all that.''
Jets: CB Morris Claiborne left briefly in the first quarter, but was able to return. ... Maye limped off the field in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. ... WR Robby Anderson left after a fourth-quarter hit from Stephon Gilmore to have his head evaluated. Coach Todd Bowles said after the game that Anderson suffered a concussion.
Patriots: LB Elandon Roberts was shaken up on a play in the third quarter.
The Patriots have three players with 1,000-plus scrimmage yards in the same season for the first time in franchise history: Lewis, Gronkowski, Cooks.
It was 13 degrees at kickoff, and the Patriots wanted to make sure their visitors knew it.
A thermometer was hung in the Jets' tunnel on Sunday. New York players filed past on their way to and from the field before the game .
It was the coldest regular-season home game in Patriots history. They had a playoff games that was colder - a divisional round game against the Tennessee Titans on Jan. 10, 2004, when it was 4 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like minus 10.
Jets safety Jamal Adams went out pregame without a shirt to test the weather. He soon got a text from his mother.
''I put my shirt on, real quick,'' he said.
Brady's 48.6 completion percentage (18 of 37) marked only the second time this season he completed less than 50 percent of his passes. He completed 44.4 percent (16 of 36) in the Patriots' season-opening loss to Kansas City. Before that, it hadn't happened since Oct. 20, 2013, in a 30-27 road loss to the Jets.
Patriots: Have a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
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