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Patriots turn Jets into butt of joke

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  November 23, 2012 10:47 AM

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OK, no more puns about buns, promise. But you must agree that if there's a single play that symbolizes not just the Patriots' 49-19 thrashing of the Jets Thanksgiving night but the current standing of the respective franchises ... well, you probably don't need to be told which particular play that would be.

It was the redefinition of the term "head-butt" (sorry, last one, honest), and it was part of NFL legend before the first half was complete. Unless there's a Ryan Leaf blunder I've forgotten, Mark Sanchez must be the first quarterback in NFL history to get laid out and have a fumble forced by his own lineman's backside.

Depending upon your rooting interests, it was either hilarious or humiliating, with no open field in between. I haven't confirmed on the stat sheet, but I believe Jets' guard Brandon Moore's rear end was among the Jets leading tacklers last night. It may have even been credited with a half-sack.

While the Jets are perfectly capable of making themselves look foolish, this particular shame was initiated by Vince Wilfork, who snowplowed Moore into Sanchez while the quarterback was trying to salvage a busted play. You can watch it all unfold in this clip ...

... and it's guaranteed it will make an appearance on every Football Follies DVD from now until they begin stuffing the football rather than blowing it up.

It's too bad Steve Sabol isn't with us to provide context on where it would rank among the goofiest gaffes in NFL history, but it should be noted that the most infamous blunders in league history -- Joe Pisarcik's fumble ...

... Leon Lett's various comedic brain-locks, whatever -- did not begin with head-on collision with a teammate's butt. That was comedic genius at its best. I'm putting it at No. 1 for the moment.

The truly funny thing is that in the context of trying to win a football game, that may not have been the Jets' most embarrassing moment of the night. Nick Folk's 32-yard field goal on the final play of the first half got the Jets on the scoreboard, but going for 3 when you're already down 35 points in that quarter alone is more or less an acknowledgment of surrender. As he left the field, Rex Ryan was berated by a fan dressed as a turkey. It was a toss-up as to who had more dignity at the moment.

It was all over but the halfhearted chanting for Tim Tebow by then, the Patriots having given us Doug Williams flashbacks by dropping 35 points on the Jets during the second frame. The Patriots scored four touchdowns in six minutes, and three within a span of 52 seconds, including an 83-yard sprint down the sideline by Shane Vereen, a 32-yard fumble recovery for a score by Steve Gregory (who had a Patrick Chung-against-the-Dolphins kind of night, with an interception and two fumble recoveries), and a Julian Edelman 22-yard scoring return on a fumble recovery.

hodsontommyfinn1024.jpgIt was a staggering display of force and firepower even by the standards of the 8-3 Patriots, who scored 108 points in two games over five days. The victory was the 200th of Belichick's career -- his first came in Week 2 of the 1991 season, a 20-0 win for his Browns over the Patriots in which New England quarterback Tommy Hodson threw for all of 95 yards. I don't think it's a leap in logic to suggest that Belichick wouldn't have minded dropping 200 points on the Jets in a symmetric celebration of the milestone and the current state of the franchises.

The Jets are such a clown-show -- Tebow would be totally justified in reminding the other 52 players in green and white that they're pretty terrible too -- that it's tough to use them as a measuring stick. But even those among us who are reluctant to express enthusiasm for whatever reason must admit it's beginning to look a lot like last year around here, when the Patriots ran the table in the second half en route to a trip to Indianapolis.

In fact, it's looking better than last year. Start with the defense, which may well have repaired its most obvious flaw -- pass defense -- with the acquisition of Aqib Talib and the emergence of Alfonzo Dennard. And even if there are still tweaks to make, it at least has proven remarkably opportunistic, with an AFC-leading 32 takeaways. This is a young group, it hits hard and relentlessly (Brandon Spikes has risen into a force), and you have to like the direction in which it is trending.

Offensively, each new week seems to bring a reminder of the depth of their personnel, and how Josh McDaniels is utilizing players depending upon matchups. One game, it's Danny Woodhead stepping up with a couple of scores. The next, it's Julian Edelman, or Vereen, or both. Stevan Ridley (97 yards) is the best back they've had since Corey Dillon.

Aaron Hernandez returned and looked healthy, and as a blocker, Daniel Fells filled in ably for Rob Gronkowski, who probably spent Thanksgiving chasing around his brothers and trying to bash them with the cast on his left arm. He's missed, but he wasn't missed, at least in his first week of absence.

Brady (323 yards, three passing touchdowns, one more on the ground) was brilliant, his default mode. He has not thrown an interception since Week 6 against Seattle, with 14 touchdowns since. Yeah, we can probably table that who-is-his-successor? silliness for now.

All in all, it was a fulfilling victory in all phases, such a thorough dismantling that the most creatively challenged sports talk show hosts surely were calling for the backup extra point unit before halftime.

Taking out the starters to protect their health? Now that's a rich team problem.

I guess it's a much easier concern to live with than worrying about the next time your quarterback will be decked by his own lineman's hindquarters.

@GlobeChadFinn

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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