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New England sneaks by Jets to earn record fifth straight first-round bye

The Patriots can clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a Broncos loss tonight.


Tom Brady and the Patriots will be resting at home for the start of the playoffs. The only question left is whether the AFC's road to the Super Bowl will run through New England.

Jonas Gray scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter after New England intercepted Geno Smith, and the Patriots clinched a bye with a 17-16 victory over the New York Jets yesterday.

"We made plenty of good [plays] in the fourth quarter to come from behind, so that was great," Brady said. "I'm glad it came out the way it did - makes for a better Christmas. It's always tough to get a win here."

Brady threw a 3-yard TD pass to Rob Gronkowski for the Patriots (12-3), who could earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs if Denver loses to Cincinnati tonight. New England became the first team to earn first-round byes in five straight seasons.

With the Jets (3-12) leading, 13-10, late in the third quarter, Smith's pass for Jace Amaro hung in the air for an easy interception by Jamie Collins - which led to Gray's score minutes later.

"Yeah, he underthrew it," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "Poor throw."

Nick Folk had a 52-yard field goal attempt that could have given New York a lead with just over 5 minutes left. But Vince Wilfork partially blocked it.

Brady and the Patriots were then able to run out the clock for the win, sealed by Brandon Bolden's 17-yard run on third down with just under 2 minutes left.

"It's unfortunate," Ryan said. "I really thought it was going to be our day."

Brady finished 23-for-35 for 182 yards and was sacked four times, a modest showing while playing without wide receiver Julian Edelman (concussion) and running back LeGarrette Blount (shoulder).

Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis had a mostly quiet return to the Meadowlands, playing against his former team for the first time since signing with New England - except for the fans booing him when he made a tackle.

The game could have marked the final home appearance by Ryan, whose future with the team is uncertain in his sixth season.

"I wasn't thinking about anything," Ryan said, "other than I was just a little upset over this game."

New York will miss the postseason for the fourth straight year, and Ryan and general manager John Idzik have come under heavy criticism by fans who have urged owner Woody Johnson to make changes. Several waved yellow "penalty towels" at MetLife Stadium with the words "Fire Idzik!" printed in green. This latest loss certainly didn't make the Jets' faithful - or Ryan and Idzik - feel any better.