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The Journal Gazette

Monday, January 01, 2018 1:00 am

New England 26 Ny jets 6

Patriots lock up top seed in AFC

KYLE HIGHTOWER | Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – 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). Tom 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 on 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.

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.