For all the hoopla about the end of the New England Patriots dynasty, the 2018 season sure looks an awful lot like the previous eight.
Once again, the Patriots will have a first-round bye in the postseason following a 38-3 thrashing of the New York Jets to close out the regular season at 11-5. They've extended their own NFL record to nine straight seasons with wild-card weekend off.
"It'll definitely be a big help having a bye week, let some guys heal up and definiitely get to be ready once we step back on the field," James White said.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
Tom Brady had a pristine performance for New England, completing 24 of 33 passes for 250 yards to go along with four touchdown passes -- three in the first half. A 17-yard strike to White, 18-yard dime to Rex Burkhead and 9-yard laser to Phillip Dorsett helped the Patriots build up a 21-3 lead at the half. He added a 5-yard scoring pass to Julian Edelman to put the exclamation point on the victory with less than 4 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
"Certainly, things we could do better, but good to win, 38-3, division opponent second time around, so just a great win," Brady said. "We needed it and glad we got it."
Granted, it was all against a hapless Jets team (4-12) that’s likely to embark on a search for a new head coach as soon as tomorrow to replace Todd Bowles.
Still, New England’s defense came to play again, making an anemic offense look as it’s supposed to. Kyle Van Noy returned a ball forced loose by Adam Butler 46 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-3 in the third quarter, while Devin McCourty also recovered a fumble pried free by Trey Flowers in the first half that led to Dorsett’s score.
Flowers also recorded a sack, bringing his season total to 7.5, a new career-high for the pending free agent. Lawrence Guy and Derek Rivers added to New England’s sack total; in the case of Rivers, a third-round pick in 2017 of the Patriots, it was the first of his career.
"I've been able to go up against the best in the game in practice like Trent [Brown] and Marcus [Cannon], it's helped my game out a lot," said Rivers, active for just the sixth time in 2018.
As the team continues to adjust to life without Josh Gordon, it feels notable that Chris Hogan, after spending much of the season seemingly in and out of Brady’s circle of trust, grabbed six passes for 64 yards. Dorsett’s touchdown stood as his first since Week 4 vs. Miami.
"It was an extra look for them," Bill Belichick said of Hogan and Dorsett. "They did a real good job of blocking and getting open. We saw a decent amount of man coverage. The Jets mixed it up like they usually do, but there were some tight throws that Tom made, some good catches."
Edelman finished with five catches for 69 yards for the Patriots. Rob Gronkowski hauled in only two passes for 24 yards.
New England finished a perfect 8-0 at home for the seventh time in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, joining the 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2013 teams. Only the first two went on to win the Super Bowl.
The Patriots will play the highest-remaining seed in the AFC playoffs at home on the weekend of Saturday, Jan. 12 or Sunday, Jan. 13.