Cam Newton saved his best for last.
Hours after reports surfaced that Newton and the Patriots were set to part ways following the season, the former league MVP turned back the clock with far and away his sharpest performance in New England, throwing three touchdown passes and catching another in a 28-14 win over the Jets which ended the season for the Patriots with a mark of 7-9.
Newton connected with James White, Devin Asiasi and Sony Michel through the air for scores, the first time he's found any of them in the end zone. It was the first career receiving touchdown for both Asiasi, a rookie, as well as Michel, a third-year player who never escaped the dog house of Tom Brady in the passing game.
Newton connected with White on a 7-yard touchdown pass on New England's drive before the offense went stagnant, punting on five straight possessions before Jakobi Meyers connected with Newton on a trick play for a touchdown with 2:22 left in the third quarter, tying the game at 14-14 in the process.
In the meantime, the Jets had tied the game on a Sam Darnold 21-yard touchdown pass to Chris Herndon with under two minutes to go in the first half and took their first lead of the contest on the opening set of the second half on a Josh Adams 1-yard burst up the middle.
New England punted on its next possession before the Meyers touchdown pass to Newton, at which point the talent discrepancy between the teams -- it still exists and is drastic, believe it or not -- finally enabled the Patriots to pull away.
Newton's touchdown passes to Asiasi and Michel were wrapped around an interception by J.C. Jackson -- tied for his league-leading ninth -- at which point the Jets sputtered out for good.
Jonathan Jones picked Darnold off in the end zone with under four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, part of a frustrating day for the former No. 3 overall draft pick.
Darnold finished the game 23 for 34 for 266 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, doing nothing to dispel notions the Jets should look to draft a quarterback in a few months.
Newton, meanwhile, had the best single-game passer rating of his Patriots career (127.4) and completed 21 of 30 passes for 242 yards. It was his first game of the season with multiple touchdown passes.
In addition, Newton had a 49-yard run in the first quarter that was the largest in franchise history for a quarterback and also enough to give him more rushing yards than Steve Grogan for a new single-season franchise record. Newton finished the season with 591 yards on the ground, breaking Grogan's mark of 538 from 1978.
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Newton's 79 yards on the ground overall led the team, with Michel chipping in 76 yards on 16 carries.
Meyers had six catches for 68 yards, most on the team for the eighth time this season. He finished his second NFL season with 61 receptions for 729 yards, although no touchdown catches for the second year in a row. He did throw for two scores, the same number as Jarrett Stidham did, in 42 fewer pass attempts.
The Patriots snapped a three-game losing skid with their win, ending a brief two-game winning spurt for the Jets in the process. New York finished the season 2-14 and will pick second in April's draft. New England will draft either 14th or 15th in the first round depending on the outcome of Sunday's later games.
As far as next season, Newton said after the game that he hasn't contemplated where he goes from here.
"I have my desires," he said. "I know where my heart's at. I know the things of who I am. But as far as that, I can't really speak on that right now. But just my whole time in New England has just been a blessing. Just see how it goes and go from there.''
Coach Bill Belichick said after a disappointing stretch he was proud of the way his team bounced back.
"`It was good to end a disappointing season on a positive note," he said.
Belichick said he wasn't prepared to address Newton's future.
"I don't really have anything to say about next year," Belichick said.