FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP)—The New England Patriots won with running backs and a defense that have been missing and a kicker who’s always around.
The New York Jets lost again without much of a fight.
Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk made key contributions in their return from injuries. Adam Vinatieri, who hasn’t missed a game in 10 seasons with the Patriots, set a team record for career points. And New England had its best defensive game of the season in Sunday’s 16-3 win.
“The team just feels a little more comfortable,” said wide receiver David Givens, who made five catches after missing three games with a knee injury. “You have a lot of your weapons back, guys that have made big plays.”
The Jets (2-10), also battered by injuries, didn’t make big plays and have scored one touchdown in four games. They gained 164 yards, the fourth time this season they were below 200, against a team that allowed 394 yards or more in its previous eight games.
“Having our defense on the field too long and us not scoring is a bad combination,” Jets coach Herman Edwards said.
Dillon’s 1-yard touchdown run made it 13-3 late in the third quarter, and Faulk made three big third-down catches as the Patriots (7-5) maintained their two-game lead in the AFC East over Miami. The teams meet in the regular-season finale Jan. 1 in Foxborough.
Faulk said he and Dillon, sidelined two games with a calf injury, talked about their return.
“It was, `Hey, let’s get the offense going. We’re back,”’ said Faulk, who missed eight games with a broken foot. “I was actually nervous, like the first game of the season.”
Vinatieri kicked field goals of 21, 34 and 22 yards, giving him 1,134 points, four more than Gino Cappelletti.
“I didn’t think about it at all probably until this (past) offseason,” Vinatieri said. “You have to stay healthy, you have to stay focused.”
The Patriots have nine players on injured reserve, including six defensive backs.The Jets have 10 players on injured reserve and lost their seventh straight game while their NFL-low scoring average dropped to 11.9 points.
“It’s tough to put into words,” Jets defensive end John Abraham said. “You don’t quit. You have to show people you’ll continue to compete.”
The Jets tied the game 3-3 on Mike Nugent’s 38-yard field goal late in the second quarter.
With no timeouts, the Patriots faced a third-and-10 at the Jets 40. Tom Brady passed to Faulk, who raced out of bounds after an 18-yard gain with 16 seconds left in the half.
Three plays later, Vinatieri’s 34-yard field goal put the Patriots ahead to stay.
The Jets struggled on the ground with center Kevin Mawae and tackle Jason Fabini on injured reserve. They began the day with the NFL’s third worst running attack and gained 41 yards. Former Patriot Curtis Martin was held to 29 yards on 15 carries, one week after becoming the fourth NFL player to rush for 14,000 yards in his career.
“It all starts with stopping Curtis,” Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest said.
The Jets punted on the first possession of the second half and the Patriots began on their own 15. On third-and-11 at their 47, Brady and Faulk hooked up for a 13-yard gain. Dillon ran on the next two plays, gaining 11 yards.
On third-and-6, a 10-yard pass to Deion Branch and a roughing the passer penalty moved the ball to the 7. After a 6-yard completion to Troy Brown, Dillon scored his eighth touchdown of the season. He finished with 65 yards on 16 carries.
Another third-down catch by Faulk sustained the drive that ended with Vinatieri’s, a 22-yard field goal with 14:02 left.
The Patriots began the day with the second worst pass defense, but Brooks Bollinger, playing because of injuries to three other quarterbacks, struggled.
“He’s doing everything he can,” Edwards said.
Bollinger completed 15 of 37 passes for 135 yards, one week after throwing for a career-high 251 yards in a loss to New Orleans. Brady was 27-for-37 for 271 yards, a week after throwing four interceptions in a loss at Kansas City.
New York failed to score a touchdown for its fourth consecutive road game, and Martin didn’t get into the end zone for his eighth straight game against New England.
“I’m just focused on not finishing up these last four games the way we have been playing,” Martin said.
Cornerback Ty Law, in his first game against the Patriots after 10 seasons with them, said, “It was just another football game that happened to be against my old team.” … The Patriots’ 397 yards was their most in seven games.