The New York Jets held the New England Patriots scoreless in the first quarter on Thursday night. Then Tom Brady threw a touchdown on the first play of the second, and the floodgates soon opened as the Patriots rolled to a 49-19 victory.
New England moved one step closer to another AFC East crown while the Jets moved one step closer to elimination in the playoff race. With that in mind, let's break down the biggest lesson each rival will take away from the Thanksgiving night encounter.
Patriots: Offense can dominate without Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski's injury gave other teams a brief glimmer of hope that they might finally be able to slow down the Patriots offense. Brady quickly put an end to that with yet another dominant performance against a usually reliable Jets secondary.
New York ranked in the top five against the pass coming into the game. Yet, even without the team's most reliable red-zone threat, Brady threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns. As usual, he made it look pretty easy.
Aaron Hernandez returned from injury and looked pretty close to full strength. Wes Welker was his usual reliable self, leading the way with seven catches. And Brady used his other weapons–Daniel Fells even caught a pass–when necessary.
Add in a rushing attack that now has two solid options in Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, and the Patriots are still running like a well-oiled machine without "Gronk." It also means they don't have to rush him back before he's at full strength.
Jets: Mark Sanchez isn't the biggest problem
Sanchez is usually the first player to get blamed every time something goes wrong for the Jets. Even last night the fans were chanting for Tim Tebow as soon as the game started to get out of hand despite major issues on defense and special teams.
When Sanchez completes 70 percent of his passes, throws for 301 yards and finishes with a quarterback rating of 94.8, it's not his fault. More importantly, the outcome wouldn't have been different with somebody else under center.
The Jets have a lot of flaws right now. The defense isn't playing up to its usually high standards, the running game has been hit and miss all season and injuries have eliminated any depth the team had entering the season.
Sanchez deserves some of the blame for New York's 4-7 record; there's no doubt about that. But when he plays like he did on Thursday night and the Jets still lose by 30, it's a sign there are far more issues to address than switching quarterbacks.