FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady and his teammates reached the playoffs with a performance worthy of the once dominant Patriots.
Brady threw four touchdown passes, three to Randy Moss, and the young defense put together its third straight solid game as New England beat Jacksonville 35-7 on Sunday, further dimming the Jaguars' slim postseason chances.
For the Patriots (10-5), it was another encouraging outing in what had been an inconsistent season. They clinched the AFC East title after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2002 despite an 11-5 record. And they did it in a one-sided manner, just like most of their games in the 2007 season when they lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants 17-14 on a last-minute touchdown.
Brady bounced back after throwing for just 307 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his previous two games. He completed 23 of 26 passes for 267 yards, reminiscent of his brilliance the last time the teams met — 26 of 28 for 262 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 31-20 divisional playoff win on Jan. 12, 2008.
Jacksonville dropped its third straight game and fourth in its last five after going 6-4 in its first 10. New England won its third straight — outscoring the opposition 72-27 — after losing three of four.
It also was another bounce-back day for Moss two weeks after Carolina players questioned his effort in a 20-10 Patriots win. He caught one scoring pass the next week in a 17-10 win at Buffalo, then was the Moss of old against the Jaguars.
He caught a 2-yard scoring pass for the first touchdown after the Patriots got the ball on downs at the Jacksonville 35. Then, with 45 seconds left in the half, Moss raised his hand in the back of the end zone when the Jaguars somehow left him wide open and Brady found him for a 6-yard score and a 28-0 halftime lead.
His third touchdown came six seconds into the fourth quarter, a 17-yarder on which he reached the ball out to the goal line. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio challenged and, while officials reviewed the play, fans chanted "Randy, Randy, Randy" and he smiled broadly at them.
The touchdown call was upheld, giving Moss the ninth three-touchdown game of his career, and Stephen Gostkowski's extra point made it 35-0. Moss finished with four catches for 45 yards.
The Jaguars (7-8) ended the first series of the game by forcing Laurence Maroney to fumble at the Jacksonville 1-yard line after the Patriots had moved 82 yards. And they mounted an impressive drive on the first possession of the third quarter, moving from their 26 to the Patriots 5. But David Garrard threw his second interception of the game as Shawn Springs picked off his first pass of the season.
That's the kind of day it was for the Jaguars — from a fourth-and-1 that failed in their own territory to Brandon Meriweather's 56-yard return of Garrard's first interception, to punts on their other four first-half possessions.
The Jaguars couldn't stop Wes Welker either. He had 13 catches for 138 yards, his seventh game of the year with at least 10 receptions and sixth with at least 100 yards.
Jacksonville finally scored with 12:41 left on a 2-yard keeper by Garrard.