Tony Collins ran for a club record 212 yards and three touchdowns in a relentless ground offense that carried the New England Patriots to a 23-13 victory today over the New York Jets.
Two weeks ago Collins had caused the Patriots despair by a fumble in overtime that the Baltimore Colts turned into the winning touchdown.
"Two weeks ago, I had to get the fumble out of my mind. I thought about it for three or four hours, but it's dead," said Collins. "If I didn't fumble, we wouldn't have lost the game."
Collins broke loose for touchdown runs of 39 and seven yards to give the Patriots a 13-0 lead after the first quarter. He scored on a 23-yard run that increased New England's lead to 23-13 with 45 seconds left in the third quarter.
"Our main thing was for our offensive line to get some push and they certainly did," Collins said. "I don't know whether it's the emotion of the game or what, but I seem to get better the more I carry the ball."
Collins, who carried the ball 23 times, broke the Patriots' record of 208 yards rushing set by Jim Nance against Oakland in 1966. No one has had as much success running the ball against the Jets since O.J. Simpson in 1973.
The Jets had cut the Patriots' lead to 16-13 by halftime on a 13-yard scoring pass from Richard Todd to Wesley Walker with 20 seconds to go in the second quarter. The Jets' first touchdown came on a one-yard run by Dwayne Crutchfield, but the Patriots increased their lead to 16-7 on John Smith's 43-yard field goal with 2:59 to play in the opening half.
The outcome left the American Conference East rivals with 1-2 records.
"We beat an opponent that might be considered better than we are," said New England Coach Ron Meyer. "I think we cleared a big hurdle today, a major accomplishment for a young, developing football team."
New England dominated the game from the start, advancing 66 and 76 yards on its first two possessions, both ending with touchdowns by Collins.