The New England Patriots gave a performance Monday night at the Meadowlands that had Sam Darnold muttering about seeing ghosts, and it should have been equally frightening to their fellow Super Bowl contenders. The Patriots improved to 7-0 by overwhelming the New York Jets, 33-0.

The Patriots are nearly halfway to an unblemished regular season mostly because of their dominant defense. But quarterback Tom Brady and the offense also looked capable of doing their part during a quick start Monday that provided a 24-point lead before the midway point of the second quarter.

That was much more than enough for a historically great defense that left Darnold, the Jets’ prized second-year quarterback, looking frazzled and sounding confused.


“I’m seeing ghosts,” Darnold, wearing a microphone for ESPN’s broadcast, said on the sideline in the first half.


So much for the notion that the Jets, coming off an upset of the Dallas Cowboys, could be competitive with the Patriots with Darnold back in the lineup. He missed the Jets’ loss to the Patriots last month in Foxborough, Mass., after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.

On Monday, he had five turnovers — four interceptions and a fumble. He had a passer rating of 3.6 after throwing for 86 yards while completing 11 of 32 attempts. He gave the Patriots a safety after he illegally batted the ball while it was loose in the end zone after an errant shotgun snap. The Jets (1-5) finished with just 154 yards.


“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Coach Adam Gase said during a postgame news conference in which he called his team’s performance “brutal.”

But that is how every team looks against this New England defense. The Patriots have 18 interceptions, the most through seven games since the Green Bay Packers had 20 in 1996. Those Packers won the Super Bowl (by beating New England).


After Monday’s win, the Patriots have two shutout victories; they also won at Miami, 43-0, in Week 2. According to the NFL, these Patriots and the 1991 Washington Redskins are the only teams during the Super Bowl era to post two shutouts while scoring 30 or more points within the first seven games of a season. Those Redskins won the Super Bowl.


These Patriots are seeking a seventh Super Bowl triumph with Brady as their quarterback and Bill Belichick as their coach.

“We’re a long way from thinking about those things,” Brady told ESPN after the game. “Again, just happy we won. Seven wins doesn’t get you anything in the NFL. But, you know, 33-0 — I mean, if we don’t give up any points, it’s going to be hard to lose. But our offense has to come through when we’re counted on. Guys made some plays tonight. We’ve got to make more next week.”


The Patriots have allowed 48 points through seven games and have won by an average margin of 25 points.

“They’re doing a great job,” Brady said of his team’s defense. “They’re putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback, catching the ball. They have a lot of good players. So it’s fun to watch them.”


The Patriots led 17-0 after the first quarter and 24-0 at halftime. Tailback Sony Michel ran for three touchdowns, and Brady threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Brady completed 31 of 45 passes for 249 yards before giving way late to rookie backup Jarrett Stidham.

Brady did throw a second-half interception, and he allowed his frustration — and intensity — to show when his yell of “He’s right there!” was picked up by a microphone on an intentional grounding penalty on which Brady obviously thought there was a receiver in the vicinity. But it was a no-stress evening for the Patriots, even as Brady played behind a patchwork offensive line and without injured wide receiver Josh Gordon.


They return home to face the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and then play at Baltimore before their bye. The meeting with the Ravens begins what once appeared to be a rugged stretch of the schedule, with consecutive games against Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City. But it’s not quite as daunting now with several of those teams struggling and the Chiefs playing without injured quarterback Patrick Mahomes.


If the Patriots add some offensive consistency to the mix, watch out. They would be nearly unbeatable.

“We’re looking for it, and we’re going to try to be a little better next week,” Brady said. “So I’m glad we won. The defense played great. We’ve got to try to go home and beat Cleveland next week. It’s good to win on the road.”

Are a 16-0 regular season and the first 19-0 season in league history within reach? Perhaps. That’s especially true if the Patriots continue to play as they did Monday.

In-game updates

4th Quarter


Third TD for Michel: Tailback Sony Michel scored his third touchdown of the night for the Patriots with a one-yard run. (Patriots 33, Jets 0 with 12:32 left in the 4th quarter)


3rd Quarter

Brady, Darnold trade interceptions: Tom Brady threw an interception to give the Jets a scoring chance. But Sam Darnold continues to have a nightmarish game. He floated yet another pass while again throwing off his back foot. And, again, it was intercepted, this time by the Patriots’ Terrence Brooks in the end zone. That makes it four interceptions and five turnovers on the night for Darnold. His passer rating is down to 10.1. (Patriots 26, Jets 0 with 6:08 left in the 3rd quarter)

Safety for Pats: The Jets’ poor performance turned almost comically bad with a safety for the Patriots on an illegal batting penalty on Sam Darnold in the end zone. Darnold, on a play that began at the Jets 6-yard line, had a high snap in shotgun formation sail over his head. He turned and chased the bouncing football in the end zone and, rather than give the Patriots a chance for a recovery and a touchdown, knocked the ball out of bounds. That’s a penalty and a safety for New England. (Patriots 26, Jets 0 with 7:39 left in the 3rd quarter)


Another pick for Darnold: The New England defense is unyielding and Sam Darnold remains accommodating. He threw a floating pass on the Jets’ opening drive of the second half that was intercepted by Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. It’s a four-turnover night for Darnold, who has thrown three interceptions and lost a first-half fumble. (Patriots 24, Jets 0 with 11:02 left in the 3rd quarter)


Halftime at the Meadowlands: So much for the notion that having prized second-year quarterback Sam Darnold back in the lineup would allow the Jets to be competitive with the Patriots on “Monday Night Football” at the Meadowlands. The Patriots played a near-perfect first half and lead the Jets, 24-0, at the break as they seek to improve their record to 7-0. The Patriots scored 17 first-quarter points and pushed the lead to 24 points less than five minutes into the second quarter. The Patriots outgained the Jets, 210 yards to 65. Tailback Sony Michel had a pair of touchdown runs. Tom Brady threw for a touchdown in an 18-for-25, 173-yard passing half. The New England defense forced three turnovers by Darnold on two interceptions and a lost fumble on a sack. Darnold, who was sidelined for the Jets’ previous loss to the Patriots after being diagnosed with mononucleosis, threw for 34 yards on six-for-13 passing and had a first-half passer rating of 13.5. He appeared thoroughly confused by the New England defense and, via the microphone he was wearing for the ESPN broadcast, could be hearing saying on the sideline: “I’m seeing ghosts.” The Jets look nothing like the team that upset the Dallas Cowboys in its previous game. (Patriots 24, Jets 0 at halftime)


2nd Quarter

Jets fail on fourth down: Nothing has gone right for Sam Darnold and the Jets, and that continued when Darnold threw high for an incompletion on a fourth-and-four try from the New England 28-yard line. (Patriots 24, Jets 0 with 1:13 left in the 2nd quarter)

Third turnover for Darnold: The Jets had a promising drive going, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on the Patriots’ Danny Shelton. But on a third-and-10 play from the New England 19-yard line, Sam Darnold was flushed from the pocket and threw a pass to no one in a Jets uniform. The ball landed in the hands of New England’s Duron Harmon, who made a leaping grab at the 1-yard line for the Patriots’ second interception of the game. It was the third turnover for Darnold, who also lost a fumble. (Patriots 24, Jets 0 with 5:25 left in the 2nd quarter)


Pats increase lead: The Patriots have turned two turnovers by Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, an interception and lost fumble, into 10 points and now lead by 24 points early in the second quarter. Sony Michel scored his second touchdown of the night, this time on a one-yard run. The Patriots had to move only 38 yards after Darnold’s fumble. First Kyle Van Noy’s apparent touchdown on a return of the fumble recovery was negated when he was ruled down by contact, then James White’s four-yard touchdown was nullified by an illegal block in the back called on Julian Edelman. No matter. The Patriots got a first down at the 1-yard line on a defensive holding call on the Jets. The Patriots put backup linebacker Elandon Roberts at fullback but Michel was stuffed on first and second downs. He finally plowed into the end zone on third down. (Patriots 24, Jets 0 with 9:18 left in the 2nd quarter)

Near-TD for N.E. defense: The Patriots appeared to make it 24-0 with a touchdown on defense when Kyle Van Noy picked up the ball after a fumble by Sam Darnold on a sack, got to his feet and ran to the end zone. However, Van Noy was touched while on the ground by a Jets player. So the touchdown is negated but the Patriots have forced their second turnover and take over at the New York 38-yard line. (Patriots 17, Jets 0 with 14:11 left in the 2nd quarter)

1st Quarter

Pats pouring it on: This has been a defense-first Patriots team but Tom Brady and the New England offense are doing their part tonight. They made it a 17-point first quarter with a 26-yard touchdown strike from Brady to wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Brady made a back-shoulder throw to running back Brandon Bolden for a 28-yard gain earlier on the drive. Coach Bill Belichick left his offense on the field for a fourth-and-six try from the Jets 35-yard line, and Brady converted with a seven-yard completion to tight end Benjamin Watson. Brady had 118 first-quarter passing yards on 13-for-17 throwing accuracy. (Patriots 17, Jets 0 with 9 seconds left in the 1st quarter)

Pats get FG off interception: The Patriots intercepted Sam Darnold’s first pass of the night and turned it into a field goal. Darnold’s high throw while under pressure landed in the hands of New England’s Devin McCourty for his NFL-leading fifth interception of the season and the Patriots’ 15th. The Patriots took over at the New York 12-yard line but went four yards backward, then Sony Michel dropped a third-down screen pass with plenty of open turf in front of him. Kicker Mike Nugent connected from 34 yards. (Patriots 10, Jets 0 with 3:49 left in the 1st quarter)

Great early TD drive for Patriots: Those who sense the Jets might keep this game close or even pull off the upset had better hope that they figure out something on defense. The Patriots took the opening kickoff and went 78 yards on 16 plays for a touchdown. The drive took 8 minutes 47 seconds off the clock and the Patriots converted four times on third down. Sony Michel took a pitchout to the left and scored a touchdown on a third-and-two run from the New York 3-yard line. Earlier on the drive, the Patriots converted on third and seven, third and 10 and third and five. Tom Brady was getting the ball out of his hand quickly and completed eight of nine passes for 55 yards. (Patriots 7, Jets 0 with 6:13 left in the 1st quarter)


The New England Patriots try to take another step toward a return visit to the Super Bowl and, perhaps, an unblemished season when they face the New York Jets on Monday night at the Meadowlands.

This promises to be an at least slightly tougher test for the Patriots than when they beat the Jets, 30-14, on Sept. 22 in Foxborough, Mass. Quarterback Sam Darnold missed that game for the Jets after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. Luke Falk started and the Jets had no chance. Tailback Le’Veon Bell had nowhere to run, with the Patriots completely focused on stopping him.

Darnold is back and the Jets are coming off an improbable upset of the Dallas Cowboys for their first victory of the season following four straight losses. That performance showed that the Jets, with Darnold, at least are somewhat formidable and dangerous. Whether they actually can be competitive with the Patriots is another matter.

New England again will be led by its dominant defense. The Patriots rank first in the NFL in scoring defense and second in total defense, pass defense and run defense.

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