FOXBOROUGH — Hey Santa, you skip Matt Lengel’s house, Tom Brady’s got your back.
Brady delivered the perfect present in the form of an 18-yard touchdown pass to Lengel in the second quarter of New England’s 41-3 victory over the Jets Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
There’s nothing Lengel’s going to find under the tree this morning that’s going to beat that.
It was the first career touchdown, on his first career reception, on his first career target, for Lengel, who had a cup of coffee at Parsons Field before Northeastern shuttered its football program in 2009.
“It’s No. 1 all-time on the present list,’’ said Lengel. “And my birthday’s on Dec. 27th, so it’s No. 1 on both lists.’’
Lengel’s touchdown was part of a 27-point first-half New England blitz as the Patriots took advantage of three turnovers to deliver the early knockout.
Jets quarterback Bryce Petty’s Gillette Stadium debut was shortlived. He went 0 for 3 with an interception before leaving with a shoulder injury. His replacement, Ryan Fitzpatrick, didn’t fare much better, completing 8 of 21 for 136 yards and a pair of interceptions.
Brady, meanwhile, was his efficient self. He completed 17 of 27 passes for 214 yards, 3 TDs, and zero interceptions before giving way to Jimmy Garoppolo late in the third quarter.
Brady didn’t have to do a ton of heavy lifting because the Patriots stuck with a balanced approach and ground out 114 yards on 40 carries.
It wasn’t pretty but it was pretty effective at killing the clock and crushing the Jets’ spirits. Just when the Jets thought they had made a stand, the Patriots would convert on third down (11 of 18).
LeGarrette Blount churned out 50 yards on 20 carries, but did hit paydirt twice, collecting his 16th and 17th touchdowns of the season. Dion Lewis spun and twisted his way to 52 yards on 16 carries, and James White ripped off a 14-yard gainer on his only run.
Lengel’s moment was the signature play of the day and he was mobbed by his teammates after making the catch. Not a soul in the stadium thought Lengel would be on the receiving end of the pass — except for one.
“I saw where the safeties were and I took off on my route and I thought, ‘I think I might get this,’ ’’ said Lengel. “So I just tried to do everything necessary in my route to make sure I got open for Tom and glad I could come through for my team there.’’
Brady acknowledged he wasn’t looking Lengel’s way immediately but he was happy for the way it turned out.
“I’m not going to say he was the first option,’’ Brady said with a grin. “But it was pretty cool.’’
Lengel, who was plucked off the Bengals practice squad in November, said everything took him by surprise but he did remember to keep the ball.
“When you’re in the moment, everything kind of slows down. It’s not until afterward that you really can enjoy it,’’ he said. “I turned around, saw the ball, and I just tried to revert back to everything I’ve ever learned since I started playing football in the second grade — just catch the ball and secure it.’’
Lengel secured the ball and the Patriots secured the win, their fifth straight to improve to 13-2. Other observations from New England’s final regular-season game.
■ The Patriots defense is peaking at the right time.
For the first time under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have held their opponent without a touchdown in back-to-back weeks.
“That’s the first time I heard that,’’ said cornerback Logan Ryan. “That’s cool. Hopefully we’ll make it three straight.’’
■ They held the Jets to 239 total net yards and allowed them to convert just 1 of 11 third-down chances.
■ New England cashed in on its takeaways.
After struggling to take the ball away from their opponents for a good chunk of the season, the Patriots have turned it on, collecting 12 takeaways in the last five games.
Against the Jets, Malcolm Butler had a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery and Eric Rowe had a pick, too. The hosts turned those into 24 points.
“We’ve been putting the emphasis on [takeaways] since Week 1,’’ said Rowe. “We know in the beginning of the season we weren’t getting as many, but now we kind of kept with it during practice, making it a huge emphasis and now they’re coming in bunches.’’
■ The offensive line continues to make strides.
Having a consistent five players — rather than a rotation — is paying huge dividends. They are creating space for the backs and allowing minimal penetration to the pocket.
“I think they’re competing,’’ said coach Bill Belichick. “It’s not perfect. One of the things that helps the passing game is the running game and so it’s a lot easier to pass protect when the defense has got to deal with the running game, too. But our pass protection has been generally good. The running game has been productive. There’s been balance there.’’
Jim McBride can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.