East Rutherford, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - It wasn't pretty, but the New England Patriots secured a first-round bye with a 17-16 win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Tom Brady completed 23-of-35 passes for 182 yards with one touchdown for New England (12-3), which will clinch the AFC's top seed if Denver loses at Cincinnati on Monday night.
With the Patriots clinging to a one-point lead in the fourth quarter, Brady threw an interception while under pressure, a theme throughout the game.
Cornerback Marcus Williams picked off the pass that deflected off wide receiver Brandon LaFell's hands at the New England 31-yard line.
The Patriots defense stiffened as a third-down sack by linebacker Dont'a Hightower forced a 52-yard Nick Folk field goal attempt that was tipped by lineman Vince Wilfork and landed short.
New England ran out the remaining 5:16, converting a pair of third downs.
Danny Amendola, filling in for Julian Edelman on both offense and special teams, was tackled near the marker at the New York 48-yard line after a screen pass on 3rd-and-7. Some confusion ensued as the ball appeared to be inches shy of a first down based upon a measurement. However, the official signaled a first down, leading to a unsuccessful challenge by the Jets.
Brandon Bolden then ran around the right edge for 17 yards on 3rd-and-1 to seal the win.
"We were able to make the plays we needed to make at the end of the game and that's a credit to the players," said New England coach Bill Belichick, who earned his 230th career win to surpass Curly Lambeau for sole possession of fourth place in NFL history.
Geno Smith passed for 210 yards on 17-of-27 efficiency with a touchdown and one interception for the Jets (3-12).
"This was another game that I thought we had a chance to win against New England," said Jets coach Rex Ryan. "That's been the story probably the last four out of five times we played them. To their credit, they find ways to win."
The New York defense hounded Brady right from the start, registering three first-quarter sacks.
New England began the second quarter in New York territory after a 39-yard punt return by Amendola, who had eight catches on 11 targets for 63 yards in place of Edelman. The Patriots' leading receiver missed the game with a concussion and a thigh injury.
Brady capped the six-play, 36-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. The tight end lined up wide left and hauled in a back-shoulder fade from three yards out.
The Jets tied the game at 7-7 when tight end Jeff Cumberland beat safety Patrick Chung on a seam route for a 25-yard touchdown catch. Center Nick Mangold was carted off the field with a left ankle injury during the 12-play, 87-yard drive.
Folk kicked a 26-yard field goal to put New York up 10-7 late in a first half that saw New England limited to 52 yards.
The Jets reached the red zone on their opening possession of the third quarter, but settled for a 23-yard Folk field goal.
New England then changed its tempo on offense, going no-huddle, and had success moving the ball. The drive ultimately stalled at the New York 6-yard line and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 24-yard field goal.
Smith was then picked off by linebacker Jamie Collins on an underthrown pass to tight end Jace Amaro.
The Patriots moved in front off the turnover as Jonas Gray ran for a 1-yard touchdown 1:09 into the fourth quarter.
Folk made a 37-yard field goal with 7:53 remaining to cap the ensuing New York drive.
New York wide receiver Percy Harvin (ribs) left the game and didn't return ... The Jets outgained the Patriots 307-231 ... Brady was sacked four times overall.