FOXBORO, Mass. — When Steve Grogan is hurting, he knows he can get well against the New York Jets.
Grogan, coming off neck and shoulder injuries that sidelined him for three games, passed for four touchdowns in the first half Sunday to lead the New England Patriots to a 42-20 victory over the Jets.
Grogan improved his career record against the Jets to 11-5. He has thrown at least three touchdown passes against them in six different games.
"I don't feel I get more excited to play the Jets," Grogan said. "I just can't explain it.
"They played some younger, new people. Their front seven is strong but our offensive line held them out. When you've got time to throw against people like that, you've got to make things happen and we did."
The Patriots (6-7) are one game behind Buffalo (7-6), which beat Indianapolis (7-6), and Miami (7-6) in the AFC East. The Jets (6-7) suffered a damaging blow to their playoff hopes.
Grogan replaced Tom Ramsey in the starting lineup and had his most touchdown passes since he threw five against the Jets, tying a team record, in a 56-3 victory Sept. 9, 1979.
"We needed a big win, we really did and that's what we got today," said Grogan, who also had a two-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. "We got a little help from Buffalo and now we have to take care of (the Bills)," next Sunday in Buffalo.
Grogan threw touchdown passes of 28 yards to Stephen Starring, 26 yards to Irving Fryar and 17 and 16 yards to Cedric Jones.
The Patriots led, 35-6, at halftime, but Grogan played the rest of the game because "I just didn't want to mess around with the mixture and do anything that might give them (the Jets) a chance to get back in," Coach Raymond Berry said.
Grogan completed 11 passes in 16 attempts for 180 yards and no interceptions in the first half. He threw just two passes, both incompletions, in the second half. The Jets played without injured cornerbacks Russell Carter, Jerry Holmes and Kerry Glenn.
"I guess Grogan had a routine day," Berry said.
New England padded its lead in the third quarter on a seven-yard touchdown run by Reggie Dupard one play after Ronnie Lippett's 38-yard interception return against O'Brien.
That made it 42-6 before the Jets scored in the fourth quarter on Johnny Hector's 6-yard run and Ken O'Brien's 28-yard pass to Al Toon. Hector rushed for 104 yards in 22 carries.
The Jets, who had 12 penalties for 97 yards in the first half, managed just two field goals by Pat Leahy covering 42 and 24 yards before intermission.