In many ways it was a classic Brady game, willing the Patriots (9-2) to victory to keep pace atop the AFC playoff race.
Brady was dealing with a right knee injury that forced him to miss two days of practice last week and seemed to affect his accuracy early on against the Jets (3-8).
Making due with what he had, Brady had to go without Rob Gronkowski, who left with a back injury in the second quarter, and in the face of pretty consistent pressure and big hits from the Gang Green defense early on.
By the time Brady took three kneel-downs to close out the hard-fought victory in the seventh straight game between the two teams decided by seven points or fewer, the quarterback had completed 30 of 50 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a season-low 89.2 rating.
There were few beauty points -- one of his two touchdown passes to rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell came after a botched fake/fumbled jet sweep -- but the 17-year veteran knew when he limped off the field that it was another step in the right direction for yet team with its hopes set on yet another Super Bowl run.
"It was a great win for our team," Brady said. "We didn't play as well as we wanted to, but we made the plays when we needed to. It was a division game on the road. It's always a tough team to play."
Though Brady said there was never any consideration of missing the game, he did admit it was a "long week."
"I'm glad it's over. I'm glad we won," Brady said, referring to the missed practices, knee treatments and even the Thanksgiving holiday creating challenging circumstances.
New England helped its quarterback by notching its first takeaways in a month. Malcolm Butler forced a fumble in the first half that set up Brady's first touchdown. Then, Chris Long closed the door on any Ryan Fitzpatrick comeback hopes with a strip-sack with less than two minutes to play.
While the future first-ballot Hall of Famer deflected as he generally does, his 200th career victory against the hated Jets came in somewhat appropriate fashion with an 83-yard comeback drive to a game-winning touchdown on the first play after the two-minute warning.
"It's a team sport. Individual award and things like that mean that I've been a part of great teams with great coaches and great teammates, and I've had a lot of really great support over the years so hopefully we can keep winning," Brady said. "It never gets old."
Some would say the same thing about the 39-year-old Patriots quarterback as he continues to pile up wins and records while focused on a potential fifth Lombardi Trophy.
--Mitchell, New England's fourth-round rookie, was on the receiving end of both of Brady's touchdown passes in the down-to-the-wire victory over the Jets. But it was a potential touchdown grab at the end of the second quarter that stuck in the young receivers mind shortly after his game-winning, eight-yard score in the closing minutes at MetLife Stadium.
"We have a team full of great guys who kept me encouraged. I felt miserable after missing the earlier pass. All the guys kept me encouraged and told me we have more time," Mitchell said of a would-be score earlier in the final quarter. "I was just thankful our team got another opportunity after I felt like I messed up an opportunity for us to win the game. Regardless if it was me or someone else, I'm glad the defense gave us an opportunity to win the game."
Mitchell has now scored three touchdowns in the last two games, including a pretty 56 yarder last week at the San Francisco 49ers. For the season, the rookie has hauled in 16 catches for 235 yards and the three scores, while clearly gaining the confidence of his Hall of Fame quarterback.
"I think Malcolm has done a lot to gain everyone's trust because he shows up every day, works his butt off and is so committed to the team," Brady observed. "Football means a lot to him. He's come through in the clutch, so we keep giving him opportunities."
NOTES: TE Rob Gronkowski, who was returning after missing one game to a chest injury that was a reported puncture lung, left the first quarter of Sunday's win at the Jets with a back injury and did not return. The All-Pro may have suffered the injury lunging for a deep ball, the first of two passes thrown his way before his departure. Though Gronkowski missed the final three-plus quarters against the Jets, various media reports have already indicated the back injury is not believed to be serious and the tight end is not expected to miss additional time. Gronkowski has already missed or been limited in six of New England's 11 games this season due to hamstring, chest and now the back injury. ... SS Jordan Richards left the first quarter of the Jets game with a right leg/knee injury suffered in kick coverage. The second-year safety, almost entirely a special teamer this season, did not return to action. ... WR Matthew Slater (foot) did not travel to New York for the Jets game. He was listed as out on Friday after missing practice all week due to the injury suffered a week earlier at the 49ers.