The only way the Jets were going to have a shot at winning their game against the Denver Broncos was if Denver didn't take the Jets seriously, and allowed New York to make big plays to win. Guess, what? Denver didn't take the Jets seriously at all, but still managed to defeat the Jets, because ... the Jets are the Jets.
A surprisingly conservative game plan by Denver saw the Broncos concentrate more on pounding the rock with the ground game rather than let Peyton Manning carve up one of the worst secondary's in football. It almost backfired on them.
After Peyton Manning hit Demaryius Thomas on an explosive 54 yard pass to open the game, Denver's offense went into a shell, as they ended up settling for a field goal on their first possession, and allowed the Jets to get their footing defensively.
The Jets defense put a lot of pressure on Manning in the first quarter-plus of the game. They sacked him twice, hurried him over a half-dozen times, and put good hard licks on the MVP quarterback. The Jets pressure put Denver in a very odd position of running the football consistently. Case in point, with the Jets up 7-3, The Broncos decided the run the football on two consecutive plays to force themselves into a long third down that they couldn't complete.
The Broncos faced 16 third downs on Sunday, seven of which they converted; but it was shocking to see the Broncos rely so heavily on their running attack especially when it wasn't working all that effectively.
In a lot of ways it felt like the Broncos took the Jets too lightly. They were called for a number of penalties in the first half, 11 flags for the game, and Manning struggled to handle the Jets blitzes on third down. It was lackadaisical effort by Denver -- perhaps knowing the Jets didn't have the horses to beat them anyway.
After the Jets scored their first points of the day on a Jace Amaro touchdown, Geno Smith and crew went back into their proverbial funk. New York managed only 43 yards on their next six possessions from late in the first quarter all the way until the end of the third quarter when they got a field goal to make it 24-10, Broncos.
Between that time, Manning and the Broncos actually opened it up. Manning threw three touchdowns on the day, including one to Demaryius Thomas to give the Broncos the lead 10-7; another one from 22 yards out to Julius Thomas in single coverage, and lastly a four-yard score, again to Julius Thomas, to make it 24-7, Broncos.
With the three scores, Manning moved to within two touchdowns of tying Brett Favre for the most touchdown passes by a quarterback in NFL history. Again, if Denver actually cared after it 24-7, Manning would have tied that mark. There was nothing the Jets defense did against Denver in the second and third quarter that signaled they were prepared to make a stop.
Once the fourth quarter came, Denver acted like the game was over. They pounded the football with Ronnie Hillman with little success, and played a prevent defense, allowing the Jets back into the game. Geno Smith led New York on a nine play scoring drive that was highlighted by a huge 27 yard pass to Greg Salas to move into the red zone. A few plays later, ex-Bronco Eric Decker scored on a two-yard pass from Smith to cut the Denver lead to 24-17.
With the Jets back in the game, Denver twice tried to put the game away, but they were in such a conservative funk that they couldn't do much against the blitz-happy Jets. Problem for the Jets, their quarterback is Geno Smith.
Denver pinned the Jets inside their own five yard line and Smith caved in. He was actually brought down for a sack in the end zone for a safety, but it was not called. It would have ended the game at 26-17. No fear Denver, Smith made sure to end the game himself without the help of the officials. Smith threw a easy pick to Aquib Talib, who dashed into the end zone for the solidifying touchdown, 31-17.
See, even when a great team invites the Jets into the game, they STILL can't win the game.
The Jets (1-5) now take on the Patriots on Thursday night in Foxboro. Can you say 1-6?