November 28, 2022

Jets continue winning ways in 16-9 defeat of Broncos

Zach Wilson did just enough to keep the Jets’ winning streak going. (David Zalubowski/AP)

DENVER — The Jets were trying to continue their surprising season and do something the team hasn’t done in seven seasons.

Gang Green entered Sunday on a three-game winning streak. 2015 was the last time the Jets won four consecutive games.

In a game that resembled more of a baseball score at times, the Jets found a way to win another gritty, low-scoring game on the road.

The Jets (5-2) defeated the Broncos (2-5) 16-9 on a sunny, breezy 65-degree day at Empower Field at Mile High in front of 70,786 in attendance. This is the first time since 2010 that the Jets have begun the season 5-2. The Jets are also 4-0 on the road this season.

“I felt really good about our defense as we were getting stops,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “I just felt like if we kept putting up points, we would be able to keep them out of the end zone.

“That was a team win today and a good one too. That’s a good football over there. Like I said before, they’re inches away and they have a hell of a defense over there.

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson completed 16 of 26 passes for 120 yards. This was the third consecutive game Wilson didn’t turn the ball over. Kicker Greg Zuerlein was automatic as he converted on all three of his field goal attempts (45, 33, 40).

Starting at quarterback for the injured Russell Wilson (hamstring), Denver’s Brett Rypien completed 24 of 45 passes for 225 yards and an interception. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy caught seven passes for 96 yards.

The primary story for Gang Green was the team’s injuries during the first half. Alijah Vera-Tucker (elbow), Corey Davis (knee) and Breece Hall (knee) all went back to the locker room and did not return. Hall, who rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on four carries, hurt his ankle and was carted to the locker room and did not return.

Saleh said Hall’s initial diagnosis doesn’t look good as it is believed to be a torn ACL. But the team will know more on Monday about his status for the rest of the season. If Hall did tear his ACL, he would miss the rest of the 2022 season.

Hall has been one of the best rookies in the NFL during the first seven weeks of the season. He has rushed for 463 yards and four touchdowns. Hall also has caught 19 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown.

Michael Carter, Hall’s backfield teammate, said it was difficult to focus on the game after what happened to the rookie running back.

“I tried to get my head back into the game,” Carter said. “I do care about him a lot. I prayed with him after the game.

“It is hard especially when you got a good connection with somebody like that.”

Vera-Tucker also didn’t return as he has arguably been the best offensive player on the Jets roster this season. After beginning the season at right guard, Vera-Tucker has played at left and right tackle following injuries on the Jets offensive line. Vera-Tucker will be evaluated on Monday as well.

Davis could have gone back in the game as it is not believed to be a long-term injury.

Without Vera-Tucker, Davis and Hall, the Jets offense struggled. Following wide receiver Elijah Moore’s disgruntled tweets and a disagreement with how he’s been used in the team’s offense, Jets coach Robert Saleh decided to leave the second-year player back at Florham Park and he was deactivated for Sunday’s game.

“We knew it was going to be grimey,” quarterback Zach Wilson said. “We knew we were going to have to take advantage of certain opportunities, execute and we couldn’t turn the ball over.

“It was great for us to come out there and put our defense in a good situation.”

Denzel Mims was activated for the first time this season as he was a healthy scratch for the first six games. He caught one pass for four yards.

After both teams struggled to get most going offensively to start, the Jets found pay dirt halfway through the first quarter. On a pitch from Zach Wilson, Hall ran in 62-yards into the end zone, putting the Jets up 7-0. That was the Jets’ longest touchdown run since Isaiah Crowell scored on a 77-yard dash against the Broncos in 2018.

Denver answered back with points on the next drive as an offsides call and a holding hurt the Jets defense. The Broncos capitalized on the mistakes as they drove 75 yards in 13 plays resulting in a Latavius Murray two-yard touchdown, but a Brandon McManus missed extra point kept the game at 7-6.

The second quarter didn’t bring a lot of fireworks offensive, but the Broncos took a slim 9-7 lead after McManus’ 44-yard field goal with 3:37 before halftime. Gang Green got the lead back heading into the locker room following Greg Zuerlein’s 45-yard field goal.

Neither team scored in the third quarter. However, a key turnover put the Jets in Broncos territory as the quarter ended. On their 37-yard-line, Jets safety Lamarcus Joyner intercepted Rypien. Although the Jets could not score a touchdown, they added three points on a Zuerlein field goal, which increased their lead to 13-9.

Zuerlein converted his third field goal with 4:35 left as his 40-yarder increased the Jets’ lead to 16-9. The Broncos had one last chance to tie the game but Rypien’s pass was incomplete as rookie cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner broke up the throw to Courtland Sutton.

After two consecutive games on the road, Gang Green will return to MetLife Stadium to host two straight games before having a bye. The Patriots will visit East Rutherford next weekend, and Denver will travel to London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“It’s hard to win in this league,” Saleh said. “To be sitting here with five wins is awesome.

“I’ve seen a lot of teams that started 5-2 and not finish well either. We gotta keep our heads down, keep ourselves focused.”