EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.- Rex Ryan's defense was as versatile and tough as the Broncos had expected going into Sunday's game. But the Broncos' explosive offense prevailed and they defeated the Jets 31-17, improving to 4-1 on the season.
The win didn't come about exactly as expected. The Jets had the ball and a chance to tie the game with less than a minute left, but an Aqib Talib pick-six sealed the win for Denver.
The Rex Ryan-led defense kept their team in the game as the Broncos were held to a field goal on their first time out and then they were forced to punt on their next four possessions. Manning said Ryan's defenses are versatile and that "everything is in his package, in his arsenal."
Check out the best shots from Sunday's game against the Jets.
Manning noted after the game that punts aren't ideal, but protecting the ball and avoiding turnovers is vital to win games and the Broncos didn't have any turnovers. While having no turnovers helped in the victory, penalties crushed the Broncos' momentum at times.
"The game is hard enough as it is," Manning said. "I don't know how many penalties we had, it felt like a lot. Some first-and-20s and second-and-20s, those are tough to overcome. We have to fix that quickly. When we did execute, we moved the ball and scored touchdowns, but I thought there were too many series where we had some mistakes that made it tough to move the ball against a good defense."
Penalties hurt the Broncos significantly in the game and they had 11 for 101 yards compared the Jets' two for nine yards. A roughing the passer penalty on Malik Jackson put the Jets in the red zone, eventually leading to their first score of the game.
An offensive holding penalty by Manny Ramirez negated a 12-yard, first down run by Ronnie Hillman. The following Broncos possession, the same call on Ryan Clady put the Broncos in a first-and-20 hole, which they were unable to climb out of.
The Jets' defense had a solid game plan, consistently rushing three or four and dropping the rest of the defense into coverage. Manning was forced to use his feet frequently during the game as the Jets' pass rush, who came into the game with 17 sacks on the season, kept him on his toes and forced him out of the pocket often.
"They did a couple of unorthodox things, they were dropping a number of defenders on some downs and distances," Manning, who was sacked twice in the game, said. "That's why the running game ended up opening up. When we could stay in phase and were a threat to run the ball on any given play, the advantage was to us. When we had those penalties on first and second and long. They didn't care if you ran the ball because they were going to be able to stop you."
Manning finished the game 22-of-33 for 237 yards and three TDs. While the Broncos were able to produce in the air, the running game also gained some momentum. Despite starter Montee Ball's absence, the Broncos were able to produce 138 rushing yards compared to the Jets' 31. Going into the game, the Broncos were averaging just 79.5 yards on the ground.
Ronnie Hillman became the fourth Bronco to gain 100 yards in his first NFL start. Manning said, based on the Jets' coverages, that "they didn't think much of our running game coming into the game."
"It's tough to throw the ball when they have eight guys in coverage every single play, they're disrupting some of your receivers outside," Manning said. "It was good to get the running game kind of going today. I thought Ronnie (Hillman) ran the ball well. I thought Juwan (Thompson) had a couple of good runs.
"Like I said, if we can just eliminate those negative plays and those penalty plays where the run is a threat, then I think it's important to have that balance."
Coming into the game, the Jets had the No. 6 rush defense in the NFL.
While the Jets' defense did an excellent job of containing the Broncos' explosive weapons, Manning was still able to connect with his favorite targets during the win. Demaryius Thomas had another productive week with ten catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. Julius Thomas, with his two scores, now has the most touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history through his team's first five games of the season.
"Well, we work hard on our timing and those guys are capable of making a lot of plays. I thought Demaryius made a nice adjustment on his touchdown," Manning said. "Julius, as we've said throughout the season, is a tough matchup problem for teams: Do you put a corner on him? A safety? A linebacker? What do you do? They had some double teams towards him so that tells you what they thought of Julius."
With his three touchdowns, Manning sits at 506 career touchdowns and is two shy of tying Brett Favre as the all-time touchdown pass leader. But Manning is focusing on the tough schedule ahead.
"We have the 49ers next week at home. It's the team that's been one of the dominant teams in the NFL the past couple of years," Manning said when asked about the record. "That's all I'm thinking about. I'm just trying to find a way to win the game. If Ronnie wants to run for four touchdowns next week, I promise you I'm in favor of that. Whatever happens along the way, certainly we'll handle it and we'll deal with it."