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'We just kept fighting': Broncos string together necessary positive plays to earn first win of season

The Broncos weren't perfect on Thursday night.

There were several mistakes in a 37-28 win over the Jets, most notably a trio of interceptions and eight penalties.

In the early weeks of the season, Denver also fell victim to a slew of poor plays that offset their successful gains.

"There's always a couple sequences in a game usually revolving around turnovers, big plays and lack of execution that can impact the outcome of a game," Head Coach Vic Fangio said after the Broncos' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As the Broncos won their first game of the season, though, they were able to overcome their negative plays. And instead of lamenting a close loss, the Broncos were able to ride a sequence of positive plays to a win.

"There was a few of those [sequences] tonight," Fangio said after the Broncos' win over the Jets. "We weren't always on the right end of them, but we were on the right end just enough."

One of those sequences came in the fourth quarter, as Brett Rypien completed a third-and-7 pass to Tim Patrick for 31 yards, Brandon McManus drilled a 53-yard go-ahead field goal, Bradley Chubb sacked Sam Darnold on fourth down and Melvin Gordon III put the game away with a 43-yard touchdown scamper.

In previous weeks, perhaps the Broncos fail to make all four of those plays. And without all four, perhaps the Broncos don't get a win.

If Rypien didn't complete the pass to Patrick, the Broncos would have had to decide whether to punt the ball away with 4:11 to play in the game or attempt a fourth-and-7. If McManus missed his 53-yard kick, the Broncos would have been trailing by two points with just over three minutes to play. If Chubb didn't bring Darnold down, perhaps New York gains another few yards and kicks a game-winning field goal. And if Gordon didn't score, the Broncos may have had to punt the ball back to New York for a last-gasp drive.

The margins for success were thin — but the Broncos still succeeded.

On Thursday, the Broncos made each play in the sequence that they needed to win. Compared to a game like the one in Pittsburgh where a missed block led to a forced fumble, a dropped interception by the Broncos and a Steelers touchdown, this week's result was far more preferable.

"That was a tough game to finish," Fangio said. "We had to go out there and stop them twice at the end of the game there on defense, once where they go for it on fourth down, which they obviously will, so it's hard to get that at the end of a game because you have to go four and out. [Darnold is] a really good quarterback and a great runner, so I'm really proud of the defense there. And then just a really great individual run by Melvin, who I think is a top back and is going to continue to get better and better for us. We love that we have him."

The Broncos know they'll need to clean up the turnovers if they want to continue to be on the right side of the sequences. They won despite being -3 in the turnover margin, and that won't happen often. The Broncos earned their first win with a -3 or worse turnover ratio since Nov. 25, 2018, when they beat the Steelers.

Denver is also just the eighth team to win a game with a -3 turnover ratio in the last five years.

After a win, it's easier to stomach those corrections.

"It's amazing," wide receiver Tim Patrick said of the victory. "It's amazing, and we still had those plays. I think we just kept fighting this time. I think we were -3 in the turnover battle with a defensive touchdown. I'm pretty sure the math on that, you're not supposed to win the game. We just found a way. 'Mel' iced it with that long run with Brett leading the way and lead blocking on that. That was huge. That just shows his competitive edge in wanting us to win the game."

With that competitive edge and an edge in the margins, perhaps the Broncos can add another game to their win total in the near future.

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