The Jets knew how important this game against Denver at MetLife Stadium was to the unfolding season. It was the first game in a three-game homestand, a chance to end their three-game losing streak, an opportunity for rookie QB Sam Darnold and the Jets to get back on the track they thought they had set in the opener at Detroit.
At first the Jets seemed to be vulnerable, turning the ball over at their 20 and falling behind early, 7-0.
From there, it was all green and white as Isaiah Crowell set the franchise single-game record with 219 rushing yards, Darnold found the awakened Robby Anderson for a pair of long touchdown passes, and the Jets rolled to 323 rushing yards and 512 yards on offense, four sacks on defense and a 34-16 triumph over the Orange Crush.
The game ended on Marcus Maye's 104-yard interception return — the longest INT runback in franchise history and the longest non-scoring INT return in NFL history — to the Broncos 1 as he ran out of gas and was tackled just short of a final score.
The Jets improved to 2-3 on the season with the 1-4 Colts coming into the Meadowlands next Sunday, followed by the Vikings the following weekend. The Broncos deflated to 2-3 with their third straight loss and saw their road record since 2017 fall to 1-9.
Here are nine chronological observations on the Jets' satisfying win as it unfolded at MetLife this afternoon.
1. Broncos Strike First
Rookie FA RB Phillip Lindsay showed why he's got a starting job in the NFL and the Broncos came into the game No. 2 in rushing as he took a handoff wide left and cut through the crease for 29 yards. Then after Denver's recovery of a rare Bilal Powell fumble at the Jets 20, Lindsay peeled off a 12-yard dash to set up Case Keenum's first TD pass since opening week, a rollout 8-yarder to WR Courtland Sutton on the right side of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Top Gameday Images from Week 5 at MetLife Stadium
2. Missed Opportunity
Sam Darnold got the offense moving after that short-circuited first series as the Jets went 12 plays and 63 yards before Jason Myers had to come on. And Myers, after hitting his first seven FG tries as a Jet, pushed a 30-yarder wide right as the Green & White's first-quarter scoring woes continued. The opening frame ended with the Jets trailing, 7-0.
3. Well, Well, Well
Isaiah Crowell turned on the Jets again, bursting off his left side and outracing a herd of Broncos to the goal line for a 77-yard touchdown to tie things at 7-7 on the Jets' first play of the second quarter. It was the second-longest TD run in franchise history, just missing Bruce Harper's 78-yarder vs. Atlanta at Shea Stadium in 1983. And with his 62-yard dash in the opener at Detroit, Crowell became just the second RB with two 60-yards-plus TD runs in his Jets career, first accomplished by Leon Washington in a five-game span in 2008.
4. Robby's Turn
Three offensive plays after that, Darnold and Robby Anderson finally hooked up again. This time Robby separated from CB Bradley Roby, Darnold laid the ball in his hands and Robby took it the rest of the way for a 76-yard TD catch. That was two 70-yard scoring plays in a span of 3:01 for a 14-7 lead. The only thing quite like it in franchise history was Joe Namath hitting Rich Caster for 79- and 80-yard TDs in a late 2:02 span in the classic showdown with Johnny Unitas at Baltimore in 1972.
5. Cro Keeps Flying
Crowell wasn't done. On the first offensive play of the second half, he again broke off his left side and didn't come down until 54 yards later. He became the first Jet with a pair of 50-yard runs in the same game since Thomas Jones reeled off his 71-yard TD and 64-yard run in the OT loss to Buffalo in 2009. And the Jets found themselves at 200 rushing yards.
6. Batting (Dis)Order
Did the Broncos discover that Darnold could have passes batted down like Blake Bortles? Darnold gave the ball back to the Broncos after Cro's second long run when his third pass of the game was batted into the air in the backfield by Shane Ray. This one was picked off by DE Derek Wolfe and returned to the DEN-41. But the Jets weathered that storm as Leonard Williams and Jordan Jenkins brought down Case Keenum on third down.
7. Special Stretch
Myers rebounded from his 30-yard miss to hit from 49 yards out for a 24-10 lead late in the third quarter. Then a Lachlan Edwards punt was fair-caught at the Denver 5, the Broncos went 3-and-out, new punter Colby Wadman's punt was returned 51 yards by Andre Roberts to the 11 on the last play of the third quarter, then Myers came on for a 30-yarder that he converted to make it a three-score game at 27-10 with 12:59 to play.
8. Fourth-Down Fiesta
Denver drove to first-and-10 at the Jets 13, but the Jets defense came up big on four plays from there, including Broncos HC Vance Joseph choosing to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the 6 and the rush forcing Keenum out of the pocket and then Morris Claiborne defensing the pass in the end zone intended for Emmanuel Sanders.
9. Wrapping It Up
With Crowell and Bilal Powell and the Jets OL firing away at the Broncos' ground-down run defense, the Jets got to 321 rush yards for the game, the fifth time in franchise history they ran for 300 yards in a game. And Powell's 38-yarder set up one more passing game success when Darnold found Terrelle Pryor for the one-handed 20-yard TD to make it 34-10 with 5:10 to play.