Returning to Denver and Mile High, RB Breece Hall, whose rookie season ended at Empower Field at Mile High, insisted it would be "just another football game." The Jets' 31-21 win over the Broncos was just another game indeed, another masterpiece from the Green & White's young star RB. Hall rushed for a career-high 177 yards including a 72-yard TD on the team's first play of the third quarter that changed the game as the visitors moved out to a double-digit lead in the second half and hung on for the victory.
After rushing for an impressive 59 yards in the first half, Hall turned on the afterburners in the second half with another 118. In a matchup of 1-3 clubs, the Jets made a finishing statement and moved to 2-3.
Hall, who had a 62-yard scoring run last October in a 16-9 win before sustaining a season-ending ACL injury, gave the Jets a 15-13 lead that was their first lead in the third-quarter in their last 11 games. He provided the team the spark they needed on a sparkling day in Denver. With an elevation of 5,250 feet, nobody rose higher than Hall.
"The dude is a stud," QB Zach Wilson said of the second-year back. "But I think it starts with the guys up front. Those guys made some big holes right there and then when you give when you give Breece a chance to hit it like that and he's able to make some guys miss, we can be very explosive in the run game."
The Jets outscored the Broncos 23-8 in the second half, taking command after an uneven opening 30 minutes. Quincy Williams (2 sacks), Jermaine Johnson (1 sack) and Bryce Huff (1 sack) led a determined rush that harassed Russell Wilson and muted the Broncos offense most of the third and fourth stanzas. The Broncos were held to 1 yard in the second half until R. Wilson hit Jerry Jeudy for 23 yards past the midway point of the fourth quarter. When Denver cut the Jets' lead to 24-21, Z. Wilson responded with a critical 37-yard third-down conversion to TE Tyler Conklin, who led the team with 67 yards on 4 catches.
But All-Pro CB Pat Surtain II intercepted Z. Wilson deep inside Broncos territory with the Green & White up 24-21, leaving the Jets defense to turn away the Denver's final efforts to tie or win the game. Williams racked up a pair of sacks on that stand including a strip-sack that Bryce Hall, playing for CB D.J. Reed (concussion), recovered and took to the house to end the suspense.
"I missed inside a little bit," Wilson said of the pick. "It was third down situation and they played man coverage. They put their best player on our best player, and he made unbelievable play. It got tipped around a little bit and he catches it between his legs. One of those that can go kind of go either way but really all you can say is great play by two right there."
Saleh added: "I thought the defense was outstanding minus one drive and overall, it was gritty, and it wasn't pretty."
The Jets scored in the opening quarter for the first time this season although a bit unconventionally, getting 5 points courtesy of their special teams and defense.
The Green & White's punt coverage unit gave the team an early boost. Broncos rookie speedster Marvin Mims couldn't handle Thomas Morstead's 50-yard punt as Irvin Charles, elevated from the practice squad on Saturday, met him and LB Samuel Eguavoen recovered for the visitors in plus-territory. That set up Greg Zeurlein's 30-yard field and the Jets grabbed their first 1st half lead of the season at 3-0.
Trailing 7-3, the defense made it a 2-point game on a second safety in as many weeks. Defensive tackle Al Woods got R. Wilson, his former Seattle Seahawk teammate, in his grasp and forced an intentional grounding in the end zone. Safeties in back-to-back games was a franchise first.
On their first offensive possession, the Broncos marched 75 yards on six plays, culminating an efficient march on R. Wilson's 30-yard screen connection to rookie RB Jaleel McLaughlin. Will Lutz (23 yards) and Zuerlein (26 yards) exchanged second quarter field goals, making it 10-8, before Lutz tacked on a 22-yarder with 1:48 remaining in the second quarter.
While Hall was effective on the ground in his return to Denver, the Jets offense scuffled for most of the fist two quarters as Zach Wilson was sacked three times and the unit went 0 of 5 on third down. The defense held Denver to just 1 of 3 in the red zone, but the team was victimized by 6 penalties. And just when it appeared when the Jets would cut the lead again before intermission, the offense couldn't get a play off from the Denver 8 after TE C.J. Uzomah was tackled in bounds following a 5-yard gain.
It ended up not biting the Jets in the end as the Green & White emerged victorious for the second time this season.
"It feels good to win in the league against anybody," Saleh said. "It doesn't matter. But is it was a special game for [Nathaniel] Hackett being here a year ago and today racking up over 400 yards and putting up 31 points, so I'm happy for him."
See the best game action photos during Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos.
RT Alijah Vera-Tucker, who sustained a torn triceps in last year's Week 7 win over the Broncos, exited in the second quarter with a calf injury and did not return. He was replaced in the lineup by second-year OL Max Mitchell. …. With both D.J. Reed (concussion) and Brandin Echols (hamstring) out of the lineup, Bryce Hall made his first start of the season opposite Sauce Gardner. … Tony Adams returned to the lineup after a two-game absence. … The Jets have won consecutive games versus Denver for the first time since 1965-67.