DENVER (AP) From loser’s lament to winning formula, the Denver Broncos finally played the clean game rookie head coach Vance Joseph has been pining for ever since they started their eight-game spiral.
After every loss, seven of them by double digits, the Broncos (4-9) would agonize over their poor play and bad luck. They suggested if they could just manage to get an early lead and win the turnover battle, they’d be able to capitalize on their dominant defense, stick to a ground game and find their way again.
They did all that in a 23-0 win over the New York Jets on Sunday that snapped their longest losing streak in a half century.
“It’s the formula we’ve been searching for,” pass rusher Shane Ray said. “Unfortunately it’s happened kind of late. (But) it’s something we can build off.”
The Broncos didn’t turn the ball over and had two takeaways, one on a strip sack by Brandon Marshall and the other on an interception by Darian Stewart .
They jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and never let up in holding the Jets (5-8) to exactly 100 yards of offense.
“We knew if we played clean football it would look like that,” said Joseph, who found himself on the hot seat after just a dozen games. “We were plus-2 in turnovers. That’s huge. The field position, our average start was 41 and theirs was 20. It’s really a flip game of what we’ve seen in the last two months.”
That was thanks to finally finding a punt returner they could count on in Jordan Taylor, who gave the Broncos field position all afternoon, unlike rookie Isaiah McKenzie, who was benched last week for the remainder of the season after fumbling six times.
It also helped that they finally got away from their stubborn insistence on three-receiver sets, the formation they were in for 27 of their 30 sacks and 13 of their 14 interceptions over their previous 10 games.
“Our plan was to run the ball efficiently on first and second down and keep the third downs manageable. If not, punt the ball back,” Joseph said. “It’s the formula we set out to accomplish and it worked. It worked perfectly.”
Other takeaways from Denver’s first shutout in 12 years:
JETS JETTISONED: On a day the Bills and Colts combined for 546 yards in a blizzard at Buffalo, the Jets managed a mere 100 yards of offense on a sunny 60-degree day in Denver.
The Jets’ 59 yards on the ground and 41 through the air didn’t sit well with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, either.
“I don’t want to hear that playoff talk,” he said, channeling Jim Mora . “I don’t want to see this (expletive) again.”
McCOWN HURT: Veteran QB Josh McCown’s season might be over after breaking his left hand when he was clobbered by Ray in the second half.
“He kind of rolled over me and either a knee or a foot or something of his caught my hand and it bent funny,” McCown said. “I knew when it happened something wasn’t right.”
McCown, who had left the game briefly earlier with a hip pointer, wasn’t sure if he’ll be back this season.
“We’ll see. I’ll do whatever I can to get ready to go and we’ll see where that leaves me,” he said. “We still have some more tests and things that we can do and will look at, but my heart is with these guys. I want to finish with these guys and if I can be out there I would love to be out there.”
ROAD WOES: The Jets fell to 1-5 on the road.
“It seems like we don’t come out with the same energy we have in home games,” cornerback Morris Claibornesaid. “When you’re on the road, you have to pretty much bring your own energy. We come out flat. … It’s embarrassing, man. Any way you look at it. It’s embarrassing to get shut out.”
Especially by a team that hadn’t won a game in 70 days.
TALIB RETURNS: Aqib Talib returned from a one-game suspension for his fight with Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree that cost him a $608,996 game check.
“I enjoyed my little time off,” Talib said. “It was an expensive vacation. I felt good, real fresh out there.”
The Jets really didn’t test Talib, who had a single tackle.
MILLER TIME: Winning in the NFL is nothing to sneeze at, but Von Miller couldn’t help himself as he sneezed four times on the way up to the podium after the game.
“Must be allergic to winning,” he cracked as he took out his handkerchief.
Turning serious, he said, “Getting back in the winning column is an amazing feeling. We just want hold on to this emotion and remember how it feels to win, and just carry it on through the rest of the season.”
NO DOUBTING THOMAS: WR Demaryius Thomas surpassed Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe to move into second place in two categories: most TD catches (56 to 55) and most receiving yards (8,475 to 8,439)
“Man, it means the world,” said Thomas, who led all receivers with eight catches for 93 yards and a TD. “It just shows the hard work I’ve put in paying off.”
Thomas trails Rod Smith (68 TDs and 11,389 yards) in both categories.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)