EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Von Miller simply couldn’t believe this was the Denver Broncos’ defense.
Neither could Chris Harris Jr., Shane Ray or anyone else on that side of the ball.
A 34-16 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday in which they allowed 512 yards — including a whopping 323 on the ground — had the Broncos wondering what went wrong.
“We’re usually a pretty stout defense,” Miller said. “Today, we weren’t. We got gashed over the top two or three times today. Yeah, it was a rough one.”
Denver came in with the 17th overall defense, but was eighth against the run. Watching Isaiah Crowell scamper all over the field for a Jets-record 219 yards on 15 carries was stunning.
“We start fast, but we can’t maintain it,” Harris said. “They ran the ball great today and we gave up too many big plays in the passing game. We can’t allow a team to run the ball like that. That’s not our standard.”
No, this definitely isn’t the Orange Crush.
These Broncos were simply crushed.
“Too many big plays,” Harris said. “We have to rally the troops and start from square one. We have to figure out who wants to be here and who wants to change this. I’m all in. I want to win.”
Denver has now lost three straight and was coming off a defeat to Kansas City in which the Broncos blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead.
“It’s very frustrating,” Ray said. “We’re trying to be the best team that we can possibly be. And today, we didn’t put it all together. We didn’t put it together well at all. I don’t know what it is team-wise or what’s going on. This is not who we are.
“This isn’t even the team we were last week.”
In this one, the Jets turned the ball over on their second play from scrimmage when Adam Gotsis knocked the ball out of Bilal Powell’s hands and recovered at New York’s 20. Three plays later, Case Keenum found Courtland Sutton in the end zone from 8 yards out to give Denver a 7-0 lead.
The Broncos kept the Jets off the scoreboard in the first quarter, but then New York took advantage of an ugly 20-yard punt early in the second by Colby Wadman, who replaced the injured Marquette King. Crowell took the handoff, scooted to the left sideline and zipped into the end zone for a 77-yard touchdown.
On New York’s next possession, Sam Darnold found Robby Anderson streaking down the field uncovered and connected for a 76-yard TD that put New York ahead 14-7 with 10:46 left in the half.
“Anyone who saw the game knows it wasn’t good enough,” safety Justin Simmons said. “It’s not what we do. We’ve got to be better. It wasn’t anything we weren’t expecting. We were undisciplined. We weren’t gap sound in the run game. Credit to them for making the plays, but it wasn’t anything that had us rattled. We just didn’t make the plays that we had to.”
And this was against a Jets offense that had struggled mightily the last few weeks.
They had only 178 total yards in a 31-12 loss at Jacksonville last Sunday, including just 34 on the ground.
“It’s one of those moments where you really can’t put words to it,” Ray said, “because, obviously, I felt like this is a team we should beat — no disrespect to them.”
The Jets’ offensive line not only opened holes all day for the running game, but it kept Darnold’s jersey mostly clean.
Denver had just one sack, shared by Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko, and Miller had his third straight game without taking down a quarterback.
“I feel like we’ve been close all season, but they don’t keep track of being close,” Miller said. “They keep track of stats — turnovers, sacks — and I just haven’t been worth anything the last couple of weeks.”
While the Broncos were clearly angry about the loss, coach Vance Joseph insisted the locker room will be OK — and the team will be able to turn it around quickly.
“It’s not going to be difficult, guys,” Joseph said. “We’re not going to fall for the noise. We came into this game on a short week after an emotional loss on Monday. We can’t surrender to this. That’s what the public thinks. That’s what the perceptions are. We have no excuses today. We didn’t play good and it showed up.
“That team wanted it more than our football team today.”
Next up for the Broncos are the high-scoring Los Angeles Rams, who will present another test for a defense that is looking for a rebound.
“I’m ready,” Harris said. “I don’t care who we play. Whoever I have to guard, line them up. I’m ready to do my thing.”
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Pro Football Writer
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