3 more TDs for Manning as Broncos beat Jets 31-17
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Julius Thomas started screaming after he caught a dart of a pass from Peyton Manning while streaking into the end zone.
“It’s so easy!” the Denver Broncos tight end shouted.
Well, it was far from the blowout many predicted, but Peyton Manning and the Broncos were in control most of the way in beating the New York Jets 31-17 on Sunday.
“I like to have fun out there,” Thomas said. “I was just really excited.”
And, for good reason. Manning connected with him twice and Demaryius Thomas once, leaving the Broncos’ quarterback two shy of Brett Favre’s career mark for passing TDs. Manning has 506 career touchdown passes, and could tie or break Favre’s record next Sunday at home against San Francisco.
“I don’t know if any of them are big for me, especially in the middle of the season,” Manning said of the importance of the record. “We’re playing a tough schedule, got the 49ers at home and they’ve been one of the dominant teams of the past couple years. That’s all I am thinking about.”
Manning was 22 of 33 for 237 yards — a far cry from last week’s performance against Arizona, when he passed for a career-high 479 yards with four TDs.
But he displayed his methodical best at times in his return to MetLife Stadium, where he and the Broncos (4-1) were blown out by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl last February.
“It’s just ridiculous how good he is,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
The Jets (1-5) had a chance to tie when they got the ball deep in their own territory with less than a minute left. But after a sack put the ball at the 1, Geno Smith was intercepted by Aqib Talib, who returned it 22 yards for a sealing touchdown that sent New York to its fifth straight loss.
“The game plan was great,” Smith said. “We should’ve done a better job.”
The struggling Smith, looking to keep his starting job, was 23 of 43 for 190 yards and touchdown passes to Jace Amaro and Eric Decker, with the one interception. Decker finished with six receptions for 54 yards, while Amaro had 10 catches for 68 yards for the Jets, who play at New England on Thursday night.
Here are some other things to know from the Broncos’ victory over the Jets:
THOMAS DUO: Both of the Broncos’ Thomases — Demaryius and Julius — were busy against the Jets.
Demaryius Thomas caught 10 passes for 124 yards, a week after he set the Broncos’ single-game record with 226 yards receiving against Arizona.
Julius Thomas caught his eighth and ninth touchdown passes, the most by a tight end in NFL history through his team’s first five games of a season. He finished with four catches for 51 yards.
GROUND GAMES: Hillman made his first NFL start in place of the injured Montee Ball and rushed for a career-high 100 yards on 24 carries.
He also became just the fourth player in team history to reach 100 yards rushing in his first start, joining Bobby Humphrey (1989), Mike Anderson (2000) and Clinton Portis (2002). The Broncos gained 138 yards overall on the ground against the team that was ranked No. 6 in run defense coming in.
“From the way they were playing us,” Manning said, “they didn’t think much of our running game coming in.”
Meanwhile, the Jets were held to just 31 yards — and had 9 through three quarters. Smith was the Jets’ leading rusher with 11 yards.
SMITH STILL STARTING: Despite Smith’s struggles this season, Ryan announced that he will start for the Jets at New England.
Smith was 23 of 43 for 190 yards and two TDs, and was close to having a turnover-free game until the late pick-six by Talib. He has six TD passes and seven INTs in six games, with a quarterback rating of 69.7.
“Obviously, I’m frustrated,” Smith said. “Five losses in a row, obviously has everyone frustrated. But I’m optimistic.”
FAMILIAR FACES: Decker faced his former team for the first time since signing with the Jets as a free agent in the offseason.
His 2-yard touchdown catch cut the Jets’ deficit to seven at 24-17 with 7:56 left. Decker spent four seasons with the Broncos from 2010-13, but wasn’t feeling too nostalgic.
“It was just a football game out there,” Decker said. “There were a lot of close friends out there, but it’s part of the business when you go to a new team.”
INJURY REPORT: New York might have lost its top cornerback Dee Milliner to a potential season-ending injury.
Milliner, who missed time earlier with a high ankle sprain and a quadriceps issue, injured his right Achilles tendon during a field goal and sat out the rest of the game. He was seen with crutches by his side as he was carted from the locker room to the stadium parking lot.
The Jets also lost starting left guard Brian Winters to what could be a serious left knee injury, and rookie linebacker Trevor Reilly to an injured knee.
Denver linebacker Danny Travathon left with a knee injury.
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