DENVER -- The Jets are a cliche. First-time coach. Rookie quarterback. Transmission oil leaking offensive line. An overexposed defense. Absence of Disney script, they were never winning on Sunday. So it is, the Broncos bathed in the 90-degree sun and their first 3-0 start since 2016, throttling the Jets 26-0 at Empower Field at Mile High.
"Now that we’ve had a taste of success," quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. "We want to just stay there.”
This team feels different. It has inspired hope. A month into the past two Septembers, the Broncos were searching for reasons to break your heart. This year, everything seems possible: the first playoff berth since Super Bowl 50, the end of four straight losing seasons. The victory should be embraced, especially after five sacks and two takeaways.
"We have had an aggressive mindset," Simmons said. "We have to keep stacking up weeks. The shutout was important. Because it was a mindset, and that mindset is going to help us win football games."
Added Von Miller, "It was exactly what we expected from the fans. We didn't want to let Broncos Country down. This is fun. It's fun when a lot of guys are making plays."
Bridgewater finished 19 of 25 for 235 yards. He has yet to turn the ball over this season as opponents have dared him to beat them, selling out stop the ground game.
"The way we are playing right now, we are going to be a hard team to beat," left tackle Garett Bolles said. "And quit doubting Teddy, man."
Yes, there has been much fuss about the Broncos' schedule inflating their record with helium. They earned these opponents by finishing last in the AFC West. They were terrible, and the road to redemption demands and allows for facing dregs.
The Broncos have taken advantage, posting three straight double-digit wins. No other team has this on its resume. History is also grinning at them. In the previous 10 times the Broncos have started 3-0, they have never had a losing record and reached the playoffs six times. A good sign, but it's not all rainbows and unicorns.
The start poses two unnerving questions: How many more injuries can the Broncos suffer before the depth loses all elasticity? And will the special teams ever aspire to mediocrity, avoiding the type of mistake that will ultimately cost this team a game?
Sunday crowded the trainer's room again. In the first two weeks, the Broncos lost Jerry Jeudy, Bradley Chubb, Ronald Darby and Josey Jewell, the first three for several weeks, the latter for the season.
Against the Jets, receiver K.J. Hamler (left knee) and guards Graham Glasgow (knee) and Dalton Risner (foot) exited without returning. All of the aches and pains have created reasonable questions. But that is a longer conversation for midweek as the Broncos prepare to face their first team with a winning record in the Ravens. It begins a stretch that features games against the Ravens, at the Steelers, home vs. the Raiders and at the Browns on Thursday night. A split in this set could result in a playoff berth.
That's why Sunday's partially blocked punt was frustrating. Against good teams, these mistakes will bring consequences. Again, optimism is still sprouting. And it should.
Three hours before the game, orange splashed the parking lot. Broncos fans boasted fervor about this team, no wink-wink required. They arrived undefeated with a stingy defense, promising run game and a quarterback who spawns something besides angst and indigestion.
In front of the first full capacity crowd in 637 days -- attendance was 75,882 with 3,897 no-shows -- the Broncos did not live the fancy life. They stuck to the template -- control the clock, take care of the ball and smother the opposing quarterback like a stray boa.
“Broncos fans are probably the best fans in the NFL," Fangio said. “Maybe we’ll get those 3,900 in there next Sunday."
On their second drive, the Broncos rolled up their sleeves. As with most good things this season, it started with Teddy Bridgewater. On third-and-9 from the 50, he showed patience, finding K.J. Hamler for 28 yards, his lone highlight before exiting in the second quarter with left knee injury.
Melvin Gordon scooted for 11, then exchanged insurance papers after massive collision with Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley. Javonte "Pookie" Williams strolled in and wandered into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown. A 7-0 lead felt like much bigger against the hapless Jets.
Williams told Denver7 last week the offensive line was taking this game personally regarding the ground attack.
"We will be up to the challenge," Williams said, then added Sunday. "I will keep the ball from my touchdown. But I will remember my fumble."
Gordon led the Broncos with 61 yards on 18 carries. The Broncos outgained the Jets 130-6 in the first quarter. At halftime, the numbers remained skewed in Denver's favor (198-55). Denver finished with five sacks and two turnovers. The second quarter illuminated this. The Broncos moved ahead 17-0 after Gordon showed skill and instinct. He hesitated through the hole, avoiding the oncoming traffic of Mosley. The lead swelled in significance with context.
The Broncos remain undefeated this season when leading at halftime -- they were 1-15 when trailing in 2019 and 2020 -- and have won 31 straight home games with an intermission advantage.
While the offense's numbers demanded respect, this game was about the defense. The script called for it with the Jets awful offensive line and a rookie quarterback. Zach Wilson looked skittish and indecisive, leaving him swallowed by the Broncos defense. He completed 19 of 35 passes for 160 yards and two interceptions, saddling him with seven in three games.
The Broncos entered the game with three sacks, all by Von Miller. Through the first 30 minutes, they netted four by Alexander Johnson, Shelby Harris, Malik Reed -- he has dance moves -- and Von. Johnson added a fifth late. Justin Simmons and Caden Sterns produced interceptions.
"To have that total is huge," Johnson said. "On my it was teamwork."
The Jets allowed 14 sacks in their first 10 quarters. So having them play against this defense in this environment represent cruel and usual punishment. So it was another impressive win. The Broncos are tied for first place in their division. Now the challenge becomes real.
"I think it's like ying and yang. This year we are thankful. We put in the work for the start we have right now," Simmons said. "You win on a day like today, and after watch film, that's over and it doesn't matter what did last week."
The injuries continue to mount for the Broncos. With 3:31 left in the second quarter, receiver K.J. Hamler exited with a left knee injury. He appeared to hyperextended his knee as he landed awkwardly. He went straight to the locker room. In the third quarter, the Broncos lost the interior of their line. Guards Graham Glasgow (knee) and Dalton Risner (foot) were hurt, replaced by second-year player Netane Muti and rookie Quinn Meinerz. ... Risner received a taunting call on Melvin Gordon's second quarter touchdown. ... Matt Prater no longer holds the record. As a Bronco, Prater booted a 64-yard field goal. Sunday, Baltimore's Justin Tucker -- a future Hall of Famer -- doinked a 66-yarder off the crossbar as the Ravens walked off the Lions. The Broncos host the Ravens next Sunday.