EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — They remain flawed, injury-riddled, mistake-prone and incapable of putting a team away, even one as bad as the New York Jets.
But at least the Broncos don’t remain winless.
The Broncos tried to remain winless Thursday night at empty MetLife Stadium, blowing an 11-point lead, but a key Jets facemask penalty and a 31-yard catch by Tim Patrick set up Brandon McManus’ 53-yard field goal with 3:08 remaining.
Melvin Gordon’s 43-yard touchdown run with 1:48 left sealed the game.
Broncos 37, Jets 28.
Go ahead and exhale, coach Vic Fangio, who called a great defensive game and won a challenge.
“Winning has cured more ills than penicillin,” Fangio said.
Feel free to be excited, quarterback Brett Rypien, who threw three interceptions to go with two touchdowns in his first NFL start.
“The goal tonight was to win and that feels really good,” Rypien said. “As far as the mistakes go, there are two (interceptions) that shouldn’t happen.”
Absolutely have some relief, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, who had 2 1/2 sacks to bring back memories.
“You see everybody get back there (for sacks) and it’s fun and makes you want to get more,” Chubb said. “To finally get in the win column after everything that’s happened is just amazing. I’m looking forward to stacking these wins and stacking these sacks.”
And positively enjoy the weekend off, entire Broncos organization, who avoided a second consecutive 0-4 start.
Patrick (seven yards) and Jerry Jeudy (48 yards) had touchdown catches, Gordon rushed for two scores and McManus was 3-of-3 on field goals.
Most of all those plays appeared wasted when the Jets mounted a comeback — Pierre Desir’s 35-yard interception return for a touchdown was sandwiched by two Sam Ficken field goals.
Suddenly, the Jets led 28-27 on Ficken’s 36-yard make with 6:23 left.
The Broncos (1-3) couldn’t lose to the Jets, could they?
As it turns out, they couldn’t. And, wow, would this have been a bad loss, one that would have been remembered for the rest of the season.
Instead, the Broncos’ four-hour charter flight back to Denver will be remembered for all of the aforementioned individual performances.
The Broncos’ plethora of young players have experienced their first NFL success. The key now is to build on it.
“You’re right — it just gives them some confidence that they can go out there and win a game and hopefully we can build on it,” Fangio said.
The Broncos were in deep trouble on their eventual winning drive, but were bailed out by one of many terrible Jets penalties. Given a new set of downs, Rypien found Patrick in bounds down the left sideline and McManus was good on his field goal attempt, which was made 10 yards longer because of Rypien’s intentional grounding penalty.
Rypien was 19-of-31 passing for 242 yards.
“He was up and down, obviously,” Fangio said of Rypien. “I thought there were good things. We hit some good plays, which is always important. But throwing three interceptions, you’re not going to win many times but we found a way to win.”
Patrick had six catches for 113 yards. And the defense had a season-best seven sacks.
For two winless teams, they produced an entertaining game — even after the whistle.
As the game ended, Fangio directed his team to the locker room and he didn’t shake hands with Jets coach Adam Gase.
“There were a couple of personal fouls at the end and our sideline was pissed off and I wanted to avoid any confrontation and have it get ugly,” Fangio said. “I thought that was the prudent thing to do.”
The Jets took the opening kickoff and picked up where Tampa Bay left off on Sunday by doing whatever they wanted on third down. A Darnold sneak and eight-yard scramble converted the first two third downs. The best — and most unlikely — type of conversion followed. On third-and-7, Darnold avoided blitzing inside linebacker Alexander Johnson, turned up field, made safety Justin Simmons miss behind the line and weaved his way to a 46-yard touchdown.
Darnold’s previous long rush was 28 yards.
The Broncos semi-answered with the help of Jets penalties. Hamler drew a pass interference on third-and-4. On the next play, Rypien absorbed a late hit from Tarrell Basham. The drive stalled when tight end Nick Vannett was called for false start and a quick pass to Royce Freeman lost two yards. Brandon McManus kicked a 40-yard field goal.
Johnson got to Darnold on the Jets’ next possession, corralling him in 4.89 seconds and spiking him into the turf. Darnold left after the next play with a shoulder injury (replaced by old friend Joe Flacco) but soon returned.
Jeudy’s highlight play gave the Broncos their first lead. Against Desir, Jeudy outjumped and outfought Desir for the football and then waltzed into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.
Rypien’s only first-half blip was an interception early in the second quarter (Desir on the sideline). The Jets turned that into a 26-yard Sam Ficken field goal.
The Broncos extended their lead to 17-10 on the ensuing drive. Patrick caught a 40-yard pass from Rypien and DaeSean Hamilton converted a third-and-6 with a nine-yard catch. Jeff Driskel entered the game at quarterback and rushed for nine plus another five on a personal foul by safety Bradley McDougald. Gordon capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown.
The Jets reached the Broncos’ 20 before halftime, but settled for a 38-yard Ficken field goal to cut the Broncos’ lead to 17-13.
Now the Broncos can use the weekend to re-group and take stock of their depth chart. Will quarterback Drew Lock (right shoulder) be available? What about running back Phillip Lindsay (toe) and cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder)?
All unanswered questions, but at least the biggest one of them all — When will the Broncos finally win a game? — was answered Thursday night.