DENVER — It was a near-perfect performance for the Broncos on Sunday, beating the Jets 26-0.
The offense ran and threw the ball effectively, scoring 26 points and totaling 344 yards and 22 first downs. The defense shut out the Jets, holding them to 162 total yards and forcing two interceptions. And special teams didn't give up any big plays and made four field goals.
The Broncos are 3-0 for the first time since 2016.
"I think we've got a good team. We've got guys who are together," coach Vic Fangio said. "When I say we've got a good team, I mean the atmosphere, the belief each and everyone one of us has in everybody. I just think we have a resilient group and a group that likes playing with each other. And we've been pretty damn solid for three weeks, both offensively and defensively."
The Broncos didn't hold back against the winless Jets, jumping out to an early 17-0 lead at halftime and putting the game away with three second-half field goals and two turnovers.
The offense finally showed some life in the running game, rushing for 121 yards and three touchdowns — Melvin Gordon rushed 18 times for 61 yards and a score, while rookie Javonte Williams rushed 12 times for 29 yards and a touchdown. And quarterback Teddy Bridgewater continued his masterful season, going 19 of 25 for 235 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Meanwhile, the defense had its first shutout since beating the Titans 16-0 in Week 6 of 2019. They sacked Jets quarterback Zach Wilson five times — DL Shelby Harris, OLB Von Miller and OLB Malik Reed each had one, and ILB Alexander Johnson had two. And safeties Justin Simmons and Caden Sterns finished off the game with fourth-quarter interceptions.
It was Denver's most complete performance this season, and that's says a lot, considering how well they played against the Giants and Jaguars the first two weeks.
"It feels good," Fangio said. "But the only focus now is trying to get to 4-0. And that's just the way life is in the NFL. I enjoy that we've won these three games, but by the time I get home tonight, I'm going to start working on the Ravens."
That's a good approach to have, as the next few games will likely indicate if this team is for real or not.
The schedule only gets tougher from here for the Broncos, facing the Ravens, Steelers, Raiders and Browns — who are a combined 8-4 — over the next four weeks. Their first three opponents are a combined 0-9. Not to mention the AFC West looks more competitive than ever, with arguably the best team in the division — the Chiefs — sitting at 1-2, the Chargers at 2-1 and the Raiders at 3-0.
“We’ve got some tough games coming up," Gordon said. "We’re really going to see what we’re about.”
And in those pivotal games, the Broncos may be without up to several key players.
Through three weeks, the Broncos have lost seven starters to injury, including three on Sunday. WR KJ Hamler hurt his knee in the second quarter; RG Graham Glasgow hurt his knee in the third quarter; and LG Dalton Risner hurt his foot in the third quarter. Fangio said he doesn't "have a lot of details on any of them at this point" but should know more by Monday. They also lost WR Jerry Jeudy and CB Ronald Darby in Week 1, and OLB Bradley Chubb and ILB Josey Jewell in Week 2 — Jewell is the only one to be ruled out for the season.
Still, the Broncos are confident they can continue to their success.
"The thing I love about this team is we're finding a way to win," Bridgewater said. "A lot of people don't understand how hard it is to win in this league. Everyone sometimes thinks it's easy. ... This team, man, we just keep finding a way to win. When adversity strikes, we do a great job of responding."
And there does seem to be a different feel with this team than in recent years.
The depth appears to be there, allowing the Broncos to weather the injury storm that nearly every team goes through. But more so, the mentality is different, taking it week by week and executing against teams they're clearly better than.
"In years past, it's been what it's been," Simmons said. "This year — we put in the work for the start that we have right now. ... In the league, you can never get too high, you can never get too low. The next week's coming up. ... Winning's contagious. Keep this thing going and that's what we're preaching."
Through three games, it's safe to say the Broncos do look poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. And history says a 3-0 start certainly helps. The Broncos have now started 3-0 15 times in its history, making the playoffs nine of those seasons and hoping to make it 10 this year.
And while those three wins may not be against the best teams in the NFL, this start warrants celebration by Broncos Country. So for the 3,897 fans who decided not to show up Sunday for the home opener, well, they might be missing out because, for the first time in a long time, they appear to be a team worth rooting for.
"Broncos fans are probably the best fans in the NFL," Fangio said. "When they posted that there were 3,900 no-shows, and people booed. Well, maybe we'll get those 3,900 in here next Sunday."