Rookie Breece Hall ran for a 62-yard touchdown before leaving with a knee injury and the surprising New York Jets won their fourth straight by beating backup quarterback Brett Rypien and the punchless Denver Broncos 16-9 on Sunday.
Rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner broke up Rypien’s fourth-down pass into the end zone to Courtland Sutton with just under 2 minutes remaining. Rypien’s final heave in the closing moments fell woefully short of KJ Hamler’s grasp at the goal line.
The Jets (5-2) are off to their best start since 2010, have their first four-game winning streak since 2015 and already surpassed their win total from last year when they went 4-13. New York also improved to 4-0 on the road.
Denver starting quarterback Russell Wilson sat this one out with a pulled hamstring, missing a game for just the fourth time in his 11-year career. But the Broncos, who are last in the league in scoring, fared no better under Rypien, who was making his second career start.
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The Broncos (2-5) lost their fourth straight despite another outstanding defensive performance.
Zach Wilson was held without a touchdown for the second straight week, but he did enough to lead the Jets to the win despite his pedestrian stats: 16 for 26 for 121 yards.
Rypien’s only other start was also against the Jets, a 37-28 win at MetLife Stadium in 2020, but he went 24 for 46 for 225 yards and no touchdowns and threw a crucial second-half interception in this one.
Russell Wilson was ruled out 24 hours before kickoff and missed a game for just the fourth time in his career.
The Jets lost Hall to a left knee injury in the second quarter when he was tackled by Patrick Surtain II and Jonas Griffith after a short run. He was helped off the field and carted to the locker room.
Coach Robert Saleh said after the game the initial diagnosis for Hall is an ACL injury.
Hall finished with 72 yards on four carries, including the 62-yard touchdown run in which he hit a top speed of 21.87 mph according to NextGen Stats, the fastest by a ballcarrier this season.
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Rypien’s throw to tight end Greg Dulcich in triple coverage was easily picked off by safety Lamarcus Joyner, whose 27-yard return to the Denver 37 set up Greg Zuerlein’s 33-yard field goal that gave the Jets a 13-9 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Zuerlein’s 45-yarder as the first half expired sent the Jets into halftime with a 10-9 lead.
That field goal was into the wind at the south end zone, the same direction that Brandon McManus missed an extra point following Latavius Murray’s 2-yard TD run.
McManus also missed a 56-yarder with the wind before making a 44-yarder to put Denver ahead 9-7.
Hall was injured on the next play from scrimmage and was helped off the field and taken to the medical tent on the Jets’ sideline.
The rookie second-rounder from Iowa State had established himself as a key playmaker for the Jets and was coming off a season-high 116 yards rushing at Green Bay. He leads the Jets with 463 yards and four touchdowns on 80 attempts
Sure enough, both teams started out slowly on a windy afternoon. Zach Wilson misfired three times on the Jets’ opening drive that lasted all of 23 seconds, including the punt. The Broncos returned the favor with a 24-second drive on their second possession.
Jets: G Alijah Vera-Tucker (elbow) and WR Corey Davis (knee) left in the second quarter, along with Hall. … DL John Franklin-Myers left in the fourth quarter.
Broncos: RB Mike Boone left in the second with an ankle injury and OLB Barron Browning (hip) let in the third quarter. … RT Cam Fleming went out late in the game with a thigh injury.
Jets: Wrapped up a stretch of three road games in four weeks and return to the Meadowlands next Sunday to face New England.
Broncos: Fly out Monday to London, where they’ll play the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium next Sunday.