The inability to close out games now has the Jets at .500 in a season that was expected to be so much more.
Second-year QB Tim Tebow provided the spark for Denver Thursday night, running for a 20-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the game to give the Broncos a huge 17-13 comeback victory over the Jets.
Tebow completed just 9-of-20 passes for 104 yards and added eight rushes for 68 yards, but led a 95-yard drive in the closing minutes for the decisive score.
“When we were in the huddle, we were talking about how we want opportunities like this because this is an opportunity for greatness as an offense,” Tebow said about the final drive. “We haven’t done anything the whole game, but we have an opportunity to do something and let’s go out there and do it.”
Denver (5-5), which won its third straight game, now sits a 1/2 game back of the AFC West leading Oakland Raiders. Oakland will play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers are also in the hunt for the division lead with 4-5 records.
Mark Sanchez threw for 252 yards on 24-of-40 passing for the Jets (5-5), but also had an interception returned for a touchdown.
Shonn Greene recorded three carries for 10 yards before leaving the game in the first quarter with a rib injury. Joe McKnight carried the ball 16 times for 59 yards in relief.
McKnight also caught six passes for 62 yards.
Trailing 13-10 with 5:54 left on the clock, Denver started a drive at its own five-yard line.
Tebow hit Eddie Royal on the first play of the drive with a pass that Royal caught in his own end zone, but he made a defender miss before running for an eight-yard gain.
Tebow kept the ball on the next play and ran down the left sideline for a 15-yard gain.
Faced with a 3rd-and-1 at the Broncos’ 37, Tebow took a snap from the shotgun and ran up the middle for nine yards to move past midfield. He later hit Dante Rosario for a sliding 18-yard catch to get into range for a game-tying field goal.
But after two short gains, the Jets loaded the line of scrimmage and brought a blitz up the middle. Tebow immediately raced to his left and fought off an arm tackle at the five-yard line before crossing the plane for the game-winning score with 58 seconds left in regulation.
“We knew he was going to keep it there in that situation,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said about Tebow. “The kid’s a competitor and makes big plays with the game on the line.”
New York then drove to the Denver 44, but Sanchez’s Hail Mary attempt as time expired fell to the ground at the one to seal the win for Denver.
Tebow opened the game with a 28-yard pass down the left sideline to Demaryius Thomas and the Broncos drove down to the Jets’ 21, but Willis McGahee was stuffed for a loss on a 4th-and-1 attempt, turning the ball over on downs.
New York was then held to a three-and-out and T.J. Conley’s punt went just 13 yards to give Denver the ball at the Jets’ 34-yard line.
The Broncos managed just one first down, though, and had to settle for a 37- yard field goal from Matt Prater.
After the Jets’ Nick Folk missed a 52-yard field goal wide to the left late in the first quarter, a McGahee fumble was recovered by the Jets and returned to the Denver 35.
The drive stalled inside the Broncos’ 10 and Folk split the uprights from 21 yards out to knot the game at three early in the second quarter.
Folk missed a 61-yard field goal as time expired in the half to keep it a 3-3 game at the break.
New York opened the second half with an 80-yard drive for the game’s first touchdown. Sanchez hit Plaxico Burress for a 30-yard gain to start the drive and Burress pulled in two more grabs for 22 yards on the march before offensive lineman Matt Slausen recovered a McKnight fumble at the goal line and fell into the end zone.
After trading punts, the Jets started a drive at their own 21. On third down, Andre’ Goodman jumped in front of a Sanchez pass and raced 26 yards down the field for a touchdown to tie the game at 10 with 4:25 to go in the third.
New York later took over on offense with 14:48 to go in the fourth at its own 31. McKnight opened the drive with an 11-yard run before converting a 3rd- and-9 with a 14-yard screen pass to move the ball to the Denver 31. But the Jets could not get another first down and Folk snuck a 45-yard kick by the right upright to put New York ahead 13-10 with less than 10 minutes on the clock.