- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Peyton Manning was sorry to see Eric Decker go and is glad he’ll be able to catch up with him Sunday.

With Emmanuel Sanders taking over for Decker in Denver, the Broncos are humming right along without the former Broncos receiver who caught an NFL-best two dozen TD passes over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

Manning is coming off a career-best 479-yard passing performance against Arizona, which is 405 yards more than Jets QBs Geno Smith and Michael Vick combined for in a shutout loss at San Diego last week.

Decker said he was under no illusions when he joined the Jets in free agency last offsea6son that New York would “all of a sudden become a power passing team.”

“I knew what the philosophy was here. I knew what challenges that we have,” Decker said in a conference call with Denver media. “Right now, we haven’t played very consistently. We haven’t done enough to win ballgames.”

The Jets (1-4) take a four-game losing streak into Sunday’s game against the Broncos (3-1) at MetLife Stadium, site of the Super Bowl, where Decker had one of the worst games of his career.

Lined up mostly against Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman, Decker caught one pass for 6 yards.

With big paydays for Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas on the horizon, the Broncos couldn’t afford to break the bank for Decker like the Jets did with a five-year, $36.5 million deal.

They were sad to see him leave.

“I know he was a very popular Denver Bronco for the way he played the game and I really enjoyed working with him,” Manning said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s one of the first guys that I threw to when I signed here in the spring of 2012. We developed a pretty good rapport early.”

And it paid off as Decker averaged 86 catches for 1,176 yards and 12 TDs in his two seasons with Manning.

“I was happy for him with how he was rewarded by the Jets and I sent him a text last week and if I get a chance to visit with him before or after the game, I look forward to it,” Manning said.

Decker looks forward to catching up, not just with old friends but production-wise.

After two injury-free seasons with Manning, Decker has been hampered by a pulled hamstring since training camp. He was taken out after getting just one catch against Chicago in Week 3 as a precaution and was held out last week against the Chargers.

He has just 14 catches for 204 yards and two TDs so far, not enough to help the Jets solve their offensive struggles.

“I’m not frustrated at all with the situation. It’s growing pains,” Decker said. “Obviously getting to know a new quarterback takes time, takes repetition, takes experience, and I haven’t helped myself being out with a nagging hamstring issue. I’m working to get back on the field.”

Decker said he wasn’t surprised or bothered that the Broncos didn’t make a big push to re-sign him last season. He said he loved Denver and would have liked to play his entire career in the Rocky Mountains but once the Broncos didn’t offer something before he became a free agent, he knew it was time to move on.

“I understand the business side of it and it’s a two-way street,” Decker said. “I’ve got all the respect for John Elway and that organization and what they’re doing. Obviously they’ve made good choices and I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated or mad that they didn’t (re-sign him) but I would say I definitely enjoyed my time out there.”

And he’s starting to enjoy the Big Apple, too.

“It just takes time to get comfortable in a new environment but I definitely feel welcomed here as well,” Decker said. “I have great teammates, great organization. More ma-and-pa food opportunities out here I would say as far as Italian and some of the food might be just a little bit, I won’t say better, but you have more options. That’s a big difference and the weather in Denver; it’s hard to beat the weather in Denver. That’s something that was nice, too.”

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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