EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Peyton Manning will wait another week to try for another record. Getting the victory was good enough for Denver’s star quarterback.
Manning connected with Julius Thomas twice and Demaryius Thomas once, leaving him two shy of Brett Favre’s career mark for passing TDs, and the Broncos held on to beat the New York Jets 31-17 on Sunday.
“Any time you win on the road in the NFL,” Manning said, “it’s a good thing.”
Manning has 506 career touchdown passes, and could tie or break Favre’s record next Sunday at home against San Francisco.
“I don’t know if any of them are big for me, especially in the middle of the season,” Manning said of the importance of the record. “We’re playing a tough schedule, got the 49ers at home and they’ve been one of the dominant teams of the past couple years. That’s all I am thinking about.”
Manning was 22 of 33 for 237 yards - a far cry from last week’s performance against Arizona, when he passed for a career-high 479 yards with four TDs.
But he displayed his methodical best at times in his return to MetLife Stadium, where he and the Broncos (4-1) were blown out by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl last February.
“It’s just ridiculous how good he is,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
This wasn’t nearly the blowout that many expected coming into the day, and the Jets (1-5) had a chance to tie when they got the ball deep in their own territory with less than a minute left. But after a sack put the ball at the 1, Geno Smith was intercepted by Aqib Talib, who returned it 22 yards for a sealing touchdown that sent New York to its fifth straight loss.
“The game plan was great,” Smith said. “We should’ve done a better job.”
The struggling Smith, looking to keep his starting job, was 23 of 43 for 190 yards and touchdown passes to Jace Amaro and Eric Decker, with the one interception.
“Obviously, I’m frustrated,” Smith said. “Five losses in a row, obviously has everyone frustrated, but I’m optimistic.”
Decker’s 2-yard touchdown catch, his first against his former team, cut the Jets’ deficit to seven at 24-17 with 7:56 left. Decker finished with six receptions for 54 yards, while Amaro had 10 catches for 68 yards for the Jets, who play at New England on Thursday night.
“It was just a football game out there,” Decker said. “There were a lot of close friends out there, but it’s part of the business when you go to a new team.”
Demaryius Thomas finished with 10 catches for 124 yards for Denver, and Ronnie Hillman ran for 100 yards on 24 carries in his first NFL start for the injured Montee Ball.
“If Ronnie wants to run for four touchdowns next week,” Manning said, “I’m all in favor of that.”
The Broncos got going quickly, with Manning connecting with Demaryius Thomas for 54 yards on Denver’s first play from scrimmage. The Jets’ defense then held the Broncos to a 37-yard field goal by Brandon McManus.
Dee Milliner, New York’s top cornerback, injured his right Achilles tendon during the field goal and sat out the rest of the game. He was seen with crutches by his side as he was carted from the locker room to the stadium parking lot.
Manning scrambled away from pressure and hit Demaryius Thomas for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Broncos a 10-7 lead late in the second quarter.
The Broncos went 80 yards on nine plays on their next possession, capped by Manning’s perfectly placed 22-yard throw to Julius Thomas that made it 17-7 with 27 seconds left. Julius Thomas screamed “It’s so easy!” after he caught his second TD pass from Manning midway through the third quarter. His nine touchdown catches are the most by a tight end in NFL history through his team’s first five games.
“I like to have fun out there,” Thomas said. “I was just really excited.”
Amaro’s first NFL touchdown, a 2-yarder, gave the Jets a 7-3 lead - their first in any game since Week 2 at Green Bay - with 4:16 left in the opening quarter.
Walter Powell muffed a punt, recovered by Denver’s Steven Johnson, and it changed momentum in the second quarter. While Denver didn’t score on the ensuing possession, the field position changed in the Broncos’ favor - and let some of the air out of the Jets fans in the stadium.
“Obviously, a tough day,” Ryan said. “Again.”
NOTES: The Jets also lost starting LG Brian Winters to what could be a serious left leg injury, and rookie LB Trevor Reilly to an injured knee. … Denver LB Danny Travathon left with a knee injury. … New York had just 9 yards rushing through three quarters, and finished with 31 yards on 15 carries after entering sixth in the NFL in rushing offense.
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