Matt Prater hit a 37-yard field goal and Tim Tebow was more effective with his arm than his legs, helping the Denver Broncos to a 3-0 lead over the New York Jets after the first quarter Thursday night.
Tebow had 43 yards through the air and none on the ground.
The Broncos caught the Jets by surprise on the first play of the game — a pass from Tebow down the sideline that Demaryius Thomas hauled in for a 28-yard gain.
From there, it was a mix of conventional (Willis McGahee up middle), option (Tebow bluffed a run and flipped a pass to Lance Ball) and unconventional (Eric Decker attempted a long pass only to overthrow Thomas).
But the Jets stuffed the drive when they halted McGahee on fourth and short.
However, New York's offense couldn't capitalize on the momentum, with Mark Sanchez getting sacked by Elvis Dumervil and rookie Von Miller on third down.
T.J. Conley shanked a punt that traveled only 13 yards and set the Broncos up at the Jets 34. The Broncos turned that into a short field goal from Prater.
Shonn Greene rushed for 10 yards on three carries. He's receiving a bulk of the carries with LaDainian Tomlinson out because of a left knee injury.
Greene was banged up late in the first half and gingerly walked off the field with a rib injury. His return was questionable.
Joe McKnight filled in, gaining nine yards on three carries.
The Jets were driving near the end of the first quarter, aided by a personal foul penalty on Broncos safety Brian Dawkins for a blow to the head of receiver Plaxico Burress on a deep pass. Replays appeared to show Dawkins hitting Burress in the shoulder, not the head.
Nick Folk missed a 52-yard attempt to the left.
Just before time ran out in the first quarter, McGahee fumbled and it was recovered by the Jets.
McGahee returned to the backfield after he tweaked his left hamstring Sunday at Kansas City and was limited in practice. McGahee, the team's leading rusher, split time with Ball and Jeremiah Johnson, who was promoted from the practice squad this week to replace Knowshon Moreno after former first-round pick tore his right ACL against the Chiefs.
The Broncos have customized their offense to fit Tim Tebow's game, turning to an option scheme that has the look of what he ran at Florida that to made him one of the best combination quarterbacks in NCAA history.
This particular style is giving defensive coordinators fits, too.
In back-to-back wins at Oakland and Kansas City, Tebow guided an offense that ran the ball 93 times and threw it just 30. The Broncos gained 543 yards on the ground and 182 through the air.
Relying on this unconventional style led by an unorthodox quarterback, Denver has suddenly surged back into contention in the mediocre AFC West.
The Broncos were hardly predictable in the first quarter. Tebow completed more passes in 15 minutes of action (three) than he did all game at Kansas City (two).
This unique style also keeps one of the Jets' top playmakers, Darrelle Revis, on the outside peering in. The Pro Bowl cornerback can't afford to collapse on the option, just in case Tebow pulls it out of the tailback's belly and fires a pass to the outside.
The Jets had a short week to devise a game plan to contain an offense that's rarely run on this level. It was a stark contrast to the spread offense the Jets encountered in a 37-16 loss last weekend to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
In addition to missing Tomlinson, New York also played without Brodney Pool (sprained left knee), wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (left knee), and tight end Shawn Nelson (illness).
Decker's girlfriend, country singer Jessie James, will perform at halftime. But Decker said this week that if he should score he won't emulate the celebration of Buffalo receiver David Nelson, who caught a TD pass Sunday, sauntered to the other end of the field and handed the ball to his girlfriend, a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.