DENVER -- Rex Ryan paused as he tried to find the words, appearing almost stunned that his defense had allowed Tim Tebow to march 95 yards for the winning touchdown.
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"I'm just so shocked right now," Revis said after Tebow's 20-yard TD run with 58 seconds left sent the Jets (5-5) to a 17-13 loss. "The only thing I can say is he ran the offense the best way he could and they ended up driving on us on that touchdown drive. He did it. Tim Tebow did it. He shocked me. He probably shocked a lot of people. But he did it."
Tebow not only caught the Jets napping but might have put a serious crimp in their playoff hopes. His run punctuated a 12-play drive that took 4:56 and erased the three-point lead the Jets had taken with 9:14 left on Nick Folk's 45-yard field goal.
Tebow accounted for all but three yards on that winning drive, completing 3 of 5 passes for 35 yards and carrying the ball six times for 57. Up until then, Denver had mustered only six first downs and 134 yards.
On third-and-4, Ryan essentially sent the house up the middle, with nine Jets rushing the passer, and Tebow escaped to his left, breaking Eric Smith's ankle-tackle attempt around the 5-yard line. "Obviously, a critical error," Ryan said. "But Tebow made the play. We thought that play was coming, but we never got it defended."
The Jets couldn't overcome a rash of mistakes. Folk missed field goals of 61 and 52 yards, and T.J. Conley's 13-yard punt to the Jets' 34 helped Denver take a 3-0 lead. Even worse, Sanchez had an interception returned 26 yards for a touchdown by Andre Goodman in the third quarter, which at the time seemed to be the only way the Broncos were going to find the end zone.
"That's just an embarrassing play on my part, and it's not a winning formula," said Sanchez, who completed 24 of 40 passes for 252 yards but threw his third pick-six of the season and second in five days. "So I hurt the team and lost the game."
The Broncos gained 229 yards, 89 fewer than the Jets, and converted only 3 of 13 third downs. Tebow completed only 9 of 20 passes for 104 yards but gained 68 yards on eight carries. Denver (5-5) is 4-1 since he replaced Kyle Orton. "We have a resilient team," Tebow said.
With the score tied at 3, the Jets took the second-half kickoff and put together a nice drive, though they needed guard Matt Slauson to save the day. They drove 79 yards from their 20-yard line in six plays, helped by 30-, 9- and 13-yard passes to Plaxico Burress and a 12-yard catch by Joe McKnight that put the ball at the Denver 1.
On second-and-goal from the 1, rookie Bilal Powell, who was active for the first time this season because LaDainian Tomlinson (knee) didn't make the trip, had the ball poked out. Slauson picked up the fumble as if to say "look what I found" and fell into the end zone for the touchdown, getting up and spiking it for extra emphasis.
Slauson's first career touchdown -- the sixth offensive fumble recovery for a touchdown in Jets history -- handed the Jets a 10-3 cushion with 10:57 left in the third quarter. His score marked the first time a Jets offensive lineman recovered a fumble in the end zone since Randy Rasmussen did it in the Jets' 1972 home opener against the Dolphins.
"I didn't know what to think," Slauson said. "At that time, you just feel like a big dumb animal. You are just like, 'Oh, ball.' And you just grab it and roll in. I felt like we were in a great position there because we had all the confidence in the world in our defense. But unfortunately, we had mistakes all across the board."
Including that crucial mistake by Sanchez that let the Broncos right back into it. He was looking for Burress on a hook route and Goodman undercut the pattern, intercepting the ball at the Jets' 26 and darting untouched into the end zone to tie it at 10 with 4:25 left in the third quarter.
"It doesn't feel good, that's for sure," Sanchez said. "It doesn't feel good standing up here, knowing that I just gave them a touchdown, gave them a free play. The guy made a pretty good play on it, but Plax wasn't open. I shouldn't have thrown it. I put our defense in a tough spot and they shouldn't have even been able to drive down to put it into overtime or win the game."
With six games remaining, the Jets can't afford another loss. After reaching the AFC Championship Game in Ryan's first two seasons, they find themselves staring at the possibility of not making the playoffs at all.
"We're digging ourselves a hole, that's for sure," Sanchez said. "If anybody knows how to do it, we know how -- to come back and take the hard road to the playoffs. I know we can. We have the playmakers, we have the leadership, I have the ability to play better than this and we just haven't and I haven't. So it starts with me. We have a long weekend to take a good, long look at yourself in the mirror, figure out the player you want to be the rest of the season and move on. But it starts with me, and to win these games. I have to play a lot better.''
Said Ryan, "We have to take a long, hard look at ourselves, and one thing about this team, we will stay together. We are not perfect by any stretch, but we are lot better than this, and we all know it. Every man in that locker room knows it and I know it. And it just has to start next week when we play Buffalo. We just have to get better."