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Peyton Manning respects Jets, even if Julius Thomas didn't

Jets quarterback Geno Smith and Denver Broncos quarterback

Jets quarterback Geno Smith and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning shakes hands after their game on Oct. 12, 2014 at MetLife Stadium. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

By now you've probably read about it or heard about it: Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas twice exclaimed, "It's so easy!" after scoring his second touchdown against the Jets on Sunday.

The funny thing is, Denver's 31-17 victory wasn't so easy. And everyone in the victorious locker room, from Peyton Manning to coach John Fox to Thomas, acknowledged that fact.

"I like to have a little fun out there," said Thomas, who leads the NFL in touchdown receptions with nine. "It was just a blessing to be able to play football on Sunday and to be able to stand in that end zone and help your team put up points, just a lot of excitement."

Thomas also tweeted: "Another tough game."

Fox called it "a gritty victory." And Manning was too disturbed by Denver's 11 penalties to crow about his three touchdown passes in his return to MetLife Stadium, where he and the Broncos were overwhelmed by the Seahawks in February's Super Bowl.

"Yeah. No," Manning said when asked if Seattle's 43-8 victory was on his mind. "Different team, so . . . yeah."

The Jets frustrated Manning early with multiple defenses. He hit Demaryius Thomas with a 54-yard pass on Denver's first snap, but the Broncos were held to a field goal on that drive. The Jets actually took a 7-3 lead when Geno Smith hit Jace Amaro with a 2-yard touchdown pass with 4:16 left in the first quarter.

Manning said the Broncos realized the Jets were placing eight men in coverage, so the game plan had to change.

"My guess is they didn't think much of our running game coming into the game," said Manning, who was 22-for-33 passing for 237 yards and no interceptions. "When you take your two linebackers and lock them both out on two receivers, they're basically laughing at your running game. And based on what we've been doing, that's probably a valid philosophy. It's tough to throw the ball when you've got eight guys in coverage every single play."

The Broncos came into the game 29th in the league in rushing. But Ronnie Hillman, filling in for the injured Montee Ball, ran 24 times for 100 yards.

Denver's three offensive touchdowns still came on Manning throws, though. He has 506 touchdown passes and is two away from tying Brett Favre's record.

"We're trying to win football games and it's tough," Manning said. "That's all I'm thinking about."

Manning's first TD pass of the day was a 1-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas with 5:50 left in the second quarter to give Denver a 10-7 lead.

He then hit Julius Thomas with a pair of touchdown passes, a 22-yarder with 27 seconds left in the half and a 4-yarder with 8:08 to play in the third quarter to make it 24-7. That's when Thomas punctuated his feat with the remark heard 'round the Internet world.

Despite that, Manning didn't think it was easy at all.

"I have a lot of respect for their defense," he said. "They've got good players and they're well-coached."


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