DENVER -- Over 33 painstaking plays and 19 mind-numbing minutes, Mike Anderson and Jake Plummer toyed with the New York defense in a cruelly effective examination of all the things the Jets couldn't do.
The Broncos got a touchdown and a field goal out of those early drives to more than set the tone for their 27-0 victory Sunday, a win that bolstered Denver's drive toward the playoffs and did little to prove the Jets to be anything more than bottom feeders in the NFL.
"We're struggling on offense, and it's very difficult to win in this league if you can't score," Jets coach Herman Edwards said.
Impossible, of course, and in part because the Denver offense stayed on the field for nearly 42½ minutes, the defense was able to enjoy its first shutout since 1997, the year the Broncos (8-2) won their first Super Bowl.
Plummer threw for 225 yards and again went without an interception. Anderson ran for 113 yards and three scores. The highlight, though, was the shutout, paced by four sacks, five turnovers and a thorough dismantling of all three New York quarterbacks: Brooks Bollinger, Vinny Testaverde and Kliff Kingsbury.
"It feels good," linebacker Al Wilson said. "Anytime you get it, I think it says a lot about the character of the defense."
New York (2-8) lost its fifth straight, sustained its first shutout since 1995 and went without a touchdown for the third time this season and the second time in two weeks. Last week, after a 30-3 loss to Carolina, Panthers cornerback Ken Lucas accused the Jets of quitting at the end.
That couldn't be said this time. Sadly, though, that's about the best thing that could be said about the Jets.
"I can't ask for more than what they have," Edwards said. "They're giving everything they have at this point."
Bollinger probably won't remember much of this debacle after being knocked out early with a concussion that left him vomiting on the sideline.
Testaverde replaced him and finished with 152 yards, including a few second-half drives in which the Jets offense looked decent. But he lost a fumble on the second snap he took and four of his first five drives ended in turnovers. The 42-year-old warhorse hurt his ankle late and gave way to Kingsbury, who Edwards said would probably be New York's starter "if we had to play tomorrow."
"The quarterback situation is in shambles," Edwards said.
Denver held the venerable Curtis Martin to 7 yards on four carries, his worst output since a 5-yard game early in 2002 when he was hurting and didn't play much.
The Broncos did what good teams do to bad ones: They put them away early and added on late.
On offense, Plummer was his usual efficient self. He lost a fumble on a fourth-down scramble in the third quarter, but by going 18-for-26 with no interceptions, he increased his team-record streak to 219 straight passes without a pick.
"I hope you keep asking me about it for the rest of the year," Plummer said of the interception-free streak. "Someday, when I'm done playing, I'll write a book about it. Right now, I'm just playing ball."
He played a lot against the Jets.
The Broncos ran 76 plays to New York's 43. They gained 404 yards to New York's 195. They made 28 first downs to New York's 10. Maybe most stunning, they let New York's offense run a grand total of two plays in the second quarter.
"That's a tremendous feeling," Ebenezer Ekuban said, "knowing in the third and fourth quarters, the defensive line and the whole defense is going to be fresh. It gives you a huge advantage."
The start is Denver's best since going 10-0 in 1998, en route to its second Super Bowl win. The Broncos haven't hosted a playoff game since then. But by winning, they maintained a two-game lead in the AFC West and also took a one-game lead over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the race for the conference's second seed.
"It's pretty satisfying," Bailey said. "But we always can get better."
And the Jets? They can't get much worse.
"I'm not quitting," Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "We're not giving up as a team.I don't see anyone here giving up."
- Jets CEO Woody Johnson declined to address questions about Edwards' future. The coach has a contract through 2007, but didn't quash speculation last week he might want to leave after this year for a possible opening in Kansas City.
- With his fifth interception of the season, Bailey tied his single-season best.
- Broncos RB Tatum Bell left in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. Coach Mike Shanahan said he didn't know the severity.