The Denver Broncos’ 24-17 loss yesterday to the gritty New York Jets was easily the most heartbreaking defeat of the so-far disappointing 2010 season. The Broncos outplayed the Jets for most of the day, forcing second-year Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to throw his first two interceptions of the season. Denver also found a way to balance out the offense by finally rushing for 145 yards, nearly triple their average coming into the game (via NFL box score).

Denver put together a dynamic game plan, which included giving rookie quarterback Tim Tebow his first meaningful time in an NFL game. Tebow ran the ball six times for 23 yards, scoring his first touchdown as a pro and making the Orlando Sentinel wonder what took the Broncos so long to use him in close-in situations. But, as Sanchez tells The Denver Post, Denver threw everything it had at the Jets, but it just wasn’t enough.

Most fans will probably blame the loss on a last-minute pass-interference call against the Broncos, which set up the Jets for an easy, game-winning touchdown. But the sad fact is that the Broncos could have won despite the penalty. The team missed two field-goal opportunities that could have given them an extra six points on the board, enough to win 26-24.

Adding to the misery: Every other team in the division lost yesterday, giving the Broncos a chance to catch up to the upstart Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos, sitting at 2-4, are now tied with the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders for second place in the AFC West, with Kansas City leading the way at 3-2.