It didn’t take long for Sam Darnold to get his official welcome to the NFL. That moment only took twenty seconds.
The Sam Darnold era got off to a familiar sight for long-suffering Jets fans, a pick-six on the first play of the game from scrimmage. Yikes!
The honeymoon might be over for Darnold, but he didn’t look too concerned. He never looks concerned, just always calm and ready to move on to the next play.
“He didn’t flinch,” said head coach Todd Bowles about Darnold’s response after the pick-six. “He didn’t even blink.”
Maybe it’s just that Darnold has one hell of a poker face. He admitted after the game he was nervous at the start of the game. But after that, it was “smooth sailings”.
Darnold bounced back after having to watch the first throw of his NFL career get returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Quandre Diggs. The Jets shook off the slow start and eventually pulled away to a dominant 48-17 Monday night win over the Detroit Lions to open the season.
It wasn’t the start the Jets were hoping for from the 21-year old rookie. They’ve entrusted their future in him. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
And Darnold and the Jets made sure to finish big.
The defense deserves a ton of credit for how dominant they were all night. They set the tone early and never allowed Matthew Stafford and the Lions to get comfortable.
Darnold benefited from the defense’s strong play and was able to quickly find his groove. He hit on throws to Quincy Enunwa, he could be Darnold’s security blanket this season. The footwork and pocket awareness, Darnold impressed everyone with in the preseason, was also on full display.
As the game went on, the further away the pick-six seemed to get. The Jets would go on to score 31 unanswered points in the third quarter. The defense gave Stafford fits, he threw four interceptions. Backup quarterback Matt Cassell came in and was picked off too.
Darnold, meanwhile, finished 16-for-21 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“He came back and played good football,” Bowles continued. “We needed all three phases and all three phases came through.
Yes, special teams deserve some love too. Andre Roberts was great on punt returns, he returned one for a 78-yard touchdown.
This was a night to remember for the Jets, they were clicking on every phase of the game. But it was Darnold’s cool and calm approach to nightmare start is what will get most of the headlines.
It was only one game, but it’s the type of game fans of the Jets have waited years to see. Darnold brings hope to a team which hasn’t had a franchise quarterback since Joe Namath.
Time will tell, but, so far Darnold looks like the right man for the job.