If this was the week Jets quarterback Sam Darnold came back down to earth, he had plenty of help along the way.
It wasn’t the home debut Darnold and the Jets were hoping for, it certainly wasn’t what Jets fans were expecting either.
The mistakes by the Jets on offense were costly this week. Penalties, poor route-running, and dropped passes all contributed to a 20-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
It all began with Darnold’s first quarter interception. The rookie dropped back, on second down and six, and tried to hit Quincy Enunwa. Miami safety T.J. McDonald didn’t drift far enough from his position and was able to jump Darnold’s pass for the pick.
“I’m pretty sure he didn’t see him,” head coach Todd Bowles said after the game. “But they made a great play. It’s a throw he’d like to have back. Can’t take it back.”
It was a bad read by Darnold, he should’ve gone with another option or waited another second or two before throwing to Enunwa.
Miami would capitalize on great field position from Darnold’s interception. It only took quarterback Ryan Tannehill three plays to get the Dolphins into the end zone. Kenyan Drake scored on a six-yard touchdown run to give Miami the early lead.
In the second quarter, Darnold found Robby Anderson for a seven-yard completion. This was significant because it seemed as if Darnold was beginning to lock-in too much on Quincy Enunwa as his lone target. But Anderson fumbled on the play and Miami recovered. This led to another score by the Dolphins when Tannehill hit Albert Wilson for a 29-yard touchdown.
Last week it was the pick-six by Darnold to open the game against the Lions, this week there was two first half turnovers which led to 14 points for the Dolphins. Turnovers are always bad, but they’re next to catastrophic when they lead to points for the opponent.
But it was Darnold’s second interception of the game which was a gut punch to the home crowd.
The Jets, trailing 20-0 at halftime, had picked up momentum when they opened the second half with a touchdown. The defense stepped up next with a sack and fumble recovery by Jordan Jenkins.
What happened next was the air getting sucked completely out of East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Darnold, on the Miami 12-yard line, threw to Terrelle Pryor in the end zone and was picked off by Xavien Howard. Brutal.
The crowd was fired up and it appeared as if the Jets were about to double-down on their momentum. The interception took all of that off the table.
Darnold, after the game, put the blame on himself for not putting Pryor in a better position to make a play. Pryor also took responsibility for not adjusting his route. Give them both credit for not playing the blame game and sticking up for one another.
“Whenever you get a turnover in the red zone, I think it was the 12-yard line, you want to be able to put that one in the red zone,” Darnold said. “We’ve got to make them pay for turning the ball over and we just gave it right back to them. That’s not something you want to do. Again, I put that on myself. I could have put the ball up a little more, give Pryor a chance to go up and snag it with his big body and his long arms. I thought I could have given him a better chance to go get the ball. Again, another play you’d like to have back.”
There were other problems, besides Darnold’s struggles, which contributed to this loss. It wasn’t all on the quarterback.
The offensive line committed false start penalties which didn’t help the poor field position Miami’s punter repeatedly put the Jets in. Miami’s pass rush is no slouch, they took the run-game away early, and kept Darnold from getting comfortable in the pocket.
There was a huge drop by Chris Herndon in the third quarter. Two plays before that, Darnold hit Enunwa for a 21-yard completion. After Bilal Powell was stopped for no gain on a run up the middle, Darnold threw a perfectly-placed pass to Herndon which went right off his hands. It was another drive-killer.
The Jets committed seven penalties for 50 yards. They were all costly and impacted the game in major ways. The multiple holding penalties by the defense gave Miami extra plays to score points.
Darnold’s performance against Detroit last week was great, but it was only one game. Just as he shouldn’t be put in the Hall of Fame for only one win, there shouldn’t be any pushing of the panic button after this one loss.
The Jets won’t have long to feel bad about this loss. They’re back on the road for a Thursday night game in Cleveland.
The ability to shake off a bad game is imperative for any professional athlete.
No one should worry about Darnold being brought back to earth with this performance. He won’t need anyone to tell him he played poorly. He knows it already and put the blame on his shoulders after the game.
Darnold didn’t look to be too far off the ground after last week’s win. Coach Bowles said he was the same he’s been since he walked into the huddle for the first time in training camp.
That’s good, because this game was a reminder that he’ll need to remain that way through the good and the bad.