Sam Darnold caught a break when it was announced star pass rusher Khalil Mack wasn’t going to play. Mack has been dealing with an injured ankle which the Chicago Bears decided wasn’t worth risking this week.
Consider not having to line up against Mack the only break Darnold and the Jets received in their 24-10 loss to the Bears, Sunday at Soldier Field.
The Jets came into the Windy City looking like a M.A.S.H. unit disguised as an offense. Bilal Powell, Quincy Enunwa, and Robby Anderson were all out with injuries. Powell, with a season-ending neck injury, is on injured reserved.
Darnold and the offense knew their margin for error in this game was slim to none. So, going out against the Bears’ defense, with or without Mack, and committing five false start penalties was a recipe for disaster.
“I think the biggest thing for us is staying in manageable down distances,” Darnold said afterwards. “Not getting false starts. Not getting penalties. It’s about being in manageable down distances so we can get in third-and-manageables and we’ll roll from there.”
Darnold might as well had been talking to his offensive line, they were dreadful this week. Five false start penalties, by five different players, is ridiculous. When your team is starting a rookie quarterback, without his two main targets to throw it to, your o-line can’t keep putting him in third and long.
Staying with the offensive line, they didn’t do much for running back Isaiah Crowell either. The lesson learned here continues to play on a loop for the Jets. If they can’t run the football, it’s likely going to be a long day for Darnold. Crowell had 25 rushing yards on 13 carries. The Jets averaged only 2.4 yards per rush against Chicago.
Darnold’s numbers were modest, the most impressive was he didn’t turn the football over. The Bears’ defense ranks at the top of the league in turnovers and points off turnovers. Darnold was 14-for-29 for 153 yards and one touchdown. But the Jets picked up a good chunk of those yards when the game was already decided.
The Jets are now 3-5 on the season and their next three games are against division opponents. It’s the third straight year they’ve posted a 3-5 record at the halfway point in the season.
If the offense doesn’t find a way to improve for the Jets their defense won’t be far behind. They did a solid job of keeping Chicago in check for most of the first half except for allowing a 70-yard touchdown by Tarik Cohen.
Things could be worse, just ask the Giants. But the only way the Jets can prove they’re not the same ol’ Jets is to find a way to get back in the win column sooner than later.
Darnold can’t do it alone, he’ll hopefully get Enunwa and/or Anderson back sooner than later. But he’s going to need better help from his offensive line than he got this week.