The New York Jets threw another momentum log this week on their fire. This isn’t the same team which started the season 1-7 and was full of turmoil. The Jets ran their win streak to three games with an impressive 34-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium, Sunday afternoon.
On a rainy and cold day in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Jets took it right to Oakland and snapped their three-game win streak. The Raiders were hoping to build on their surprising push for a playoff spot, the Jets, however outplayed them in all phases.
Here are four takeaways from the game…
Sam Darnold looks like a franchise quarterback again. The Jets are playing winning football and Darnold’s improved play coincides with that. The second-year quarterback has shaken off any rust from his time away earlier in the season while dealing with mononucleosis.
Darnold has settled into head coach Adam Gase’s offense and is running it with the level of confidence that was missing in October. He came into this week’s action with a November completion percentage of over 65 percent and averaging 7.9 yards per pass attempt.
Oakland’s defense was carved up all afternoon by Darnold. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 315 yards with two touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and no interceptions.
Darnold is making better decisions with the football, instead of forcing throws he’s looking to run for yardage. There’s a tempo to the offense which was sorely missing the first two months of the season and Darnold is the key reason why.
Adam Gase finally gets to use the fun part of his playbook. When the Jets hired Gase in the offseason, the key objective was to develop Darnold and inject life into the offensive attack. Throughout training camp and preseason, Darnold praised the system Gase’s system.
And then the regular season started …
While no one could have predicted Darnold would be forced to miss games in order to deal with a bout with mono. The alarming ineptness of the offense during his absence, put Gase in the crossfire of critics and the fanbase.
But lately Gase has stepped it up with Darnold finally looking comfortable in his system. After the Jets’ defense stuffed Oakland early in third quarter on a fourth-and-1, the offense took over quickly went to the trick plays. Darnold handed odd to Bilal Powell, who flipped it to Jamison Crowder, who then flipped it back to Darnold – while all this is going on, Robby Anderson was streaking downfield.
Darnold found Anderson for a 30-yard gain. The drive eventually ended in a touchdown for the Jets.
Give Gase credit for having a tough chin. He’s weathered the storm and now, with Darnold, appears to have found his groove calling plays.
The offensive line deserves some love. They actually deserve plenty of love. This group has been maligned for most of the season because of their struggles.
But they’ve picked it up in recent weeks with their pass protection and run-blocking. The Raiders came into MetLife with a defensive front looking more like a sack machine. But they barely touched Darnold Sunday and the quarterback made them pay whenever they attempted to blitz.
Running back Le’Veon Bell has spent most of the season trying to create his own running lanes, this also hasn’t been the case lately, due to the O-Line. Bell finished the day with over 100 total yards, 49 of those were on the ground. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
The Jets’ defense once again rose to the occasion. The Raiders’ run game, led by rookie Josh Jacobs, has been a key for their recent success. It doesn’t take much for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to get his unit amped up and this week’s matchup was no different.
Jacobs and the Raiders run game was held to just 3.1 yards per carry on 22 attempts. Jacobs, 10 carries for 34 yards, was held to his lowest run production of the season. Head coach Jon Gruden eventually pulled Jacobs, and quarterback Derek Carr late in the third quarter once the game was clearly out of hand.
The defense has been great this season, they carried the heavy load for the team during its early struggles, and they continue to lay the wood now that the offense is catching up.
The Jets, now 4-7, are still in the conversation for the playoffs (yes, it’s true). While no one, right now, should be planning watch parties in January, this team has played their way from a 1-7 start into a position where they can finish strong with meaningful games still on the calendar. That achievement alone, is something this team should be proud of.