Darnold, Jets struggle with mistakes, missed opportunities
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold’s Broadway debut was mostly a bust.
And he wasn’t alone.
The rookie quarterback and New York’s offense struggled with mistakes, turnovers and missed opportunities as the Jets fell 20-12 to the Miami Dolphins in the team’s home opener Sunday. Darnold believes there will be better performances ahead.
“Every loss that we have as a team and every loss that I have as an individual, whether it’s a game or whether it’s a play,” Darnold said, “I’m going to take that as a lesson that I can learn from.”
Darnold finished 25 of 41 for 334 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice in his second NFL start and couldn’t get the offense moving consistently until late in the game.
“You never want to be behind, but I thought for a quarter there, we did a good job of fighting our way back,” Darnold said. “I think for a quarter and a half, we did a good job of fighting our way back. We came up a little short.”
The Jets (1-1) were also victims of bad field position as Dolphins punter Matt Haack consistently pinned New York back in its territory. Only once in 12 possessions did the Jets start a drive better than their 25, and that came early in the fourth quarter when they got the ball at their 41 after Avery Williamson recovered a fumbled snap by Ryan Tannehill.
New York also struggled in the run game, gaining 42 yards after getting 169 against the Lions.
“It’s not just placed on the quarterback,” coach Todd Bowles said. “We can win offensively, defensively and on special teams. We can do it a lot better.”
At least Darnold got off to a more promising start than in the Jets’ opener at Detroit last Monday night, when his first NFL pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He completed two of his first three passes on New York’s opening drive in this one.
But on the Jets’ second possession, Darnold’s intended for Quincy Enunwa was intercepted by T.J. McDonald. The Dolphins safety avoided a few tackle attempts and returned it 31 yards to New York’s 15.
“I didn’t see him,” Darnold said. “That’s another learning experience that I had.”
After two run plays for 9 yards, Kenyan Drake took the handoff up the middle for a 6-yard run to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead.
Miami took advantage of another turnover after Darnold completed a 10-yard pass to Robby Anderson, who had the ball knocked out of his hands by Kiko Alonso. Raekwon McMillan recovered for the Dolphins at the Jets 49, giving Miami a short field.
Jakeem Grant took a pitch from Tannehill and gained 5 yards, but Buster Skrine grabbed him by the facemask for a 15-yard penalty. On the next play, Albert Wilson took a short pass from Tannehill, slipped out of Skrine’s diving tackle attempt and took off down the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown.
Just like that, New York was down 14-0.
The Jets went three-and-out on their next possession, but made another mistake on defense that had the effect of a turnover when Henry Anderson’s sack of Tannehill on third-and-6 was negated by a holding penalty on Morris Claiborne. Two plays later, Tannehill connected with A.J. Derby for a 19-yard touchdown.
New York showed some life just before halftime, starting with a 44-yard completion from Darnold to Terrelle Pryor.
A few plays later, Darnold completed a pass to Chris Herndon, who fumbled, recovered and tried to get into the end zone, but was tackled at the 1 as time expired.
“I should’ve done what I had to do to get in,” the rookie tight end said.
Darnold and the Jets answered right back to begin the third quarter with a solid drive capped by a 28-yard touchdown catch by Bilal Powell. Jason Myers missed the extra point, making it 20-6.
The Jets, coming off a 48-17 rout of Detroit on Monday night, appeared in great shape when Jordan Jenkins forced and recovered a fumble after a strip-sack of Tannehill gave New York the ball at the Miami 12. But, Darnold’s pass to Pryor on the next play was intercepted in the end zone by Howard.
“We’ve got to make them pay for turning the ball over and we just gave it right back to ’em,” Darnold said. “That’s not something you want to do. Again, I put that on myself. I could’ve put the ball up a little more, give T.P. a chance to go up and snag it with his big body and his long arms.”
Pryor, however, insisted that it was “really my fault” because of the way he ran the route, causing the turnover.
“I let him down on that play,” Pryor said. “I told him after the game, ‘I hope you forgive me.’”
It’s all part of the process with a rookie quarterback finding his way. Two games in — a win and a loss, some ups and some downs.
“There are some things he can do better,” Bowles said of Darnold. “I’m not saying he played a great game, and I’m not saying he played a bad game. ... Regardless if you’re young or old at the quarterback position, you want to take care of the football. It’s not just Sam. We didn’t play well. We didn’t coach well. That’s a credit to coach (Adam) Gase and his team.”