The first half of the New York Jets’ seventh game of the season this past Sunday, facing their division rival, the Buffalo Bills, leaders of the NFC East at 5-2, started off much differently than their first six.
The Jets won the coin toss, elected to receive the ball, and proceeded to advance downfield, led by their starting quarterback, Sam Darnold, who had been sidelined the previous two games due to a shoulder injury. Although Darnold’s backup, 35-year-old veteran Joe Flacco, proved to be pedestrian in place of Darnold, having completed just 51. 9% of his passes with one touchdown and one interception in three games played, Darnold looked as if he needed some more time off.
The promising opening drive, a rarity this season for the 0-7 Jets, was a mirage. Darnold, with few dynamic, game-changing weapons at the skill positions with which to work, seemed completely lost and confused at times. Despite the Jets scoring a field goal on the opening drive and then taking a 10-0 lead with 7:22 remaining in the second quarter on a 7-play, 80-yard drive culminating with a 5-yard touchdown run by running back La’Mical Perine, they wouldn’t score another point the rest of the day.
The Bills, whose offense, directed by talented but erratic third-year QB Josh Allen, was unimpressive, failed to finish off drives with touchdowns but did manage six field goals to defeat the Jets 18-10. Darnold finished the day barely exceeding 100 yards passing (120) and was just 12-23 with two interceptions.
“We couldn’t move the ball in the second half,” said head coach Adam Gase, critiquing his team’s play.
As for Darnold, his uplifting beginning to the game was short-lived as Jets fans continue to have their sights set on receiving the No. 1 overall pick in next April’s NFL Draft—Clemson’s gifted junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the consensus top prospect.
“It was great to get back out there,” Darnold said after the game. “In the first half I felt we were into a rhythm, but we have to execute better and put some points up on the board.”
Circumstances aren’t going to get better for the Jets this Sunday. They travel to Kansas City to play the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs, who are 6-1 led by QB Pat Mahomes, arguably the best player in football.