When Bills 27, Jets 17 was mercifully over, Sam Darnold did what franchise quarterbacks old and young are supposed to do, even on a day when everyone around him, starting right from the start with Adam Gase, was seeing ghosts.
But still, it was 21-3 at the half and Darnold’s lack of poise and accuracy, and poor decision-making had you wondering whether this was really his second year in Gase’s offense, had you wondering whether he will be able to rise above the rubble around him on the field and on the sideline anytime soon in the Bad News Jets.
“I put that on my shoulders, I missed way too many throws today,” Darnold said. “I just flat-out missed guys, and that’s on me. And so, I gotta be better, and we gotta execute better, it’s as simple as that.”
There were simply too many occasions when Darnold (21-for-35, 215 yards, one touchdown, one interception) looked more like a rookie out of USC than a third-year quarterback ready to Take Flight, as the Jets like to say. Take Fright instead.
He was badly outplayed by his Quarterback Class of 2018 buddy Josh Allen (career-best 312 passing yards, two touchdowns, 57 rushing yards, one touchdown), and perhaps a Darnold family member would feel compelled to point out that he didn’t get the chance to play against Gag Green.
The worst of it came when Darnold, off his back foot, threw across his body for Jamison Crowder and was intercepted by Matt Milano.
“I just tried to fit a ball in there that I shouldn’t have,” Darnold said.
It made him 3-for-10 for 22 yards and a QB rating of 0.0.
“Anytime you’re moving to the left and you throw to the middle of the field, that’s not ideal,” Gase said. “You do not want to do that.”
Darnold had nearly been picked off earlier by Tre’Davious White. His desperation flick pass scrambling to his left to Chris Herndon for nine yards had made him 2-for-8.
Then there was an inexcusable delay-of-game penalty following a TV timeout.
“I put that on my shoulders,” Darnold said. “We didn’t break the huddle fast enough and we weren’t ready, and that’s on me.”
It was Amateur Hour.
“We had a really bad miscommunication in the huddle,” Gase said. “We screwed up the formation — everything gotta messed up. … We can’t have that happen.”
Then there was Darnold (and Gase, of course) trying a screen from his 18 for Jamison Crowder with 18 seconds and no timeouts left in the first half instead of taking a shot for the end zone. Darnold was forced to clock it with three seconds left. The field goal made it 21-3.
“It was kinda my thought process in the moment,” Darnold said.
Thought wrong, apparently.
“I called something that really wasn’t thinking the ball was gonna go there,” Gase said. “It’s hard to control all aspects of it.”
Appreciate the honesty, Coach, but that’s your job!
And yet somehow the game was still there to be won in the fourth quarter, after a blown successful Tyler Bass field goal, after Darnold-to-Crowder for a 69-yard catch and run that made it 21-10.
It was Bills 24, Jets 10, 10:38 remaining, Darnold’s chance to overcome a defense that not only missed Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, not to mention the New York Sack Exchange, and the nine boneheaded penalties for 95 yards.
Except Herndon fumbled away a screen pass, over and out.
“We were not good in the passing game today,” Gase said.
The level of ineptitude was so glaring that Gase should feel fortunate that his team had a mere 18:44 time of possession.
“It was about as bad of a start offensively as we could have had,” Gase said.
Remember: Gase was hired to lift this quarterback. Perhaps we should have anticipated some of the bumbling ineptitude with an overhauled offensive line and a paucity of weapons and a running game that ground out 52 yards and saw Le’Veon Bell (6-14 rushing, 2-32 receiving) leave after intermission with a hamstring problem.
But general manager Joe Douglas did promise Darnold’s parents that he would protect their boy, and he did draft mountainous LT Mekhi Becton for starters … but the operation we witnessed on Sunday had Jets fans fearing that the kid needs to be protected from Gase as much as anybody.
“We were just off with some of the details of what we were calling and what we were doing to where we didn’t do a couple of things that will look really poorly for him,” Gase said, “and then he missed some throws that normally we’ve seen him make and he made later in the game. … I gotta go back and look at this.”
He won’t like what he sees. Of himself, and most alarming and worrisome, of his franchise quarterback.