The Jets were embarrassed on Monday by the Patriots 33-0 to fall to 1-5 and erase all the good vibes from last week’s win over the Cowboys. Here are some thoughts and observations from the game:
1. The obvious headline out of this game was Sam Darnold’s performance. The second-year quarterback threw four interceptions and looked skittish for the entire game. Is it reason to be concerned? Yes, but you can’t overreact to this. Last week, we all overreacted to Darnold’s performance against the Cowboys. He played well and it felt like, “OK, he’s arrived.” Clearly, he hasn’t.
But it is worth remembering that this was Darnold’s 16th career start. He has now played a full NFL season. He has shown enough promise to make you believe the kid has a bright future. He is going to have bad games (although he should never have one as bad as he had last night). This is the roller coaster you ride with a young quarterback. It also is not all on him. We’ll get to the offensive line later.
This two-game stretch for Darnold is a reminder of how quickly football can humble you. Darnold was the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his 338-yard game against the Cowboys. He’s a Twitter punchline this week because of his four-pick game and the “seeing ghosts” line caught by ESPN. This reminds of 2016, when Ryan Fitzpatrick played great against the Bills and was Player of the Week and then threw six interceptions the following week in Kansas City.
But Fitzpatrick was a veteran player known by that point for being streaky. Darnold is still just learning. The biggest concern I would have for Darnold coming out of this game is whether he can put it behind him quickly or if he is still going to be seeing ghost rushers against the Jaguars on Sunday. Sometimes, a quarterback that gets pressured and hit a lot takes awhile to recover.
Darnold has shown remarkable maturity and poise for his age so far in his NFL career. This will test both of those traits.
2. This was not a good performance for Jets coach Adam Gase, either. I did not think it was fair to judge him when he had a third-string quarterback playing, but now he is fair game. The Jets looked ill-prepared Monday and did not seem to have any adjustments against the Patriots.
Look, the Patriots defense is incredible. They might be in the 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens class when all is said and done. Still, the Jets are an NFL franchise, and Gase is in charge. It was his job to come up with some answers against the Patriots, and he found none.
The “fire Gase” crowd is still way premature, and there is no way the Jets should even consider moving on from Gase yet. However, this is now where we find out about Gase. Can he get the team to rebound against the Jaguars? Can he help Darnold navigate through this bad performance?
The meat of the Jets’ schedule is behind them. They now have winnable games in front of them, starting with the Jaguars on Sunday and followed by the winless Dolphins a week later. Gase needs to get this team on a roll and show everyone he is able to fix this.
3. The Jets are catching some flak for allowing Darnold to wear a microphone during a game when the expectation was he could have a tough night. I don’t agree with this. I think ESPN did not do the Jets any favors by airing the clip of Darnold saying he was “seeing ghosts” and I suspect the Jets feel burned today.
ESPN can broadcast what they want, but there is a certain understanding when a team allows a player to be mic’d up that the network is not going to air anything to make the team or player look bad. If this understanding did not exist, we would never hear these clips. This is special access given to a network with some restrictions placed on it. The Jets do not have approval of what is used, but my understanding is there is an NFL Films representative that views the clips before they are aired and is supposed to have the team’s interests in mind.
Think about what you usually see on these mic’d up segments – coaching points, funny quips and a lot of blah. There is a reason for that. ESPN just put a stain on Darnold that will be hard for him to shake. It will be interesting to see whether the network gets special access to Darnold and the Jets in the future.
4. The Jets have a crisis on the offensive line, and I’m not sure how they can fix it. They look lost out there with no idea who to block. The Patriots toyed with them and faked pressure that fooled them — and then brought pressure and fooled them. The Jets need to completely revamp the line this offseason, but that does not help them for the next 10 games.
There is a lot of pressure on Gase and offensive line coach Frank Pollack to get this right. They are not going to see a defense as good as the Patriots again this season, but there are still a few good ones left on their schedule. On Monday, this line looked like it would have struggled against a high school team.
Revealing stat: The Jets have given up 50 points in the first quarter this season, more than any other quarter. The defense seems to need a quarter before settling down. They gave up 17 on Monday night.
Surprising snap count: Bilal Powell only played four snaps. Gase has to do a better job of getting him involved.
Game ball: There were not any true bright spots in this game for the Jets, but Le’Veon Bell ran hard. He gained 70 yards on 15 carries with very little blocking in front of him.
For more on the Week 7 loss to the Patriots, listen to this episode of the Jets podcast, “Gang’s All Here”: