New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had the comment heard around the sports world during a Week 7 33-0 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, as he claimed to be, "seeing ghosts," during the game.
But during a 29-15 loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday, Darnold saw even more ghosts. Only this time it came via mascots, fans and the Jacksonville scoreboards.
Much like Darnold's poor performance against the Patriots on Monday, the second-year quarterback was bogged down by poor offensive line play and bad decisions against the Jaguars. He was sacked eight times and threw three interceptions as the Jacksonville defensive front haunted him from the first whistle to the final one.
But according to Darnold, the constant ghost references throughout Sunday didn't have an impact on how he played.
“Well, it is what it is. It didn’t affect me. It’s just a silly thing for social media and fans to be able to try to use it against you," Darnold said after the game.
"But for me, I was just playing bad because I did. I just wasn’t executing out there, I wasn’t playing the balls where they needed to be and – it wasn’t about that, though.”
While Darnold was attacked with a barrage of ghost references all game, and really all week, it was clear Sunday that it was an aggressive and opportunistic Jaguars defense that affected him.
He finished the game with a respectable 21-of-30 passing for 218 yards and two touchdown passes, but the multiple interceptions doomed him and the Jets offense.
The first of those interceptions came following a 93-yard touchdown drive that Darnold led, and was the result of both a poor decision and throw as he threw it into tight coverage while on the run, giving Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon his first career interception.
"Nine times out of 10, I think Sam works past that one," Jets head coach Adam Gase said after the game.
"I know we were feeling pretty good after that first series, trying to make plays. We just have to do a better job of protecting the football. It’s a fine line between letting him do what he does well when gets outside of the pocket, he does some damage. From where we are right now, we have to find a way to make positive plays and we make sure we hold onto the football.”
Darnold's second interception was an even worse throw, tossing it way too far ahead of his wide receiver and essentially gifting A.J. Bouye with his first interception of the season. But there were no ghosts on that play. Instead, it was a poor play call and great execution by the Jaguars defense, Gase said.
Bouye himself said the play came as a result of the Jaguars' secondary picking up on some tendencies from the Jets offense. So no ghosts, but instead a huge turnover when Jacksonville needed it.
“Oh yeah, I think it was the third down, in the second quarter. It was Demaryius Thomas and Jamison Crowder, they ran like a scissors concept and me and [Jarrod Wilson] went after the seven cut, and I told him ‘Yo, next time we see it, we’re not going to get it,'" Bouye said after the game.
"So, that same play, they decided to push 17 [WR Vyncint Smith] out there – I knew him at Houston, he’s a speed guy – so, Dub tried the scissors and I told him ‘No, stay on it’ and as soon as I saw the ball in the air, I knew it was mine. So, it was a good play. We needed it. Great job on the offense scoring that drive.”
It was a rough day for Darnold. When he wasn't seeing ghosts on the scoreboards or in the stands, he instead saw wave after wave of Jacksonville defenders making his life tough. And for that, he at least earned the respect of Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone.
"We have a good defense, but Sam Darnold now, he just stood there and kept fighting, fighting, fighting. I give him a lot of credit," Marrone said. "We can sit there and look and these quarterbacks that get hit and get sacked liked that and it’s hard to come back. They kept fighting. They kept doing a good job."