A Banner Day for Sam Darnold, Jets Offense in Win at Washington
Sam Darnold had another big performance on Sunday, three first half touchdowns sparking the New York Jets in a 34-17 win at Washington. It wouldn’t be fair to call this a coming out party as the Jets beat one of the worst teams in the NFL, but for Darnold, it was a second-straight solid performance and significantly alters the narrative about his development.
For the second-year quarterback, it was a second straight game where he quieted critics. Darnold finished the game 19-of-30 for 293 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.
This followed up a solid performance last Sunday in a 34-27 win over the New York Giants where Darnold was again 19-of-30 for 230 yards with a touchdown and, most importantly, no turnovers. On Sunday, the Jets put up 400 yards of total offense and moved the ball effectively as highlighted by three touchdown drives in the first half.
After a first half of the year marked by mistakes, sloppy play and ghosts, Darnold has seemed to turn a corner over the past few games and, in particular, these back-to-back wins. Even if they came against teams with losing records, the signs of life from last year’s first round pick is encouraging for the Jets.
“I think our whole offense, we’re really just getting a feel for the offense. Just getting in that rhythm and being able to understand exactly what is going on out there, allows us to play a lot faster,” Darnold said.
“Because when plays do break down and I do have to go out there and scramble, guys feel free to be able to go out there and make a play. We’re just playing with a lot better rhythm but I think it is on us too to be able to go out there and execute. We’ve been able to do that the past few weeks.”
Darnold called the offense “resilient” in their approach to adversity this year.
The story of Darnold this season can’t be told without understanding how his time missed early in the year affected his development. In the lead-up to Week 2, Darnold was diagnosed with mono and was forced to miss the next month with the illness.
He struggled in the aftermath of his return to the field but has shown some bounce-back this month, in particular in leading the Jets to consecutive wins for the first time all season. Now as those missed games are getting more and more distant in the rearview mirror, Darnold is showing signs of the potential he consistently flashed last season as a rookie.
“I think for me, it was going back to work and continuing to understand the process and understand that every week is a new week and a new opportunity,” Darnold said.
Against Washington, he had a poor second quarter throw that turned into an interception. Outside of that, however, he was efficient and limited mistakes. In the first half of the year, he looked like a quarterback who had taken a step backwards and wasn’t developing.
Now over the past two weeks, in what have been very winnable games for the Jets, Darnold has done precisely what was expected. He’s limited mistakes and has stepped up to make some big plays.
The Jets first two touchdowns of the game came when Darnold evaded pressure and rolled out to hit open targets in the endzone. He read the game, didn’t panic, and bought his targets time to get open.
All the while, Darnold on both of those touchdown throws showed maturity in reading defenses and a good touch on the ball.
“I think it’s to the point – what’s this our seventh game kind of doing it? He’s probably feeling more comfortable, knows what he likes, knows what he doesn’t like,” Jets head coach Adam Gase said.
“He’s not afraid to say it. He’s taken more control of everything on the field, off the field, meeting rooms, in film study, in practice. Anytime your quarterback gets like that, it’s a good thing for us.”