Orchard Park, NY – The Jets won a thriller on Sunday in western New York, where frigid temperatures and a re-injuring of his sprained foot failed to keep Sam Darnold from getting the win. He showed a lot of chutzpah on the game winning drive, throwing for 51 of the 66 yards gained on the drive before Elijah McGuire pounded it home on fourth-and-goal from the one yard line. Darnold finally looked like the real deal, but it was not easy for him today.
The Jets started off slow. After coming up one yard short on a third down rush on the Jets first drive, Darnold limped to the locker room. The Jets punted, but Josh Allen fumbled two plays later. Josh McCown came on the field for his one and only series- a quick three and out. They got three points, but only gained three yards.
The Bills, suddenly remembering their dismemberment of the Jets in their last meeting with McCown at the helm, smelled blood in the water. Josh Allen led the Bills on another impressive scoring drive, and things started to look grim. As Stephen Hauschka was setting up the kickoff, Darnold jogged from the locker room and went straight to Todd Bowles. He threw a couple passes on the sideline, and he was back under center.
The team was rejuvenated. The kid wanted to play, and he wanted to win. Darnold was a great leader today, and undoubtedly pushed through some pain to jog back out there. His numbers won’t jump off the page- 16 of 24, 170 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He brings something to the table McCown simply cannot. Hope. (And maybe a little more mobility.)
While Darnold was rolling out to extend plays, like on the touchdown throw to Robby Anderson, Allen was running the football. Allen looked unstoppable at some points today, and one has to wonder how the game might have turned out different had Kevin Pierre-Louis not forced that fumble on the Bills second drive. He finished with 101 yards on the ground and another 206 through the air, but had his rookie moments, throwing two pretty bad picks while under pressure to Trumaine Johnson.
The Jets pass rush had a good day, getting three sacks and 10 quarterback hits, all while short pass-rushing linebacker Darron Lee. Pierre-Louis had an impressive day while filling in for the suspended Lee. He had four tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and knocked the ball loose from Josh Allen in the end zone when they ran their version of the Philly Special. Pierre-Louis, normally a special-teamer, split linebacking duties with Neville Hewitt, but may end up taking the lion’s share next week after today’s performance.
As it has been all season, the Jets strong suit today was special teams. Jason Myers continues building his all-pro resumé, and kicked 100% today, two field goals and three extra points. Andre Roberts fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, but overall had a great day. He had 5 kick returns for 176 yards (35.2 avg), including an 86 yard return that set Trenton Cannon up for his first career touchdown. Henry Anderson also blocked a field goal just before halftime, his second in two weeks. Brant Boyer may end up being the only coach worth keeping around.
The Jets had plenty of miscues, like Darnold’s interception, every play Rashard Robinson was involved in, and multiple timeout gaffes by Bowles, but came out on top in a divisional matchup for the first time this year.
McGuire ran with ferocity and vision, rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown. Robby Anderson looked like he was finally back to healthy, catching four balls for 76 yards and his own touchdown. With the win, the Jets move down in next years draft, but seeing Darnold and other young stars lay it all out there for the dub in Buffalo in December is very worth it.
The Jets will look to build on this performance next Saturday against the Houston Texans. Kickoff is at 4:30.