There were many reasons to point at for as why the Jets lost yesterday; the wind caused all types of problems on special teams, horribly timed penalties, terrible third down conversion rate, bad snaps, the injuries (not only were the Jets down two receivers and three members of their starting secondary but they lost Bilal Powell and Doug Middleton during the game), but mostly the Jets lost because the Vikings are simply the better team. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. It’s why Kirk Cousins decided to sign with the Vikings.
The Vikings are a super bowl contender, the Jets are starting a 21-year-old rookie on a team in the middle of a huge rebuild. Of course the NFL is a week-to-week league and anything is possible on “Any Given Sunday,” yada-yada-yada but no one should be surprised that the better team won yesterday.
The Jets defense actually played surprisingly well for the first half, holding the Vikings to only 10 points but with the offense struggling to stay on the field the defense began to tire and the wheels came off. As the wheels came off the defense the already stagnant offense started to unravel as well. Aside from the one drive of absolute perfection the offense couldn’t get in any type of rhythm, the running game never got going and Sam Darnold had no one open in the passing game. Spencer Long continued to have trouble snapping the ball, which naturally led to mistakes and the Vikings defense was able to pressure the rookie while leaving him with nobody open for much of the game.
“Nothing clicked for the offense. We struggled running the ball,” Todd Bowles said after the game. “At times, we had trouble protecting him (Darnold). At times, we had trouble going downfield, so we’ll get back to the drawing board. They did a good job scouting us. They did a good taking away a lot of things we like to do. Give them all the credit.”
If a quarterback has no one open or not enough time for anyone to get open enough times eventually they will start to force some throws, which is exactly what Darnold started to do. It was noticeable as it happened, but at first the strategy wasn’t backfiring. Three interceptions later and yeah the strategy backfired, but what else could he do? One thing he can do, and started to do a little more yesterday, is make more plays with his feet. There’s been a handful of times this season where Darnold was a little hesitant to run for a first down, yesterday he seemed more willing to scan the field and take off running once he realized no one was open. Do that enough times and defenses will have to adjust, once they adjust that should open up someone in the passing game.
“Yeah, usually it’s just a feel. thing,” Darnold said. “If I feel the pocket is collapsing and maybe we need to get out of there, and like you just said, if I go through my progressions and I feel that a lane has opened, I’ll just take off and run.”
This is all a part of the learning process for a rookie quarterback, you have to learn all the little things that go into learning how to win. Understandably fans are probably already tiring of hearing about how much Darnold learned from a loss, but look at this roster. This team was always going to lose a lot of games. This is not a playoff caliber team, it was never going to be. This year is about developing Darnold and evaluating the rest of the roster to see who to keep to build around their young quarterback. This is not the year to get worked up because they can’t hang with the big boys. Of course they can’t, they aren’t built to. Not yet.