The Jets honored the Super Bowl III team during the 50th anniversary season of the only championship in franchise history today. The performance on the field was a fitting tribute.
Let’s talk about what happened.
Sam Darnold: I think Darnold has played quality games up to this point, but today was the first time he was THE driving force in a victory. In the Jets’ other two wins to date Darnold has been effective, but he has been able to lean on a strong run game and a stout defense. He was really in caretaker mode and only asked to make the periodic play.
In this game, the burden was on his shoulders. He responded in his big play, playing a nearly flawless game aside from an ugly first half interception. Darnold was 24 for 30 for 280 yards, 2 touchdowns, and that 1 interception. He did this on a day where the Jets were held to 3 yards per rushing attempt. He lead his team to a win on a day where his defense allowed 34 points. He produced without his top receiver for most of the game.
Like any rookie, Darnold’s season has had its share of highs and lows. The roller coaster ride will likely continue. We will see more valleys to go with today’s peak. But today’s game shows why Jets fans should be excited about what lies ahead for their young quarterback. In time, performances like this should become more regular occurrences.
Jason Myers: Most Jets fans were skeptical of the team signing Myers, but what can you say? He went 7 for 7. You can’t get a much better or more important performance from the kicker.
Morris Claiborne: I thought Claiborne held up in coverage well. He scored a touchdown at the start of the game on a bit of a lucky bounce, but he created another turnover with a pass he defensed.
Chris Herndon: The rookie tight end had a pair of catches, and both were memorable. He won a jump ball over Malik Hooker for a 24 yard gain and then added an easy 32 yard touchdown on a busted coverage.
Jermaine Kearse: Kearse started seeing more targets as a result of Quincy Enunwa’s injury. He isn’t the kind of guy who is going to make a ton of splash plays. What you get is professional route running. He knows how to find the soft spot in zones. He knows the depth to carry his routes. A quarterback like Darnold will find him when his number is up, and Darnold did to the tune of 9 catches for 94 yards.
Terrelle Pryor: Pryor was another guy the Jets needed to step up with Enunwa out. It was past time for him to contribute, and he did with 5 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Darron Lee: I thought Lee played a solid game overall as he led the Jets with 8 tackles, but he’d make the good column based on one play anyway. The team needed the defense to make one play in the entire second half. Lee made that one play, a big interception of Andrew Luck to finally stop a Colts offense that had been moving the ball at will.
Neal Sterling: He caught the game-clinching onside kick, and that was not an easy catch.
Jeremy Bates: While I’m not Bates’ biggest fan in the world, I tip my cap to him for a well-called game. After weeks of setting tendencies with wide receiver screens, he burned the Colts by breaking the tendency with the fake screen and deep shot.
While the Jets did not have much success on the ground, I think it still was the right decision to try and continue to run the ball against the light boxes the Colts were giving, especially against a defensive front that lacked a ton of depth. It could have made a difference had the game gone in a different direction, and I’m sure it was tempting to abandon the run based on how Darnold was playing. Sometimes the results aren’t there, but I appreciated the process Bates used.
Defensive Front: On some level I can give the coverage unit a pass. The Jets were playing without two of their top three cornerbacks for the entire game and then lost a starting safety to an injury during the second half. What I struggle to understand is how the defensive front was so dominated against what has been a revolving door offensive line for the Colts. Indianapolis gashed the Jets on the ground, averaging 5.5 yards per run. For context, Jim Brown is the consensus greatest running back ever. He averaged 5.2 yards per run during his career. The Jets also recorded no sacks of Andrew Luck, and it seldom seemed like they got close.
Leonard Williams: Williams I am giving special mention just because he’s supposed to be the best player on the team. With several key pieces on the defense out, he’s the guy you look to step up his game to carry the load. Instead, we have a second game in the first month and a half this year where he did not record a tackle.
Offensive Line: The Colts left two safeties deep for most of the game, which meant the Jets had the numbers advantage when they wanted to run the ball. This should have led to a big game on the ground, but the Jets were manhandled up front. Averaging 3 yards per attempt against light boxes is not good enough. And Spencer Long’s shotgun snapping woes continued with more off the mark snaps.
Parry Nickerson: I don’t want to pick too much on a rookie who is only in the lineup because of injury, but it looked like he might have been the culprit in coverage on a couple of touchdowns.
This homestand has helped the Jets to straighten the ship. The Minnesota Vikings await.