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Texans 29 Jets 22: A Stellar Sam Darnold Isn’t Enough

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NFL: Houston Texans at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets fell to 4-10 today as they lost at home to the Houston Texans. The team showed a lot of fight, and for a moment in the fourth quarter it seemed like an upset win and a surprising winning streak might be on the horizon. It was not meant to be, however.

Let’s talk about what went wrong.

The Bad

Morris Claiborne: I don’t think he was playing poorly for most of the game, but the game-winning Texans drive was a trainwreck for the veteran corner. He gave up a 20 yard completion on the first play to DeAndre Hopkins. A blatant hold on a third down incompletion extended the drive and prevented a probable Houston punt. Claiborne was then in coverage on the touchdown pass to Hopkins that won the game for the Texans.

The gameplan on Hopkins: For the life of me I can’t figure out why the Jets approached Hopkins the way they did. It seemed like there was no special effort to take away Hopkins and force Deshaun Watson to go elsewhere with the football. The Jets just played a lot of basic coverages without doubling him much. They didn’t try to find a favorable matchup either. Everybody lined up in their spot, and the Texans were generally allowed to pick which corner was covering Hopkins. This is a valid strategy most weeks, but it isn’t ideal against an opponent whose passing game is so concentrated on its top target.

Darryl Roberts: Roberts was in coverage on the other Hopkins touchdown. There have been a number of times over the last few weeks where the Jets have had issues because Roberts is unaccustomed to playing safety. The issue on that particular play, however, seemed to be more about Roberts’ talent level. It was a similar coverage to what he’d play at corner. He simply lost.

Jason Myers: I think you have to go easy on Myers given how stellar he has been the rest of the year. The two missed extra points were not the margin of victory. But the way the game is played probably changes if the Jets had those two points banked. Something like this was to be expected at some point. It always seemed unlikely that Myers morphed from shaky kicker into historically great kicker in a few months. Some regression was inevitable.

Elijah McGuire: He got pushed into the end zone to give the Jets the lead in the fourth quarter, but his 2.3 average isn’t going to cut it. More importantly, his costly fumble set up a Houston touchdown.

Offensive Line: I understand the Jets were down two starters by the end of the game, but what can you say when the running backs barely average 2 yards per carry, the other team registers 6 tackles for a loss, and the quarterback had several miraculous escapes to prevent more?

Trumaine Johnson: I keyed on Johnson a lot in this game, and I came away really bothered by his play. Whenever the Texans wanted to go after him, it was an easy completion. It is because he was giving up a huge cushion on almost every coverage snap. I get the sense he doesn’t trust his ability to catch up and run with opponents playing press coverage. That’s a problem since he was signed for his ability to play press. Even when he was matched up with a running back, he was giving a huge cushion.

Jermaine Kearse: The only times I noticed Kearse were either when he was committing a penalty or not coming up with a catchable ball in traffic.

The Good

Sam Darnold: If you want to come away from the game hopeful about the future, Sam Darnold certainly gave you a reason. His numbers were solid as he finished 24 for 38 with 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. I think he was better than the numbers. If you watched the game, you saw that practically every positive Jets offensive play was Darnold doing something special despite a high degree of difficulty.

I lost count of how many times Darnold moved around a crumbling pocket and threw a laser to a tightly covered receiver. It’s very encouraging to see a rookie do that with such frequency.

I think if the Jets can add even a few quality pieces to help carry some of the playmaking load, the sky is the limit for Sam.

Robby Anderson: He should have come down with the fourth down catch to extend the drive, but I thought he made too many positive key plays in this game to hold that against him. A touchdown catch was among his season-high 7 receptions, but I thought his most important contributions were winning a contested ball on fourth down to extend the Jets’ last touchdown drive and breaking up an interception on a dangerous Darnold throw that came before him big fourth down drop.

Henry Anderson: I didn’t see every game he played in Indianapolis, but I would venture to say that this was probably the finest day of his NFL career as he registered 3 sacks and a number of other pressures.

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The Jets continue the march to the finish line next week against the Packers.