The New York Jets wasted a brilliant effort by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold today as they fell to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, 44-38. Losing to the brilliance of Rodgers is no cause for shame, but the manner in which the Jets lost, barely putting up a fight on defense and blowing a 15 point fourth quarter lead while setting an all time Jets record in penalty yards, was embarrassing. Let’s unpack what went right and what went wrong in yet another Jets loss in a dismal Jets season.
Sam Darnold. The good has to start with Sam Darnold, who was nothing short of brilliant in a losing effort. 24 of 35, 341 yards, three touchdowns and zero turnovers are the raw numbers. The raw numbers may not do justice to Darnold’s effort. He was crisp and decisive with ball. He got it out quickly and threw accurately. He navigated the pocket superbly, extended plays, threw well on the run, converted on third downs, and punched the ball in for touchdowns. When the Jets needed it most Darnold led a last minute drive for the game tying score to send the game into overtime. Had the Jets put up a fight on defense and given Darnold a chance he may well have led the Jets to a wild overtime victory against one of Darnold’s idols in Aaron Rodgers. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as the Jets defense provided no resistance against Rodgers as he led a game winning touchdown drive. The Jets lost, but Darnold was as good as anyone could have hoped for in the loss.
Robby Anderson. Nine catches, 140 yards and a touchdown. Robby continues his late season resurgence in an outstanding effort against the Packers
Chris Herndon. Herndon has been one of the few bright spots in a terrible year. Today he had six catches for 82 yards, a touchdown, and a spectacular one handed grab to extend a drive that ended in a touchdown early in the game. There isn’t a whole lot to like about this Jets team, but Herndon is establishing himself as a building block going forward.
Andre Roberts. Roberts returned one kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and returned a second kickoff 51 yards to set up a last minute game tying drive. Outstanding work by the Pro Bowl return man.
The Offensive Line. For the most part the Jets offensive line gave Darnold enough time to pass effectively. It wasn’t a perfect effort, but the line did its job against the Packers pass rush today much more often than not.
The Jets Secondary. What an embarrassing effort. 442 yards given up through the air, to a group of no name Packers receivers other than Davante Adams. Ordinarily we’d break this down among the individual culprits, but this was a group effort. Not a single Jets defensive back was anything but bad. Coal in all their stockings. Jamal Adams, ordinarily great, had perhaps his worst game of the year, getting burned on a couple of blown coverages and getting called for a crucial pass interference in the end zone. Morris Claiborne and Trumaine Johnson were repeatedly embarrassed by every Packers receiver, including by such luminaries as Jake Kumerow. Jets defensive backs were run over by Packers running backs, repeatedly burned all over the field, called for penalty after penalty after penalty. It was a disaster. Aaron Rodgers pretty much did whatever he wanted after the first couple of drives, and the Jets secondary was helpless to stop him.
The Jets Coaches. 172 penalty yards, an all time Jets record. An epic fourth quarter collapse, blowing a 15 point fourth quarter lead. The Packers outscored the Jets 24-3 over the last 22 minutes of the game. The Jets managed, as they do far too often, to snatch defeat from the jaws of almost certain victory. Blowing the game late again and again and again has to lay much of the blame on the coaches, who will mercifully be gone in the near future. Bah humbug to them all.
Elijah McGuire. 14 carries for 35 yards is not getting the job done as a lead back. While the Jets offensive line is far from great in the run game, it should be noted that both Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell ran behind largely the same line for vastly higher yards per carry averages. McGuire has been a disappointment running the football in his first two NFL seasons, and the Jets should not count on him for a large role in the running game going forward.
Trenton Cannon. As underwhelming as McGuire has been running the ball, Cannon has been worse, all but useless as a running back. The Jets should consider converting him to a slot receiver for the 2019 season. The Jets inability to run the ball has put Sam Darnold in the unenviable position of having to carry the Jets offense on his back as a rookie, an unfair burden for almost any rookie.
I could go on, there are more culprits in this latest Jets fiasco, but in the spirit of the holidays I’ll stop here and let the remaining culprits skulk in anonymity.
With the loss the Jets record drops to 4-11 on the year, with one game remaining against the New England Patriots in Foxboro. For many this game worked out ideally, as Darnold was brilliant and the Jets still lost, preserving their draft position. To others a Jets loss is never ideal. Whichever camp you fall in, on behalf of all the staff at Gang Green Nation we would like to wish all of you the very best of holidays and the very happiest of new years. Through all the dark times of the last eight years you have always been there to share the joys and the miseries, the tears and the laughter, and for that we are all grateful.