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A Small Margin for Error

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Two plays from Sunday’s loss to the Bills really stand out in my mind.

One was Sam Darnold’s best play of the game. It came on a third and 20 in the first quarter. He put a tight window throw on the money to Braxton Berrios.

With the Bills defending the sticks on third and long, there isn’t much room to fit this ball. Darnold has to throw with great anticipation. In fact he starts making the throw before Berrios even begins his break to the outside.

The second play that comes to mind was Darnold’s worst of the game. It was an interception that came shortly before halftime and led to a Buffalo field goal.

It was a similar concept. This was another tight window throw where Darnold made his decision before the receiver made his break outside.

You can choose your own narrative on plays like this. Somebody who wanted a positive takeaway for Darnold could focus on the first throw and the potential it shows. Somebody who wanted to take a negative view could talk about how Darnold needs to better understand game situations when taking chances. A third and 20 play is an acceptable time for a high risk throw. The end of a half with your team nursing a 7 point lead is not.

My takeaway is just how difficult these throws are. One went well. The other didn’t. The bigger issue for me is how these throws summarize the state of the Jets offense. In a better situation, you have playmakers who can make things happen. Your quarterback can take a couple of plays off throwing a screen to a speedy playmaker capable of ripping off big yardage.

The Jets have pretty much no playmaking ability right now. When you can’t win one on one, execution has to be pristine. The offense can’t move unless everything works flawlessly.

On the first clip it did. You don’t want to depend on plays like that, however, because frequently attempts to do something difficult turn into the second play. I think pressure may have led Darnold to not step into his pass which led to an underthrow.

Something that small might be the difference between the success of the first play and the failure of the second play.

Of course the issues on the Jets offense are numerous. The coaching clearly isn’t that good. We talked yesterday about plays Darnold is leaving on the field.

But the biggest problem might just be that there are no playmakers. That forces execution to be extremely high. If you can execute on a high level like in the first play, it looks pretty. But when you can’t, it stalls everything.