For the first time in more than three years, the Jets surrendered two plays of 60+ yards and both of them came in the opening quarter as the Jaguars took control with an offensive surge. Leonard Fournette capitalized on a poor run fit on the game’s second play from scrimmage, racing up the middle for 66 yards to set up the home club’s initial touchdown. With C.J. Mosley (groin) and Neville Hewitt (stinger/shoulder) out, the visitors started practice squad call-up James Burgess and rookie Blake Cashman at inside linebacker.
Then the Jags cashed in on the game’s first takeaway, answering an interception of Sam Darnold with a 70-yard scoring connection from rookie Gardner Minshew to wideout Chris Conley. Safety Jamal Adams had the rookie passer in his grasp, but Minshew escaped and Conley got free on a long crossing route.
“We let up two big, explosive plays early, and that’s not who we are. We’ve got to change our best and improve because explosive plays, that hurts the team,” Cashman said. “And a lot of times, if you let too many of those up, the statistics show you’re going to lose the game. We’ve got to be better there.”
The Jets registered two sacks, but Minshew often took advantage of the blitz when afforded time. The Washington State product also did a fine job of moving up and out of danger, finishing 22-of-34 for 279 yards with three touchdowns.
On his final 18 carries, Fournette had 10 yards. But the Jets had difficulty getting off the field on third down with the Jags converting 50% of time before kneeling in the final seconds.
See Best Images from the Road Trip to Jacksonville
Offense Goes Dry
Despite starting their opening possession at the their 7, Sam Darnold led the Jets on a 93-yard march that culminated on a 24-yard scoring pass to tight end Ryan Griffin. Darnold went 7-of-7 on the march for 88 yards, but he completed just 1-of-4 the rest of the half as the Green & White went 1-of-5 on third down. His interception changed the game because the Green & White wasted great field position and the Jags immediately answered with the Conley backbreaker.
“They dropped one of their coverages that we caught them in that first drive, but outside of that they stayed pretty consistent,” said head coach Adam Gase. “Other than that, they did a good job getting us to us especially the third-and-longer distances.”
The Jets didn’t have many answers for the Jacksonville heat. Darnold, making his fourth start of the season, was constantly under duress and sacked eight times in all. He suffered a sprained thumb on his non-throwing hand and his jersey appeared more green than white at the end of the afternoon. The second-year signal-caller battled for four quarters, showing his mettle and constantly answering the bell. His 3-yard TD to Griffin in the fourth was followed by an outstanding throw to Griffin in the back of the end zone for two points, making it 22-15.
Down just the one score, Darnold attempted to make a play down the field to Vyncint Smith but was intercepted by CB A.J. Bouye. That led to the final nail — Minshew’s 8-yard strike to DJ Chark. Despite completing 21-of-30 for 218 yards, Darnold had three interceptions six days following his five-turnover effort against the Pats.
“I’m pissed off, the way I’ve played these last couple of weeks” Darnold said. “It’s not my style of football.”
In addition to the near sack for Adams, the third-year safety very nearly came up with an interception of Minshew on the Jags’ second possession.
And at the end of the first quarter, a 38-yard reception from Robby Anderson came off the board when it was ruled the receiver had pushed off on cornerback Tre Herndon. Early in the third, the Jets failed to capitalize on a muffed punt that somehow found the hands of Keelan Cole.
The Jets did come up with a takeaway when Jordan Lewis registered his third career sack and the change was scooped up by rookie linebacker Blake Cashman. The Jets fell to 1-6 and will reach the midway point of the campaign next weekend in Miami against the Dolphins.
“We’re 1-6. It’s been three years,” Adams said. “It’s frustrating. I just want to win.”