Struggle for Sam
Fresh off a sensational effort against the Cowboys, Sam Darnold suffered through his most difficult outing as a pro with a career-high five turnovers against the NFL’s top defense. Three of his four interceptions came in Patriots’ territory as he was repeatedly bothered by pressure and looked out of sorts from the opening whistle.
“That can start when you’re getting fast pressured and you’re trying to get rid of the ball,” said head coach Adam Gase after Darnold finished 11-of-32 for 86 yards and posted a passer rating of 3.6. “There was no rhythm — we didn’t have any rhythm tonight.”
Two plays into the Jets’ opening offensive possession, the Patriots sent numbers at Darnold and the second-year signal caller threw an ill-advised pass off his back foot with linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins closing in. Safety Devin McCourty easily picked up his fifth interception of the year, setting up a chip shot field goal to make it 10-0.
“I have to see the field a lot better,” Darnold said. “It was a rough night out there. Obviously I have to get better and learn from the mistakes, but we will get better.”
The Jets allowed an extra runner free on Darnold’s second turnover, a John Simon strip-sack that was scooped up by linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Then he was intercepted a second time late in the second, not setting his feet and throwing in the direction of Demaryius Thomas and instead finding Pats DB Duron Harmon.
“They’re a good defense,” said LG Alex Lewis. “You have to give credit where it’s due. We have to be sharper up front and we have to be able to pick all that up. It’s our job and we have to be our own worst critics, especially us up front.”
While the Jets offense was stymied through the air, Le’Veon Bell did rush for 42 yards on just seven first-half carries. Bell was the most consistent Jet Monday, rushing 15 times for 70 yards.
Darnold’s night got even worse in the second half. Feeling heat on a six-man pressure, Darnold — yet again — launched a ball from his back foot in the hopes he would get the rock to Robby Anderson. But Stephon Gilmore easily tracked the lofted ball for the Pats’ third pick. Things got worse when center Ryan Kalil snapped a ball over Darnold’s head, resulting in a safety to make the count 26-0.
Then following a Trumaine Johnson theft, an off-balance Darnold carelessly threw in Thomas’ direction and was intercepted by former Jets safety Terrence Brooks in the end zone.
See Best Images from the Monday Night Football Matchup at MetLife Stadium
The Patriots are undefeated for a reason and they don’t need any help especially on a night they came out crisp on both sides of the ball. But the Jets made countless mistakes as the defending champions took it to them early.
After surrendering a touchdown on the Pats’ opening possession, Ty Montgomery had an impressive 32-yard return. But safety Matthias Farley was called for an illegal blindside block and the Jets started their first drive at their 8-yard-line.
On the Green & White’s second offensive possession, Darnold threw a perfect ball up the home sideline to Thomas. But the veteran wideout let one go through his grasp, negating what would have been a gain of at least 20. A short 37-yard punt from Lachlan Edwards followed and the Pats moved right down the field to take a 17-0 lead on Brady’s 26-yard toss to Phillip Dorsett.
Time to Deliver
Brady found his comfort zone early, surgically going to work behind solid protection. The Jets couldn’t get him off his spot as the future Hall of Famer completed 18-of-25 passes in the first half for 173 yards including a perfect 26-yard scoring toss to Phillip Dorsett. Brady, who also had a first-quarter strike to RB Brandon Bolden for 28 yards, would have had more than 200 yards by intermission hadn’t been for a drop by Julian Edelman late in the second quarter.
“We need to do a better job of getting pressure on the quarterback and also covering,” said veteran DL Leonard Williams. “It works hand in hand.”
Down 26-0 in the third, the Jets finally got to him with a Williams pressure. The Big Cat arrived right as Brady let go of the ball, forcing a pop fly that was intercepted by Johnson.
It was a mixed bag for the defense. They did a fine job against the run in terms of yards per carry (2.2), but Sony Michel had three touchdowns on the ground. Both James White and Edelman had seven catches apiece and the Pats crushed the Jets early by converting on key third- and fourth-down attempts.
“We just couldn’t get off the field on third down,” Williams said. “We definitely have to work on that as a defense. We were stopping the run on first and second downs and I think it was the quick throws that were affecting us the most.”
After playing four of their first six games at home, the Jets fell to 1-5 and now will hit the road for a two-game swing in Florida against the 3-4 Jaguars and the 0-6 Dolphins.
“When you put out tape like that, you’re going to see it again,” Gase said. “You’re going to see it until you stop it.”