3 Takeaways: Sam Darnold Provides the Spark in Jets' 24-22 Win Over Dallas

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Resetting the Clock on 2019
The Jets can’t take away what happened during the first quarter of the season, but it was impossible to get a gauge of what this team actually was during its 0-4 start. Playing four quarterbacks and having Luke Falk handle the majority of reps, the Jets offense was largely inept. But with Sam Darnold back behind center for the first time since the opener and feeling himself for the first time this season, the Jets fielded an offense against the Cowboys that was electrifying at times in their 24-22 win. They had 247 yards and three touchdowns in the opening half against a Dallas defense that entered Sunday ranked seventh in scoring (18 Pts/G).

“There was a lot of good,” head coach Adam Gase said of Darnold’s 23-of-33-338-2TD-1INT performance. “His pocket movement creates a lot of opportunities for us and our guys did a good job of moving with him.”

Gase had been pleased with the play of his defense and special teams, but he was desperate for some offensive efficiency. Enter Darnold and this looked like a completely different team. Darnold and the offense’s 213 net passing yards were the most for the Jets in a first half since 2006 and the most pass yards in an opening half at home since 1988. The Green & White continually got sizable gainers through the air against zone coverage as Darnold had 17-, 24-, 92-, 33-, 25-, 30- and 18-yard yard completions respectively to Demaryius Thomas, Jamison Crowder, Robby Anderson, DT , Crowder, Crowder and Anderson.

“I think the main thing is it really builds the confidence,” Crowder said. “The last three of four weeks, we really haven’t been able to really even move the ball. With Sam back and everybody getting back healthy, we displayed what this offense is capable of. I think it’s just a confidence booster.”

Darnold did leave the door open for a comeback, committing the cardinal sin of taking points off the board. With the Jets close to putting the Cowboys down for the count and up 21-9, he fired behind and high to Crowder and was picked off by cornerback Jourdan Lewis. But the second-year passer showed his mettle immediately after Dallas had trimmed the deficit to 21-16, going to Crowder for 30 and Anderson for 18 to help set up Sam Ficken’s 38-yarder.

“We knew we had to respond,” Crowder said. “They had scored and the game was tight. These are the kind of games we have to play in and battle. I’m just glad we got a win.”

“This is a team that has a great work ethic and a lot of guys in this locker room care,” said center Ryan Kalil. “When you continue to work hard and a win finally comes to fruition, it’s definitely satisfying. But for us, I think the biggest thing we have to focus on is now going back to work.”

Turning Point
Late in the second quarter, the Cowboys were driving inside the Jets’ 10-yard-line and looked poised to take a lead. With the home squad ahead 7-3, the defense stiffened and set the stage for some Darnold magic prior to intermission. On third-and-1, defensive linemen Folurunso Fatukasi and Quinnen Williams combined to stop RB Ezekiel Elliott for a 1-yard loss. Then on fourth-and-two, Tarell Basham did a fine job of setting the edge on Dak Prescott before Q. Williams and safety Jamal Adams shared a quarterback sandwich.

On the very next play, Darnold went play-action to Robby Anderson for a 92-yard scoring connection. Anderson toasted corner Chidobe Awuzie with a quick stutter, hauled in the pass and flew by a diving tackle attempt from the Cowboys safety on the way to the end zone.

“Hopefully it’s the turning point of our season,” said Anderson who had five catches for 125 yards. “I think that play gave everyone a lot of energy. I think we gained a lot of momentum off of it.”

“The way the safety bit down on the run, I just knew I had to put it out there,” Darnold said. “Robby is one of the best — if not the best — at tracking the ball in the air in the NFL. I just knew I had to put the ball out there in his vicinity and he would go up band catch it.”

See Best Images from the Matchup at MetLife Stadium

Shutting the Door
The Jets defense, bolstered by the returns of outside ‘backers Jordan Jenkins and Brandon Copeland, bent but never broke. And despite Elliott becoming the first back to eclipse 100 yards (28-105-1TD) against them this season and the ‘Boys totaling 398 yards of offense, the Green & White played well in the red zone. And when they needed a stop to preserve the victory, Dallas native Jamal Adams shot through the A gap and forced a Prescott incompletion on a two-point attempt with seconds remaining as the home club held on for a 24-22 triumph.

“It’s one of my favorite blitzes and Coach counted on me and had trust in us and I made the play,” Adams said. “But hats off to the defense. We had some great stops.”

“Honestly it was a call that wasn’t even in our gameplan,” said OLB Jordan Jenkins of the Gregg Williams pressure package. “Almost everyone was coming. Jamal is hard worker and he backs it up with his play.”

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