The Jets lost the turnover battle in their 36-7 loss on Sunday to the Colts and QB Sam Darnold threw three interceptions. Two were returned for touchdowns. Colts CB Xavier Rhodes had 2 INTs, the first one on Darnold's second pass attempt of the game. Rhodes played sticky coverage on rookie WR Lawrence Cager, who was called up from the practice squad on Saturday. Rhodes ran the pick back 44 yards to put the Colts up, 7-0.
"I was excited that he (Darnold) went to Cager and stuck with the progression," head coach Adam Gase said. "I have to watch the tape and see [Cager's] release. I'm not really sure what happened at the top of the route. But I thought [Darnold] did a good job of coming back and getting us down the field and taking up that whole first quarter and putting the ball in the end zone."
Darnold led the Green & White on a 14-play, 88-yard scoring drive on the ensuing possession, which culminated in Braxton Berrios' 16-yard touchdown reception. Darnold evaded pressure up the middle from DT Grover Stewart, stepped up in the pocket and shed DT/DE Denico Autry's tackle before rolling to his right and firing a strike to Berrios in the front of the end zone.
Trailing by 17-7, the offense was set up with first-and-goal on the 7-yard line in the second quarter when Darnold was intercepted in the end zone by Rhodes to stop what was a promising drive. The offense began the drive at midfield after WR-KR Josh Malone returned the kickoff 40 yards and Berrios put the Jets in the red zone with a 28-yard reception. Darnold was looking for Cager in the back of the end zone, but didn't see Rhodes lurking.
"I obviously shouldn't have thrown it," Darnold said. "He made a really good play. I think they busted their coverage."
Darnold added of his overall performance: "I just have to play consistent. I'm not playing consistent enough to play well in this league. Make the plays when they're there and when they're not, just get rid of the ball, check it down and do all the right things I need to do."
Darnold, who was already without WRs Breshad Perriman (ankle), Jamison Crowder (hamstring) and RT George Fant (concussion), lost his blindside protector in Mekhi Becton (shoulder) late in the first halfmidgame. Darnold tried to spark the offense trailing, 24-7, late in the third quarter but was intercepted by TJ Carrie on a deep ball intended for WR Chris Hogan. Carrie returned it 47 yards for the score.
"We have to clean up the red area for sure," Gase said. "You can't drive down the field and not put in the end zone. It seems like we start out the game and we stay in third-and-manageable and then as the game goes on, we're in third-and-long. It was tough running the ball once Becton left. We lost a little bit there with our run game for sure. We still had ourselves in a couple good positions, but we were shooting ourselves in the foot with all the penalties."
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Defense Can't Get After Rivers
Colts QB Philip Rivers didn't put up gaudy numbers but was surgical in dissecting the Jets defense and completed 81% of his passes (17 of 21) for 217 yards and 1 TD. He threw for 158 yards and 1 TD in the first half while completing 83.3% of his passes (10 of 12) and was relieved by Jacoby Brissett in the fourth quarter. The Jets defense had an opportunity to set the offense up in plus territory early in the second half, but LB Tarell Basham couldn't reel in a Rivers tipped pass by DL John Franklin-Myers. That was the closest the defense was able to get to Rivers. The group had 0 sacks and 1 QB hit (Nathan Shepherd).
The Jets run defense, however, was tight in the first half after allowing 182 rushing yards in Week 2 against the Niners. The Colts were held to 48 yards in the first half on 13 carries (3.7 avg) and rookie RB Jonathan Taylor had 7 rushes for 22 yards (3.1 avg). Taylor, who totaled 59 yards on 13 carries (4.5 avg), put the Colts up, 24-7, with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter on a 1-yard scamper up the middle on fourth-and-1. Indianapolis, however, finished with 119 yards on 29 carries (4.0 avg) after rushing for 71 yards in the second half.
"We definitely dialed in more and focused on our specific goals that we have for one another and as a unit," said DL Folorunso Fatukasi on the run defense. "That's one good thing that we took and were able to carry over and now we have to do that in many more phases as a defense."
The Jets will need to quickly put this game in the rearview mirror. They host the Broncos on Thursday, four days after Sunday's loss. Denver (0-3) will travel across the country on a short week with a banged-up team. The Broncos will be without starting WR Courtland Sutton (knee) and EDGE Von Miller (ankle), who were both placed on injured reserve, and QB Drew Lock (shoulder).
"The page is turned," Hogan said. "We can sit here and talk about Indy all we want, but we play a football game in four days. When we get home, we can make some corrections, but the reality is we have to start prepping and we have to prep fast. We have to get people healthy, we have to get people recovered. That's one of the biggest challenges of a Thursday night game. ... Just study. Study the game plan. Everyone be on the same page when we go out there on the field and that consistency, just keep working as hard as we can so that we can go out there and are able to execute. That's really what it comes down to: executing every single play that we have on offense and trying to make it a positive play."