Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold is playing the best football of his young career as the 2018 season winds down. In Sunday's 44-38 overtime loss to the Packers, Darnold threw for a career-high 341 yards, tied his career-high with three touchdown passes and finished with a season-best 128.4 passer rating.
"I'm happy with myself and the way I've been playing, but wins and losses are the only things that matter," he told reporters Monday during a conference all. "I feel like I'm definitely making improvements and improving every single week."
Since returning from a strained right foot in Week 14, the USC product has thrown for 764 yards with six touchdowns and one interception while completing 66% of his passes. Head coach Todd Bowles attributes Darnold's play to the game slowing down for the 21-year-old.
"He's continuing to get better. He was like that last week, showing signs this week," Bowles said. "He's just playing good football and he's got a good head on his shoulders. He's learning, maturing and you like what you see."
Darnold wasn't the only young skill position player who performed well in Week 16. Rookie tight end Chris Herndon (6-82-1TD) and second-year pros Robby Anderson (9-140-1TD) and Eli McGuire (17-85-2TD) combined for 307 of the Green & White's 388 total yards and totaled four touchdowns.
"It's awesome. It's good to know that our future is bright here and I'm very confident in that," Darnold said of the young offensive core. "I'm very excited about it."
Each of the Jets past four games have been decided by a touchdown or less. The Green & White had a come-from-behind victory in Buffalo but didn't finish despite holding fourth quarter leads in Tennessee and at home against the Texans and the Packers. With one game remaining in 2018, left tackle Kelvin Beachum is looking to come out on the right side of a dogfight in Foxborough against the Patriots, a club still fighting for playoff seeding.
"It's about pride and finding a way to get a win. It's not about what they have going on," Beachum said about possibly playing spoiler. "They're the next opponent and we have a great opportunity to close the season out with a W. We've allowed two games, these last two, get away from us. It would be great to find a way to close the game out and close the season out on a high note."
The Green & White potentially suffered another blow to the receiving corps as Jermaine Kearse, who caught four passes for 55 yards against the Packers, hurt his Achilles. Bowles said the severity is unknown and he will know more following Kearse's X-ray. Quincy Enunwa, who has missed the past two games with an ankle sprain, will likely finish the season out of the lineup.
"I'd say slim (chance)," Bowles said of Enunwa lining up in Week 17. "I haven't talked to him yet, but I'd say slim."
Images from the Week 16 Matchup at MetLife Stadium