What Might Have Been
Despite entering M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night more than a 16-point underdog, the Jets were ready to battle. They fell behind, 13-0, in the first quarter, but showed resilience getting back in the game and made it competitive in the opening 30 minutes. The Green & White actually outgained the Ravens in the first half, but Baltimore was up, 21-7, at the break because the AFC's top team finished. A week after the Jets held the Dolphins without a touchdown on their six red-zone trips, Baltimore converted with TDs on all three of its chances before intermission. The Jets, whose first points came on a 4-yard scoring pass from Sam Darnold to Jamison Crowder, came away with a touchdown despite reaching the Baltimore 31, 4, 7 and 25 on their final four drives of the half.
"The things we were running were working and we were putting up positive yardage," Crowder said. "We has a few hiccups for a few of those drives. Just getting down in the red zone and not capitalizing, that's where we really kind of ourselves in the foot."
Jackson Was Dynamic as Advertised
The Ravens might have the NFL MVP and Lamar Jackson looked like it Thursday night, but Sam Darnold did some things with a MASH unit on offense that has the Jets organization feeling like it has a franchise quarterback of its own.
The Jets didn't have an answer for Jackson as he kept the defense on its heels with his arm and his feet, churning out 86 yards on the ground and 212 yards through the air. Jackson, who broke Michael Vick's single-season rushing record by a QB and also threw 5 TD passes to tie Vinny Testaverde's franchise mark of 33, had rushes of 20, 25, and 12 yards during his team's first three drives. He was efficient in the pass game, firing a pair of short TD passes, to WR Miles Boykin and TE Mark Andrews, setting up the latter with a 43-yard DPI on Neville Hewitt. Marquise (Hollywood) Brown got behind Hewitt and the Jets 'backer tackled the speedster to draw the flag.
"We could have played a hell of a lot better than we did," said OLB Jordan Jenkins said of Jackson. "But at the same time I have to give it to him — he's the real deal."
See Best Images from the Matchup Against the Ravens
Although Darnold was intercepted by S Chuck Carr at the end of the half, he also produced some great moments working with a unit minus TE Ryan Griffin, who was placed on injured reserve hours before kickoff, and WR Demaryius Thomas, a game day inactive because of knee and hamstring ailments. He connected with seven different receivers and made one of his most impressive tosses this season to start the second stanza. On a third-and-9, Darnold stepped up receivers to avoid the rush, worked right and then found Crowder for a 41-yard catch-and-run. And he shook off a Crowder end-zone drop two plays later, rolling right on the ensuing third down and delivering a rope to Crowder for the TD.
"We had a chance and it just got away from us," Danrold said. "If we execute better, so many ifs. If we just play better, if I hit some throws that I missed, the game could be a whole other game. This one's going to sting."
But Jackson played on the more complete side. Three plays after an excellent Darnold to pass to Robby Anderson, the Jets signal-caller was sacked and the loose ball resulted in his second turnover. Jackson capitalized, connecting with Brown for a 24-yard score and the deficit grew to 21. Jackson later added TD passes to Seth Roberts and Mark Ingram before Darnold responded with his second scoring toss to Crowder — this one from 18 yards out. That game after a gorgeous 41-yard long connection from Darnold to Anderson.
"It's coming, he's improving every week, the entire year," Coach Adam Gase said of Darnold. "Every week he gets better and better. There is going to be a point where he's going to be a really good player."
Good Return Night
Brant Boyer's special teams unit had one of its best performances of the season. Outside linebacker Tarrell Basham blocked a fourth-quarter punt that was recovered by linebacker B.J. Bello and returned 14 yards for the Jets' second TD. Ty Montgomery averaged 30.3 yards on his first three returns and Vyncint Smith had 65 yards on his first two attempts including a 37-yarder. The Ravens stopped kicking deep in the second half, instead electing to have K Justin Tucker pop up the ball the air to negate a long return. Braxton Berrios pitched in with a 21-yard punt return while veteran punter Lachlan Edwards had a 59-yard boot and averaged 51 yards. On the negative side, Sam Ficken had a field goal blocked and misfired on an extra point.