Game Preview

Jets vs. 49ers Game Preview: Green & White Confident in Resilient Sam Darnold

Safety Marcus Maye: Darnold Always Finds a Way to Bounce Back

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The microscope is more like a telescope in New York because it's a now town. In a city that never sleeps, "what have you done for me lately?" is a life philosophy. The Jets didn't play well in Week 1 and their young quarterback, Sam Darnold, seemingly never got his feet underneath him in a 27-17 loss to the Bills.

Football is a game kind to its victors and vicious to its losers. Unlike baseball, basketball and hockey, you aren't back at it the next day. There is typically a week in-between games, so the shine or the stain can sometimes live on for what feels like an eternity. In many respects, it's been a long week for Darnold and the Jets in The Big Apple.

But New York is also a town that prides itself on its resiliency and mental toughness. Its people embrace a fighter who can take a shot or two and respond with fury. As the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers come to town for the Jets' home opener, there is a heightened curiosity about the response on the horizon from the Jets' 23-year-old signal-caller.

After a summer with no preseason games and working with two new starters on the outside, Darnold's numbers weren't awful (21 of 35, 215 Yds, 1TD, 1INT) at Buffalo. But finding comfort in the pocket eluded him and both his accuracy and decision-making suffered.

"It's taking a deep breath, playing a little slower [and] quieting my feet down," he said of the remedy.

After totaling 17 points and 254 yards (69 of those yards came on a Jamison Crowder catch and run), the Jets' offense met this week and discussed how it can get a different result.

"We feel like we can learn from those mistakes and be able to correct them, and they're definitely fixable mistakes, which is a good thing," Darnold said. "For me, my timing needs to be better. I think I did hurry some things. I feel like at the beginning of a game, I've just got to relax."

There is no questioning that Darnold has to slow down, but the quarterback and the offense have to get on the same page in a hurry. There continue to be changing parts around him as RB Le'Veon Bell headed to injured reserve on Tuesday and Crowder, his favorite target, is dealing with a hamstring ailment and missed practice on Thursday. Already minus rookie Denzel Mims, Darnold played his first game last week with outside targets Breshad Perriman and Chris Hogan; and reserve Braxton Berrios, who had an excellent camp, is Crowder's backup at the slot position.

"It's not about looking who we have out," Darnold said Friday. "It's about who we have and that's all that matters for us. Crowder goes down, next man up — here we go. That's been the mindset for us and every single guy in this locker room."

Head Coach Adam Gase said: "It's like we got to get everybody on the same page really fast. We can't screw up any minor details because when those plays occur — we have to hit on them. We can't either miss a throw or have the route run wrong or drop a pass. We have to be on the same page and make sure that we execute this stuff."

The NFL's No. 3 career-leading rusher is confident Darnold will have different results against the 49ers. Frank Gore, who is expected to get the lion's share of the load in the offensive backfield, doesn't believe Darnold has to make any drastic changes.

"He just has to be him," Gore said. "We know he can play ball. He comes out every day and practices well. Football, you're going to have your ups and downs. It's dependent on how you come back. I know me talking to him and how much he loves the game, he'll come back right. We all have to come back and do better this week."

Safety Marcus Maye, a teammate of Darnold's since the latter was drafted No. 3 overall in 2018, said the team continues to embrace the passer's consistent approach.

"He has a short memory no matter what goes on good or bad," Maye said. "He's always positive no matter what the situation is. On both sides of the ball, we look up to him. We look for him to get everybody going on that side. He's the leader on that side of the ball and on this team. We will all rally behind him and I'm sure the offense will too."

There won't be any fans at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, but Darnold will remain in the afternoon spotlight.

"He always finds a way to bounce back," Maye said. "I don't expect him to come out with any doubt at all. He's a great competitor and he knows how to get those guys going. I'm excited to see them come out fast, come out hot this week and he'll be alright."

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