Jets QB Sam Darnold looked like he had not missed a beat -- even though he had been sidelined for two games with a shoulder injury -- in the first half of Sunday's 18-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. The Jets built a 10-0 lead and the vibes were good, if not great, as they reverberated through a stadium bereft of fans.
"It was great to get back out there," Darnold told reporters after the game. "In the first half I felt we were into a rhythm, but we have to execute better and put some points up on the board."
Darnold and the Jets got off to an impressive start, taking the opening kickoff and using 11 plays to cover 67 yards to the Bills' 11 before the drive stalled in the red zone. Sergio Castillo, kicking for the injured Sam Ficken, came on to convert a 29-yard field goal. The drive ate up 6:14.
Darnold connected with rookie WR Denzel Mims 4 passes in the first half for 42 yards. Playing in his first game of the season after enduring nagging hamstring injuries, Mims showed the speed and hands that made him the Jets' second-round draft pick last April.
The Jets made the score 10-0 late in the second quarter when La'Mical Perine scored the first TD of his NFL career on a 5-yard scamper around right end, reaching out with his left hand and smartly touching the ball to the pylon. The run completed a 7-play, 80-yard drive. On the drive, Darnold and Mims collaborated on two completions -- moving 16 yards on a first-and-10 play and then for 11 yards on a second-and-11 play to the Buffalo 19-yard line. Perine scored five plays later.
Darnold was 11 of 15 for 116 yards in the first half, but threw a late interception that the Bills turned into 3 points, with the half ending, 10-6. Darnold completed 73.3% of his passes for a 67.6 rating. After Mims and his 4 grabs, Braxton Berrios, Breshad Perriman and Perine each had 2 catches in the first 30 minutes.
The second half, however, was quite a different story.
In the final 30 minutes, the Jets ran only 16 plays, had the ball for 6:33 while Darnold was harassed and hurried by the Bills' defense. In the second half, Darnold completed only 1-of-8 passes for 4 yards. Buffalo finished the game with 6 sacks.
"They made some good adjustments," Darnold said. "We just have to adjust to their adjustments."
Plays that were working and eating up yards in the first half either didn't work, or Darnold and the offense didn't have time to make them work. One change, however, was that Head Coach Adam Gase relinquished play-calling duties, delegating them to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
Asked about what changed from one half to the other, Gase said: "I really need to see the film. All of a sudden are we not executing well? Did they make better plays? It's hard to give you that answer just watching from series to series."
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Though the defense held the Bills without a TD in the game, the Jets inability to move the ball effectively in the second half, when they were limited to four series (four punts) was pivotal.
"It was a total offensive thing," Darnold said. "When did pass, there was so much pressure for me. Then not making throws when I had time to set up and make them."
Nothing gets easier for the Jets (0-7) as they next play at the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Asked if he was demoralized, Darnold said: "For us, we looked at the first half, there was a good rhythm we can build off that. We look at the second half and can learn from it. I know that's not what people want to hear. We have to figure out what doing wrong and get better."