It wasn't Sam Darnold's most prolific or most dominant or most pinpoint-accurate game of his first two pro seasons, but the Jets' QB will take it, especially because of not how he played in the Jets' 13-6 win at Buffalo on Sunday, but how the players around him performed.
"We just continued to play good football," Darnold said of the Jets' second-half-of-the-season push that lifted them from the depths of 1-7 to the promising height of 7-9 in the second half of the schedule. "There were a couple of games that got away from us, but other than that, we played consistent, a lot more consistent than we did the first half of the season.
"It was awesome to play with these guys. It felt like we got in a rhythm in a bunch of games, too, offensively. It was just really fun to play this last stretch of games with these guys."
Darnold's starting record over the final eight games of 6-2 matched the Jets. He crowned his sohomore season with a Bills showing that was conservative in the sometimes heavy Western New York rain during which the ball, in the opinion of Jets Coach Adam Gase, "sometimes didn't look right when Sam was trying to throw — it looked waterlogged."
He completed 23 of 36 passes (63.9% accuracy) for 199 yards and a 1-foot touchdown flip over the middle to WR Jamison Crowder. It was Crowder's sixth TD reception, all in the last nine games, and it was Darnold's 19th TD connection in 13 games after throwing for 17 scores in 13 games as a rookie. He almost had another strike earlier Sunday but his left-rollout floater to TE Daniel Brown in the end zone was a foot too short and Brown couldn't come up with it.
Turnovers? Darnold threw one in the first quarter intended for Crowder that was batted in the air and plucked by CB Levi Wallace. He overthrew another ball that was picked by S Jaquan Johnson but the play was erased when, just before the ball passed over their heads, S Kurt Coleman left his feet and made helmet-to-helmet contact with RB Le'Veon Bell. That kept the drive alive and led to Sam Ficken's first of two field goals for a 3-0 lead.
"I thought he did a pretty good job," Gase said of Darnold's final game of Year 2. "The interception was unfortunate. I could see what he was seeing, trying to stick it in there and make a play. Anytime you throw a ball that gets tipped in the air, you get ticked about it later."
See Best Images from the Matchup in Buffalo
There will be more post-mortems Monday as Gase meets the media for the final time in 2019 and the players clean out their lockers and head for "parts unknown." But for the moment, Darnold was happy to heap more praise on his teammates. Specifically, he played behind the ninth different offensive line alignment this season after the coaches plugged in Brent Qvale, the 11th different OL starter this season, at LG and gave Conor McDermott his second pro start, at RG, when both guards of the second half -- Alex Lewis and Tom Compton -- went on IR on Saturday.
"No doubt, I can't speak highly enough of those guys over there," the QB said. "They've been through a lot this year. What we've been able to accomplish with everything going on, I'm super proud of those guys."
And as for Darnold, he indicated he was observing a seven-day rule before jumping headlong into the 2020 season.
"There are some fundamental things that I'd love to work on," he said. "I'm going to take a week or so off here, then get back to it. But again, I can't say enough about our guys, our defense, the special teams unit. Everyone played well in really that whole back stretch of games. It was awesome just to come out here every single Sunday and play for these guys."