New England scored 21 unanswered points in the second half and Sam Darnold's early, measured success ended in the Patriots' 28-14 victory at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. New England ended its season 7-9; the Jets were 2-14.
The Jets closed the second quarter and opened the third quarter seemingly in control of the game.
Darnold, who had played three clean games in succession, took the Jets on a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive late in the second quarter, capping the march with a pinpoint 21-yard pass that TE Chris Herndon snagged between two defenders. On the play, Herndon was targeted by Patriots S Myles Bryant for a helmet-to-helmet hit. It was Herndon's second TD reception in as many weeks and third of the season.
On the drive, Darnold completed a third-and-9 pass to TD Daniel Brown for 18 yards to the New England 49-yard line. Two plays later, a swing pass to Ty Johnson picked up 15 yards to the New England 33, then Darnold connected with Jamison Crowder for 21 to the 12-yard line. Darnold and Herndon connected on the next play for the TD.
In the first half, Darnold completed 13-of-17 passes for 146 yards and a 121.1 QB rating.
The Jets and Darnold picked up where they left off, taking the second-half kickoff and marching 75 yards in 6 plays. Josh Adams capped the drive with a 1-yard dive. The big play came when Darnold and Breshad Perriman collaborated on a 53-yard pass-and-run to the Patriots' 12. On the play, however, rookie LT Mekhi Becton sustained an ankle injury, and was helped off the field and then to the locker room for evaluation. He did not return to the game.
The game then turned on errors -- two Patriots interceptions of Darnold.
After the Patriots tied the score, 14-14, on a trick play of their own, the Jets picked up a first down before a Darnold pass intended for Perriman was intercepted by J.C. Jackson, who returned it 17 yards to the Jets' 45. The Patriots took the lead four plays later for a 21-14 lead. A second interception, late in the fourth quarter with the score 28-14, snuffed out the Jets' last chance to get back into the game. In the game, Darnold was 23 of 34 for 266 yards, the TD pass to Herndon and the two interceptions.
Jamison Crowder, Darnold's favorite receiver, caught four passes, including a nifty grab as Darnold scrambled and Crowder stepped in front of the defender for a key first-down completion.
"It was just one of those plays, Sam rolling out threw the ball," Crowder said. "It was instinct for me to run in front of the guy. I think Sam and I had a really good connection the last few years. Sam is a baller, man. He's young and still growing, but he's definitely a baller."
For his part, Darnold, who played through a shoulder injury, said that "too many impulsive decisions" cost him and his team.
"I think the turnover definitely derailed us," Darnold said. "The first one, and obviously the second. It hurt bad. I just have to take better care of football."
When asked to assess his third season with the Jets, Darnold said: "Yeah, I definitely didn't play well this year, There was really only the games we won. I can play better in the future. I didn't play well enough this year to ... yeah ... I wasn't consistent enough and that's really it."