There was simply no way around it. The Jets offense struggled mightily in their 2020 season opener at Buffalo on Sunday. Quarterback Sam Darnold knew it and head coach Adam Gase knew it.
"We didn't execute the way we wanted to, especially in the first half," Darnold said following the Jets' 27-17 loss to the Bills. "I put that on my shoulders. I missed way too many throws today. We had opportunities and I just missed guys. We've got to look at the tape and see what happened, but I flat-out missed guys and that's on me. So I've got to be better and we've got to execute better. It's as simple as that."
"It was about as bad a start offensively as we could've had," Gase said, interrupting a later question from a reporter to complete his thought to the previous question: "We didn't play well. We did not do a good job as an offense."
A quick look at the numbers doesn't look horrible. The game was a two-score affair until rookie K Tyler Bass's second short field goal opened a 27-10 lead with 3:15 to play. Darnold reached 60% accuracy on 21-of-35 for 215 yards and a touchdown.
But those numbers would be deceptive in telling the story of Darnold's day. He was 2-for-8 for 9 yards in the first quarter, 3-for-10 for 22 yards before he started a first-half two-minute drive to the Jets' first score of the day, Sam Ficken's field goal. On the second drive of the second half, Darnold and Jamison Crowder teamed up with a checkdown from which Crowder burst free for a 69-yard score.
But those were most of the highlights. The lowlights would fill another notepad:
■ 3-and-outs on all three first-quarter series, which gained 4 yards combined.
■ A second-quarter roll-right, throw-to-the middle looper intended for Crowder that Bills LB Matt Milano snared at midfield. "The interception was just a bad play," Darnold said. "I tried to fit a ball in there that I shouldn't have."
■ A delay-of-game penalty on the offense coming out of the TV timeout after the Bills' third consecutive TD drive of the first half. Darnold: "I put that on my shoulders. We didn't break the huddle fast enough and we weren't ready and ... that's on me."
■ A Darnold first-down roll right on which he ran out of bounds and took a 5-yard sack. This wasn't a crucial error since the Jets got a first down on the next play, but still for Darnold, not throwing the ball away was another "mea culpa."
Of course, not everything should be on Darnold's shoulders in this one. As Gase said:
"There were a couple of things that, especially early in the game, we were just off with some of the details of what we were calling and what we were doing. We didn't do a couple of things that will look really poorly for him. And then he missed some throws that normally we've seen him make and he made later in the game. ... The first half it just felt like 3-and-out, 3-and-out, we were just trying to get a first down and get something going. And I really, I've got to go back and look at this."
But when Darnold factored out the unproductive ground game (15 carries, 52 yards), Chris Herndon's lost fumble early in the fourth quarter, and a defense that yielded 223 yards and 19 first downs in the first half before it settled down, he knew what his and his offense's play Sunday means for the next week heading toward the Jets' home opener against San Francisco.
"I think for us, we're all competitors," he said. "Losing sucks, no matter who it is. Obviously, it's Week 1. There are some details that we've got to figure out and we're going to figure out. But it's week 1 and we've just got to figure out what we did wrong and correct those mistakes and don't let them happen again."