The New York Jets broke their six-game losing streak with a comeback victory over the Buffalo Bills thanks to the play of Sam Darnold. It’s understandable that some Jets fans would be disappointed that the win took them from having the inside track on the number one or number two pick in the draft, but seeing the 21-year-old rookie play well down the stretch and lead a comeback win against a top defense is far more important than getting a higher draft pick. Whether or not the Jets can turn into a competitive team with actual playoff/super bowl aspirations will depend on how good Darnold is, not if the Jets pick first or fifth in next year’s draft.
Quarterback remains the most important position in football and having your franchise quarterback actually play like a franchise quarterback is far the more important than having a higher draft pick. Of course if the Jets lost the game that wouldn’t mean that Darnold would forever be a bust, just as yesterday’s win doesn’t make Darnold a surefire franchise quarterback, but what you saw yesterday is exactly what you should want to see from the rookie quarterback you hope can one day cement himself as the franchise quarterback.
No fans should ever be judged for rooting for the long-term future by rooting for a higher draft pick, but nothing will ever be more important to the long-term success of a team as the development of the quarterback and yesterday the signs of hope were all there. If Darnold fails to build on this performance and never becomes the quarterback most expect him to be it won’t matter if the Jets got the first pick next year, the team wouldn’t be able to overcome picking the wrong question. If Darnold does build on this and is every bit as good as advertising the Jets will be just fine with picking fifth in next year’s draft. Getting high draft picks is great for a rebuilding team, having a young franchise quarterback to build around is far more important.
Sam Darnold – The day did not get off to a great start, three plays for nine yards on the opening drive followed by a punt and Darnold limping off the field to head into the locker room. Josh McCown would come in for a three play, for three yards, drive that actually led to a field goal thanks to a forced fumble by Kevin Pierre-Louis and recovered by Jamal Adams, but Darnold was able to return and after a few more bumps, one terrible decision for an interception and another one for a near-interception, eventually made enough spectacular plays to get the Jets the win.
As the game progressed you could sense Darnold starting to settle into a rhythm, he started throwing with more confidence and making plays with his feet as well as his arm. The big play, the one that has to excite Jets fans everywhere, was the touchdown to Robby Anderson. Darnold rolled out to the right, couldn’t find anything he liked as he was feeling pressured so he reversed the field and was able to find Anderson open in the end zone with a perfectly placed pass.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Sam Darnold ran 46.8 yards before his Pass TD to Robby Anderson. That's the most yards run by a QB on a completion over the last 2 seasons. pic.twitter.com/YfNSOaNHXE
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 9, 2018
46.8 yards is an extremely long route to take to make a seven yard touchdown pass, but good lord was it worth it. That play was a thing of beauty and shows the extremely high end of Darnold’s ability and why people think he can be special. Two drives later Darnold would lead the Jets on a nine play, 61 yard drive that ended in a Elijah McGuire touchdown and the Jets taking a 27-23 with 1:17 left in the game. Darnold finished the game 16 of 24 for 170 yards (7.1 per attempt) one touchdown and one interception, not exactly eye-popping numbers but the moments were there and it’s those moments that fans should be excited for because nothing can bring hope like those moments from your 21-year-old quarterback.
Robby Anderson – Four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, again not a super impressive stat line but he made the plays when he needed to. We talked about the touchdown already but there was also the back-shoulder throw for 37 yards that set the Jets up on the Bills five-yard-line on the game-winning drive. This has been a disappointing season for Anderson, mostly due to reasons beyond his control, but even if it was only four plays they were four plays that show you how valuable a player like him can be for the quarterback.
Andre Roberts – As both the offense and defense have taken turns stumbling and fumbling over themselves this season there is one coach that can hold his head high with the way his unit has produced all season; Special teams coach Brant Boyer. As the defense struggled to contain Josh Allen’s running ability and the offense took a bit to heat up, it was Andre Roberts and the rest of Boyer’s special teams unit that kept the Jets in the game. Roberts had five kick returns for 176 yards (35.2 yard average) and a long of 86 yards that set the Jets up for their first touchdown cutting the Bills lead to 17-13. Then there was the blocked field goal, Henry Anderson was able to leap up and get his paws on the kick to keep the Bills lead to four at halftime.
Truman Johnson – Two interceptions, granted they were relatively easy interceptions on spectacularly awful throws from Allen, but Johnson was in the exact right place for them both and is starting to look more like the Jets thought they were getting when they paid him all that money this offseason.
Neville Hewitt – Hewitt and Pierre-Louis both filled in for the suspended Darron Lee and the combination of both turned in an impressive performance. Pierre-Louis handled more of the coverage duties where Lee has excelled this season, but Hewitt, and his eight total tackles with five of them being solo tackles, was an upgrade over Lee in defending the against the run.
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