Jets' Darnold looks to use dud vs. Vikings as learning tool
NEW YORK (AP) — Sam Darnold's final numbers looked every bit like those of a rookie quarterback who struggled through adversity all over the field.
Bad decisions, receivers' slippery fingers, a cold, blustery wind and a swarming defense all contributed to the worst game of the Darnold's young career. Still, the face of the New York Jets franchise refused to be flustered.
"Obviously, I learned a lot from that game," Darnold said Monday, "and learned a lot from just watching tape."
Darnold was 17 of 42 for 206 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in New York's 37-17 loss to Minnesota on Sunday.
After going 6 of 9 for 87 yards and a touchdown with a 135.0 quarterback rating in the opening quarter, Darnold finished with a dismal 34.4 rating. The second and third quarters were the worst, when Darnold was a combined 2 of 13 for minus-1 yard.
New York was 2 of 13 in third-down situations, and the running game — which lost Bilal Powell to a neck injury early — couldn't get off the ground while finishing with 71 yards.
"It's not just Sam," coach Todd Bowles said. "It's the offense, defense and special teams. Our team has to do better, it's not about just Sam. It's about us coaching better. It's about us playing better in all three phases."
Through the first seven games of his NFL career, Darnold's overall statistics are hardly eye-popping. And, really, they're barely mediocre.
He has thrown for 1,552 yards with 10 touchdowns and an NFL-high 10 interceptions. Darnold's 56.1 completion percentage is near the bottom of the league, with fellow rookies Josh Rosen of Arizona (55.0) and Josh Allen of Buffalo (54.0) the only QBs with at least 100 attempts lower than his. His 74.3 quarterback rating is also among the worst.
But there's no panic in Darnold or the Jets , particularly because the No. 3 overall pick in the draft is getting a crash course in life as an NFL quarterback.
"On the positive side, I thought I was on time with a lot of the routes I was throwing," Darnold said of his performance against the Vikings. "On the two touchdown drives, I thought we played really well. I thought I was able to hit the open guy.
"The negative, I think just continuing to really lock in on my progressions and really stick on one side of the field and understand what the safeties are doing and what the defense is doing a little bit better. So, just really continuing to grow that way."
Darnold insisted the conditions at MetLife Stadium — 46 degrees at kickoff, swirling 16 mph winds and a wind chill of 39 — weren't a factor in his performance. The California kid from USC will have to get used to days like this in the Northeast, though, especially because the only other game in which he played below 50 degrees was at Utah in 2016 when it was 45.
And, by the way, Darnold's numbers Sunday were much better when he had the wind at his back.
"I think that might have been just a coincidence," he said. "I feel like I threw the ball really well in the wind, whether we were going against it or with it. I didn't really feel like that was much of an issue at all."
Drops, however, were. The Jets had five against the Vikings. The last of Darnold's interceptions came late in the fourth quarter when his perfectly placed pass went off the hands of Charone Peake and right to Minnesota's Trae Waynes.
"Whether I throw it to the right guy or whether I made the wrong read," Darnold said, "every single ball I throw I've got to throw it with confidence, and if I do that I think we'll have a better chance."
The Jets were also short-handed at receiver, something the team might need to address in the next few days.
Quincy Enunwa is out for a few weeks with a sprained ankle, and Terrelle Pryor was cut over the weekend while dealing with a groin injury. That left Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson and Andre Roberts — primarily a returner — as the only experienced players at the position, with Peake and just-promoted Deontay Burnett the others.
Kearse, who led the team in receptions last season, finished with none on Sunday and had only two balls thrown his way.
"Credit to them, they did a great job scheming and their players did an outstanding job executing their scheme," Darnold said of the Vikings. "I think from that aspect, they got us. They did a great job of playing Jermaine and having a plan for him.
"We will be better. We will learn from it and grow from it."
NOTES: The Jets fear S Doug Middleton has a torn pectoral muscle and could miss the rest of the season. He was starting in place of Marcus Maye, who's out with a broken right thumb. ... C Spencer Long has been dealing with an injured finger on his right hand that has contributed to some bad snaps, but he also limped off the field late against Minnesota. Bowles declined to provide an update.
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