By Steve Silverman
The Jets are flying high and the future is bright — at least compared to the New York Giants.
While the Giants are feeling sorry for themselves because their quarterback is old and he can’t get out of the way of a decent pass rush, the Jets have a young, smart and improving signal caller who is getting better each week.
Sam Darnold had the game of his young career, completing 24 of 30 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns and one interception as the Jets got the best of the Indianapolis Colts 42-34. So, now that the Jets have beaten Denver and Indianapolis in back-to-back weeks, they are in a position to turn the season into something memorable, as Joe Namath told the fans at MetLife Stadium Sunday.
Joe Willie was filled with enthusiasm about his old team’s hopes for the season, but he has a fan’s perspective at this point. However, he does understand quarterback intangibles, and Darnold has them. He proved it at the end of the first half, when he ran the two-minute drill like Joe Montana and got the Jets in a position to kick a field goal.
If the Jets are going to make a move off the .500 mark and find a way to beat the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears in the next two weeks, it’s not going to be just because their rookie quarterback is playing well.
Offensively, the Jets established that they can run the ball a week ago against the Broncos, and the Colts had to respect that. While the Jets couldn’t come close to the 323 rushing yards they had against Denver, the Colts paid close attention to Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell.
That made life a lot easier for Darnold, and receivers Jermaine Kearse, Terrelle Pryor, Chris Herndon, and Robby Anderson.
Kearse caught nine passes for 94 yard, while Pryor caught five for 57 yards and one touchdown. Herndon caught a touchdown pass, and Anderson caught three passes for 39 yards.
While Anderson was not a huge factor, his game-breaking speed is going to have a big impact on an every-week basis. Anderson can turn one missed tackle into a 75-yard touchdown, and opposing defensive coordinators know it.
The last thing they want to do is give up a big play to the Jets and realize they are vulnerable to sudden scoring outbursts.
The offense is getting better each week, but if the Jets are going to turn this season into something truly memorable, it will be the result of consistent play on defense. Morris Claiborne, Avery Williams and Darron Lee all intercepted Andrew Luck passes, and that turned the game in the Jets’ favor.
After the game, the Jets were clearly happy with their victory and reaching the .500 mark, but there was a realistic attitude of the team’s stature in the NFL hierarchy.
“It was important to be able to have answers,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “This was a step forward from a maturity level as a team. It was important to get to 3-3. We are what our record says we are. We’re still average. We’ve still got a ways to go.”
That’s the kind of attitude that can help the Jets get better from this point forward. The Jets are not in the playoff picture at this point, but they are not far away. They have the structure on offense to grow into a solid team, and they will get tested this week when the Vikings come visiting.
Minnesota was looked at as the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, but they were beaten badly by the Buffalo Bills at home in Week Three. They have rebounded since then, but this team has plenty of issues with its once-formidable defense and quarterback Kirk Cousins can be rushed into making mistakes.
This will be a tough game for the Jets, but there’s no reason to be intimidated when the Vikings come to MetLife.
The Jets can’t be satisfied with anything they have done to this point in the year. If they are, it will cause problems.
However, if these back-to-back wins have truly planted the seeds of confidence, the Jets just may turn this supposed rebuilding season into something that is quite memorable.
They have a young quarterback who is making the most of his opportunity, and optimism has taken up residence in the Jets locker room for the first time in many years.