NEW YORK (AP) — Sam Darnold’s bounceback began with a trip to the coach’s office last month after one of the worst stretches of his young career.
The New York Jets quarterback had just thrown three interceptions at Jacksonville, six days after he was embarrassed on national TV for saying he was “seeing ghosts” against New England during a four-INT performance.
So, the 22-year-old Darnold sought out Adam Gase and told him what he liked in the offense and what he thought worked — and what didn’t.
“I think, for me, and really, him too, it's just about continuing to gain trust in each other and confidence in each other,” Darnold said Monday.
That sit-down could end up becoming a career turning point. At the very least, it helped Darnold build an even better rapport — and seems to be paying off on the field.
“I think it was really important for me at the time because I felt like I had a lot better understanding of the offense at that point during the season, and I felt like I knew the offense well enough to go in and have a really good conversation with him about it,” Darnold said. “That’s really all it was. As an offense, I feel like we’ve been able to find our rhythm and it’s been really good.”
In the three games since, the Jets are averaging nearly 29 points and 338 yards while going 2-1 — including consecutive wins over the Giants and Redskins.
Darnold has completed 65.7% of his passes with six touchdowns and two interceptions during that stretch. In New York’s 34-17 win at Washington on Sunday, the second-year QB became the youngest player in Jets history to throw four TD passes in a game — Joe Namath was nine days older when he did it in 1965.
“You want your quarterback to be able to do that,” Gase said of Darnold giving his input. “I think sometimes when you’re a younger player, you’re trying to feel everything out and kind of just see how everything works and operates and you’re learning.
“I think it was probably the right time. He knew what he was getting really good at, he knew what was causing him to play slower, so he was able to exactly tell me what he was looking for and kind of how I could help him.”
And, it all started with a simple — but necessary — conversation away from the field.
“It makes it easier because now you’re not guessing, you’re not wondering what he likes and doesn’t like,” Gase said. “The communication factor there makes life easier if you’re the play caller.”
The Jets have scored a touchdown on their opening possession in four straight games. That comes after New York had gone 30 consecutive games without getting into the end zone on its first drive.
New York’s run defense continues to be downright stingy. The Jets are allowing a league-low 79.1 yards rushing per game after holding Washington to just 54. New York has allowed just one 100-yard rusher: Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott, who had 105 on 28 carries in Week 6.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Jets’ running game is still stalling. New York ranks 31st in the NFL with 72.1 yards per game, ahead of only Miami (60.3). There are multiple layers to the struggles, from the constant shuffling on the offensive line because of injuries and the early season absence of Darnold because of mononucleosis.
But, it’s still surprising considering New York has Le’Veon Bell in its backfield. Bell had just 59 yards rushing and a TD on 18 carries and hasn’t cracked 100 yards in any game this season.
There’s some glimmer of hope: The Jets totaled 115 yards rushing against Washington, the first time they had over 100 as a team.
Ryan Griffin. The veteran tight end has suddenly become a favorite target of Darnold. Griffin had five catches for 109 yards — the first 100-yard game of his career — and a touchdown at Washington. He has 25 receptions for 269 yards and a career-high four TDs.
Sam Ficken. He’s the team’s fourth kicker since training camp and had given the Jets some stability at the kicker spot, but has been up and down lately. Ficken missed his first extra point of the season and was wide right on a 49-yard field goal attempt against the Redskins. He’s 7 of 11 on field goals overall, with one miss in each of the last three games.
Left tackle Kelvin Beachum reinjured an ankle, but Gase said it appears it’s not as serious as the injury that sidelined him for three games earlier this season. ... Rookie RT Chuma Edoga had an MRI for what Gase called “an ankle/knee” issue. There’s optimism Edoga will be able to play Sunday.
6: That’s how many sacks for safety Jamal Adams, including three Sunday and two last week against the Giants. That total is already the franchise’s single-season record for defensive backs.
The Jets will try for their first three-game winning streak since Weeks 3-5 of the 2017 season — yes, over two years ago. It won’t be easy, though, as the Oakland Raiders (6-4) come to New York having won three straight. After taking advantage of facing rookie quarterbacks in the Giants’ Daniel Jones and the Redskins’ Dwayne Haskins the past two weeks, the Jets will take on Derek Carr, who has seven TD passes and one INT in his last four games.