The Jets won their third straight game on Sunday, a stunning 34-3 blowout of the Raiders. Here are some thoughts and observations on the game:
1. Jets coaches had a moment of joy when watching the film of the win over the Redskins last week. After quarterback Sam Darnold threw an ill-advised screen pass in the second quarter that was intercepted, he wound up on the sideline and was walking his way toward the bench. Then, he gave a motion with his hands that he should have “dirted” the ball, meaning throw it at the receiver’s feet so it cannot be intercepted.
Darnold did not need to be told what he did wrong. He realized it immediately, and the coaches saw another sign that the second-year quarterback is growing.
The most impressive part of Darnold’s game Sunday against the Raiders was not the throws he made, but the ones he threw away. Young quarterbacks often struggle with when to give up on a play and live to see another day. It goes against their competitive spirit, and they have insane confidence in their own ability to make throws because they have been able to get away with so much in high school and college.
But in the NFL, one of the keys to good quarterback play is throwing it away, and Darnold had a few smart decisions on Sunday. In a drive in the second quarter, he threw it away twice. The second time was on third-and-15 at the Raiders 17. If he takes a sack here, the Jets could be out of field-goal range. If he tries to force a throw, it could be an interception. Instead, Sam Ficken kicked a 35-yard field goal for a 13-3 lead.
Now, it should be pointed out that Darnold did make a great throw during this drive to Robby Anderson for a 31-yard gain when he probably should have just tucked the ball and ran. But he placed the ball perfectly and Anderson made a great catch.
Later in the second quarter, the Jets had a screen pass called at the Raiders 30. Darnold saw that Dion Jordan had sniffed it out and this time he did dirt the ball, throwing it to the ground. It led to another Ficken field-goal attempt that he missed.
Darnold makes throws every game that make you say, “Wow,” but on Sunday it was the throws out of bounds and into the ground that made me believe he is hitting his stride.
2. Let’s get this out of the way now: The Jets are not making the playoffs. I understand they are two games behind the Steelers for the sixth seed in the AFC. I get it that they have two winnable games coming up. But this is a pipe dream.
They have a 1.1 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders. Sunday was the Jets’ first win in the AFC and they are winless in the AFC East. This reminds me of July, when we are trying to figure out whether the Mets should be buyers or sellers and they are five games out, but there are six teams ahead of them. Right now, the Steelers, Raiders, Colts, Titans, Browns, Jaguars and Chargers are all ahead of the Jets in the race for the No. 6 seed.
What it makes me think is: What if? What if the Jets did not blow a 16-point lead against the Bills in Week 1? What if they did not lose to the winless Dolphins four weeks ago? If you win one of those games, you are 5-6 and have another win in the AFC and playoff talk is more realistic. If you win both, now you might control your playoff lives.
I think the Jets will look back at those two games after this season and think about what might have been.
3. CBS showed a graphic during the game Sunday that the Jets have 25.6 percent of their salary cap on injured reserve right now, the most in the league. There are 15 players who cost $48.7 million. It is a staggering amount, but I think some of those players going on IR have oddly helped the Jets out.
They are getting more from some of those players’ backups than they were getting from the high-priced, big-name players.
Cornerbacks Bless Austin ($473,802 cap number) and Arthur Maulet ($341,471) have played really well in place of Trumaine Johnson ($12 million). Center Jonotthan Harrison ($2.75 million) has stabilized the offensive line after Ryan Kalil ($8.4 million) went down. It is hard to say Neville Hewitt ($1.5 million) has been better than Avery Williamson ($8 million) would have been, but he has been as good.
So, yes, the Jets have lost some key, pricey players this season. But in some cases, they have been better off for it.
4. I found Jamal Adams’ comments about the Raiders fans firing up the Jets fascinating. This is not a new occurrence at MetLife Stadium. Opposing fans frequently take over the stadium, but I have never heard players take issue with it before.
I don’t blame Jets fans who sell their tickets. The cost for season tickets is outrageous, and it is a way to recoup some of that money. Plus, the Jets have not given them much of a product to watch this decade.
The Jets have two home games left this season, against the Dolphins and Steelers. I don’t think Dolphins fans will be an issue in that game because Miami stinks. But Steelers fans always fill up MetLife when they play here. I am interested to see if Adams’ remarks have an effect on Jets fans who are considering selling their tickets.
Revealing stat: The Jets won by 31 points on Sunday and led by 31 at one point during the win over the Redskins last week. It is the first time in franchise history the Jets have held leads of 30 or more in consecutive games.
Surprising snap count: Quinnen Williams only played 28 out of 59 snaps. I don’t understand why the rookie defensive lineman is not playing more.
Game ball: Sam Darnold had a day, throwing for 315 yards, accounting for three touchdowns and not turning the ball over. I would also throw a game ball to coach Adam Gase, who called a great game.
For more on the Jets, listen to the latest episode of the “Gang’s All Here” podcast: