Sam Darnold of the Panthers looks on against the Giants at...

Sam Darnold of the Panthers looks on against the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. Credit: Mike Stobe

It’s safe to say this wasn’t the return to MetLife Stadium that Sam Darnold had in mind.

The former Jets quarterback was benched in the fourth quarter as his Panthers were in the process of being mauled by the Giants, 25-3, on Sunday.

The Jets gave up on Darnold and traded him to Carolina, which has dropped four straight after a 3-0 start. Darnold has played progressively worse during the losing streak, and it culminated in an embarrassing performance in his former home building.

"It’s hard no matter where you are," he said. "As a competitor, you want to go out there and give it 100% for your teammates and for the guys next to you. It was . . . that’s pretty much my thoughts."

Darnold finished 16-for-25 passing for 111 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He also was called for intentional grounding in the end zone in the second quarter, which resulted in a safety that gave the Giants their first points.

Darnold was sacked three times, as was his replacement, P.J. Walker, who took over with the Panthers trailing 15-3.

"Obviously, I pulled Sam in the game," coach Matt Rhule said. "Just felt like we needed some sort of a spark. Not that anything was necessarily him. I think it’s all of them. Hoping P.J. would go out there and make a run or do something to kind of get us going. Sam will be our quarterback next week. He’ll be our quarterback moving forward."

He might not be for long, though, if those Deshaun Watson-to-the-Panthers rumors turn out to be true.

The highlight for Carolina was a 45-yard field goal by Zane Gonzalez on the opening drive.

The lowlight was Darnold dropping back to pass in his own end zone and, under pressure from Leonard Williams, throwing the ball into his own offensive line with no receiver in sight. The safety made the score 3-2.

Another lowlight was the interception Darnold threw later in the second quarter with the Giants leading 5-3.

It was second-and-24 after a 4-yard loss and a holding penalty. The Panthers were in field-goal range at the Giants’ 25-yard line. Darnold, as he often did in his Jets days, tried to make a huge play out of nothing, overthrew a receiver and was picked off by James Bradberry at the 5.

"Sam’s got to take care of the football," Rhule said. "And Sam’s got to throw on time, and if it’s not there, find the check-downs. We can’t be driving, with a chance to take the lead, and throw interceptions."

Sounds like something Jets fans have heard before.

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