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Sam Darnold's return doesn't energize Jets, who fall to 0-11 with loss to Dolphins

Sam Darnold #14 of the Jets throws a

Sam Darnold #14 of the Jets throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The more things change, the more they stay the same for the Jets.

Sam Darnold was back at quarterback after missing the previous two games with a sprained shoulder. Adam Gase seemed to be calling the plays again after giving up those responsibilities to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains four games ago. Gase denied it, but Darnold said the only voice he heard in his helmet was Gase’s.

Either way, the Gase-Darnold pairing showed once again they’re not a winning combination, and why they likely won’t be together much longer, as the Jets’ offense looked awful, producing no touchdowns in a 20-3 loss Sunday to the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium.

Gase could be gone sooner rather than later.

"I’m not going to be concerned about anything with that," he said. "I can control one thing, and that’s making sure I come to work every day and try to do the best I can with our guys and put them in the right position and try and help them get better."

This game was a step backward for the Jets, which is saying a lot for the NFL’s only winless team. They’re 0-11 and are five losses away from clinching the only silver lining for this wasted season — the No. 1 pick and the opportunity to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Darnold does not look like the same quarterback on whom the Jets pinned the franchise’s hopes when they made him the No. 3 pick in the draft three years ago. He was 16-for-27 for 197 yards and two interceptions on Sunday. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass in his four games in October and November and has three TD passes and eight interceptions in seven games.

"Those two decisions that I made, the two picks, those suck," Darnold said. "I missed a couple of throws. I got to be better. I didn’t play well enough to win a ballgame."

Gase said he wanted to see how Darnold performed with the Jets’ starting wide receiver trio of Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims. But it wasn’t what he hoped for, as the offense was far better and more explosive with Joe Flacco at quarterback. The Jets scored seven touchdowns in those two games and Flacco threw five TD passes.

The last time the Jets didn’t score a touchdown was the previous game Darnold started. In the second half Sunday, the Jets had 60 yards and two first downs.

"They’re a good defense and we did not play well as an offense today," right guard Greg Van Roten said.

The defense forced and recovered fumbles in Miami territory on back-to-back series in the second half with the Jets down 13-3, but they couldn’t convert either takeaway into points.

The Jets started one drive on Miami’s 45 and went three-and-out. They began the next on the Miami 26, but Frank Gore was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the 17.

"I feel bad for our defense," Van Roten said. "Personally, seeing them in the locker room . . . We let them down today."

With Tua Tagovailoa unable to play with a thumb injury, the Dolphins turned to former Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who completed 24 of 39 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns.

Things didn’t start terribly for the Jets or Darnold. He connected on his first three pass attempts, including a 36-yard throw to Perriman, and led them into the red zone on the game’s opening drive. But on third-and-2 from the 11, Darnold was sacked for a 9-yard loss. The Jets had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Sergio Castillo and didn’t score again, although the opportunities were there.

Just before halftime, the Jets rode Gore into the red zone. The 37-year-old had runs of 14 and 17 yards to get the Jets to the 20, but the drive stalled at the 11 and Castillo missed a 29-yard field-goal attempt.

On the first series of the second half, Darnold led the Jets to the Dolphins’ 32.

But on third down, he rolled right and threw the ball across his body right into Miami cornerback Nik Needham’s arms. The pass was intended for Crowder, who was near the sideline.

"I put it on the sideline, we’re good," Darnold said. "We’re not talking about it."

The defense came up big on the next two series. Quinnen Williams forced a fumble by Matt Breida and then Jordan Jenkins slapped the ball out of Patrick Laird’s hands and Neville Hewitt returned it to the 26.

Darnold was sacked on second down for an 8-yard loss. On third-and-16, Mims caught a 15-yard pass. On fourth down, Gase called a handoff for Gore and he lost a yard on the play.

Their next two series: three-and-out, interception.

"I feel like we’re right there," Gase said. "We got to make one or two plays. It’s frustrating for myself, all the players, all the fans. Everyone’s frustrated. We’re trying to find ways to get it right."

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