When the Jets played the Patriots last month in New England, they hardly put up a fight. The bitter rivals are set to meet again Monday night, but the Jets are a far different team now.
Sam Darnold made a victorious return on Sunday, and the Jets have gotten key defensive players Jordan Jenkins and Quinnen Williams back. They could get more by the prime-time kickoff at MetLife Stadium, with inside linebacker C.J. Mosley nearing a return.
This doesn’t mean the 1-4 Jets will be the first team to beat the Patriots this season. But they have a better chance than they did last time as they become whole and Adam Gase’s offense finally appears to be showing itself.
“Not surprising,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on a conference call Monday. “Adam, give him a little extra time, get the quarterback back and iron out a few things and that’s not surprising to see. Adam showed a big spike in improvement there offensively. I’ve seen that many times before when he was with Miami and through the years, Chicago and Denver and all that.
“He’s an excellent coach. I fully expected that things would improve pretty quickly once he had a little time to work on it.”
Darnold’s return from a three-game absence because of mono was of course the biggest change for the Jets. As a result, Gase was able to open up the offense.
Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk totaled 419 yards and no touchdown passes in the three games Darnold missed. Darnold threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns in the Jets’ 24-22 win over the Cowboys on Sunday. He felt they could have done more.
“We played good at times,” Darnold said. “But there was a lot of things we can clean up. I think we left a lot of points on the field.”
Now they’re facing one of the best defensive minds in NFL history and the league’s No.1 defense this season.
The 6-0 Patriots have allowed just 48 points and only three touchdowns by opposing offenses. When the Jets played in Foxborough on Sept. 22, they were down 30-0 before they scored a special teams touchdown and a defensive touchdown.
Belichick was able to load up on Le’Veon Bell that game with Falk unable to move the ball. The Jets finished with 105 yards of offense and were 0-for-12 converting third downs.
“Each game is a different matchup and has its own interesting dynamics that always occur,” Belichick said. “We’ll start from scratch and start our preparations from the Jets even though we have some familiarity with them and they do with us.”
Belichick will try to take someone or something away, but the Jets showed against Dallas that they have more weapons than Bell.
Darnold completed passes to seven different receivers, and five different players had at least three catches. That hadn't happened in any game this season for the Jets. Five of Darnold's passes were 24 yards or longer. In the previous two games, the Jets only had one offensive play that went for more than 20 yards.
The big play Sunday was Darnold hooking up with Robby Anderson for a 92-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Darnold also believes that was just the beginning.
“It’s good knowing that [Gase] has all the confidence in the world, not just in me but also in all the players out there, the whole offense,” Darnold said. “I got to be smart there and know if it’s not there to just check it down. He trusts me to do that.
“As long as we continue to call those big plays, which we will every single game, I just have to continue to be smart with the decisions that I make.”