It was a long way from winning Super Bowl XLVII in early 2013, but Joe Flacco was happy to be on the field and starting an NFL game on Sunday, no matter the setting.
"It felt great to be back out there," Flacco said after starting at quarterback for the Jets in place of the injured Sam Darnold in a 30-10 loss to the Cardinals at MetLife Stadium.
Flacco, 35, was uneven, at best, finishing 18-for-33 with 195 passing yards and a touchdown and rushing four times for 20 yards in his first NFL start in 50 weeks.
There were some bad throws, some bad drops, some bad game management and a lot of short throws, plus one nifty 52-yard completion to Jamison Crowder. Flacco also found Crowder for an 11-yard touchdown.
Flacco was looking to prove to the league that he still can play after undergoing offseason neck surgery following his departure from the Broncos after last season, a season cut short by a herniated disc in his neck.
The results were mixed. He said he felt fine physically, but rusty otherwise.
"There were a handful of plays where some little things got away from me," he said. "Play clock, some different motions, stuff like that, operational. I felt like I was a little off on those, for whatever reason."
One example came when the Jets’ Avery Williamson returned an interception to the Arizona 10-yard line with the Jets trailing 7-0. On the first play after the turnover, the Jets were called for delay of game.
Flacco said he lost track of the time.
"It didn’t seem like we were at the point at which I would be thinking about the play clock," he said. "We got on the field, I got the play, called it, and next thing you know the guy was blowing the whistle on me.
"That’s one of the things I’m talking about. I mean, that’s Day One stuff. It can’t happen."
Flacco did have a couple of timely runs for first downs.
"There are parts of my game where I felt like I hadn’t played or practiced in a long time," he said. "But there were times when I felt like I was able to move and do some things, and getting those first downs with my legs, it always feels good to be able to do that."
Asked what he thought of Flacco, coach Adam Gase said, "I think there was a lot of good. I’ll be interested when we go back and watch it to see how many drops we had. I felt like we had some completions early that could have got us going and we either had a drop or something happen, whether it be a protection or a busted route.
"I thought he did a pretty good job. I know there are going to be some throws he wished he had back or some decisions that he probably would want to change, but it’s hard to say without watching the film."
Gase said he is unsure whether Darnold will be ready to return from his sprained right shoulder this week. If not, Flacco plans to be more ready, and less rusty.