OFFENSE: The Jets were stagnant, predictable and conservative on a night when Sam Darnold had some time to throw. Run on first down and second a lot of times, and when Darnold threw it was often a wide receiver screen. OC Jeremy Bates has to be a little more creative than that. Darnold had a rough night, and was the second-best rookie quarterback on the field in the Jets' 21-17 loss to the Browns. He finished with a passer rating of 38.2 as the Jets handed the Browns their first win in 635 days. Darnold threw two interceptions in the final 1:21, and he should have been picked off at least two more times. He also missed a wide-open Quincy Enunwa in the middle of the field on the next-to-last possession of the game. Darnold threw his first interception two plays later. Growing pains are expected for Darnold, and the Jets were playing a physical aggressive defense under coordinator Gregg Williams. But they made too many mistakes. Robby Anderson fumbled for the second straight game. The Jets had three turnovers, the Browns had none. The running game was better as Bilal Powell rushed for 73 yards on 14 carries and Isaiah Crowell scored the Jets’ two touchdowns. But his unnecessary celebration was childish.
DEFENSE: All the talk coming into the game was how Darnold would handle Williams’ exotic blitz packages, but it was the Jets who had Browns starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor under pressure throughout the first half. They sacked him twice and forced him into 4-for-14 passing. But then Taylor left with a concussion, and Baker Mayfield came in and brought energy to the stadium and his team. The Jets looked gassed. Up 14-0, they were outscored 21-3 the rest of the way. You can’t blame it on three games in 11 days. The Browns played three games in 12 days. They both had the same time to rest and prepare for this game. Mayfield had much more time to throw than Taylor. The rookie led four scoring drives and caught a two-point conversion. Defensive penalties also cost the Jets. A defensive holding on Mo Claiborne when the Browns failed to convert the two-point conversion was huge. They converted it on their second try. Trumaine Johnson’s unsportsmanlike penalty, on third down of what would have been a three-and-out, gave the Browns a first down and kept the Jets from getting good field position.
GRADE: C -
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kevin Pierre-Louis blocked a punt that led to Crowell’s first score. It was the Jets’ first blocked punt since 2013. Lachlan Edwards had a 62-yard punt that combined with a Cleveland holding penalty pinned the Browns back at their own 6. Jason Myers made his only field goal and both extra points. Andre Roberts had another quiet night returning punts and kickoffs (34 yards total). Only four of the Jets’ 13 drives started beyond the Cleveland 25. The Jets special teams need to give this sputtering offense better field position.
COACHING: The game plan was working early. But the trademark of Todd Bowles’ teams the last couple of years has been a lack of discipline and being unable to finish games. Both hurt the Jets in this loss. Bowles himself said “we lost our composure,” which never reflects well on the coach. "The whole ball game falls on me,” Bowles said. He has to get his players to concentrate and play smart. They had two unsportsmanlike penalties - Crowell and Johnson - and an unnecessary roughness penalty that was offset by a Browns infraction. They also escaped another situation when Parry Nickerson went after Jarvis Landry. Johnson quickly pushed Nickerson away or the Jets might have been whistled for another unsportsmanlike penalty. Being conservative instead of putting Cleveland away when the Jets had the chance also bit them, and that’s on Bowles and Bates. On the drive after Cleveland tied it 14-14, the Jets ran four times and threw six – all were short passes. They ran it on first and second downs in the red zone, and then on third-and-12, Darnold completed a nine-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse. They kicked the field goal. The Jets were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. That didn’t work out too well.