Robby Anderson experienced a library-quiet first quarter of the season for the Jets — just 11 catches, just 11.9 yards per catch, and no trips to the end zone.
“It’s not his fault,” head coach Adam Gase said before practice Friday. “He’s open. We just haven’t been able to get him the ball. Something’s always happened. He’s doing a good job as far as what we are asking him to do. We have had opportunities. We just haven’t hit on them.”
Sam Darnold had been out with mono for the final three of the four losses. Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk, who took over after Siemian went down in Week 2 with a season-ending injury, struggled playing the part of Darnold. The offensive line struggled to protect the quarterbacks, too.
But Darnold returned Sunday to lead the Jets to 24-22 upset win over the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium, and all was right in Anderson’s world again.
The fourth-year pro caught five passes from Darnold, good for 125 yards, including a 92-yard touchdown — the second-longest offensive TD in team history.
“It was amazing to have my brother back out there with me,” said Anderson, who was targeted eight times by Darnold. “It makes a big difference.”
The Jets owned a 7-3 lead in the second quarter. They had just taken control of the ball at their own 8 after stuffing Dallas on fourth down.
Darnold dropped back to pass on first down, stepped up and let the ball fly high and far. He had spotted Anderson streaking open down the field, flashing that wondrous speed of his. Darnold hit the receiver at midfield, and the Cowboys weren’t going to catch him.
“It was awesome,” Darnold said. “The way the safety bit down on the run, I just knew I had to put it out there. Robby’s one of the best — if not the best — at tracking the ball in the air in the NFL.”
The only longer offensive touchdown for the Jets had come in 1985, when Ken O’Brien hooked up with Wesley Walker for a 96-yard score. Ironically, Walker was on the field before the Dallas game, when he was introduced as a member of the Jets’ All-Time Team.
“I knew it was going to be big play,” Anderson said. “I saw it coming. It was a double move. The actual route to set it up, we ran a few times. We knew how they were going to play it. We just made it happen. It was a great throw. The defender fell.”
The Jets went on to build a 21-3 lead before holding on. Now Anderson, who was the Jets’ leading receiver last season, is hoping that play means something beyond just one game.
“I think that was like a big spark,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, it was a turning point to our season. But I think that play, it just gave everybody that energy. Then we gained a lot of momentum off of that.”