Ten seconds, two rookies, one ugly play.
That is the shorthand version of how the Jets blew a chance to make a competitive game out of what ended up being a 20-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins in their home opener at MetLife Stadium. Here, if you can take the pain, is the longer.
With 41 seconds left in the first half and his team trailing by 20, Sam Darnold, the Jets 21-year-old quarterback, completed passes of 44 and 17 yards. That put the Jets on the Miami 14.
Darnold threw the ball away on the next play and said after the game that he didn’t see Quincy Enunwa wide open in the end zone. With 10 seconds left and no timeouts, the Jets had one more chance to get across the goal line.
And that’s when things went kinda Keystone Kops. Darnold decided to throw the ball to fellow rookie Chris Herndon, who had made a 17-yard catch earlier on the drive.
"I knew we didn’t have any timeouts. I knew that if I got it to him and they tackled him inbounds, we weren’t going to get a play off,” Darnold said. “Just tried to get it to him and thought: Let’s go get a touchdown. I didn’t have any doubt in Chris and his ability to get a score.”
Herndon, who last year was playing at the University of Miami, caught the pass at the 2 and a fraction of a second later was drilled by Miami’s Pro Bowl Safety Reshad Jones. He fumbled the ball, stumbled around and managed to recover it but couldn’t stretch it over the goal line.
“It’s something we practiced a couple of times in camp in the preseason,” Herndon said after the game. “It’s just a play with a backup blitz and I happened to be open. I should have done what I had to do to get in the end zone.”
Time ran out and the Miami defense left the field pumping their fists.
“That was real big for us because they were gong to get the ball in the second half, so it was good stopping them and leaving the field with them having zero points,” safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said.
Should the Jets have designed a play where the receiver was deeper in end zone? With no timeouts, could something have been tried so the team could still have some time to kick a field goal if it didn't work?
Coach Todd Bowles is not one for second-guessing.
“We had a play designed to try and get six points. It was a bang-bang play,” Bowles said. “He was trying to break a tackle right there at the 1 . . . The guy made a heck of a play.”
A couple of Jets thought they should have been able to at least get three points out of the situation.
“We should have kicked a field goal,” Enunwa said. “Hindsight is 20-20. We definitely should have scored. It’s a lack of execution. We’re right there. We’re right there.
Said left tackle Kelvin Beachum: “At the end of the day, we had a chance to score. Chris Herndon had a chance to score. We had a chance to kick a field goal. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. There’s always those in the game. We had a short field and didn’t make it happen.”