Sam Darnold didn’t only deliver the Jets’ first win of the season on Sunday. He helped bring diversity and creativity back to their offense.
It wasn’t all Le’Veon Bell all the time, which proved to be a good thing for the Jets.
They’re going to need big games from Bell, but they also have to utilize other players to challenge and keep defenses guessing. They did that in Sunday’s 24-22 victory over the Cowboys.
Darnold targeted eight different receivers and completed passes to seven. The Jets displayed the kind of offense that was expected of them after Adam Gase became the coach.
“We all know how talented our whole offense is,” Darnold said on a conference call Monday afternoon. “Le’Veon’s a special player. But when they take him away, we got to make sure that we get the ball to other guys as well. I think I did a good job of that.”
The Jets will face New England on Monday night, so Bill Belichick will have an extra day to work on who or what he wants to take away from them. But being able to open up the Jets’ offense and get other players involved were sorely missing with Darnold out the previous three games because of mononucleosis.
They were very predictable with inexperienced Luke Falk starting at quarterback the previous two games. The Jets fed Bell a lot, and teams expected it. They totaled 233 yards of offense, and Bell produced 151 of them and no touchdowns. He accounted for one touchdown and 53 of the Jets’ 382 yards Sunday.
They became a more dynamic offense with Darnold spreading the ball around, highlighted by Robby Anderson’s 92-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
“Him coming back gave the team and our offense new life,” Anderson said.
Anderson caught five passes for 125 yards and Jamison Crowder six for 98. In the previous two games, they totaled eight catches for 62 yards.
Running backs Ty Montgomery and Bilal Powell each had touches within the flow of the offense and both were targeted by Darnold.
“I know it wasn’t a ton of plays, but [we wanted] to get those guys more involved in the game to where teams have to account for all these guys,” Gase said. “You just never know what it’s going to be week to week, who’s going to get taken away.
“The more you can have multiple guys that are effective and can create big plays and can be consistent and get us first downs and be reliable, the more guys that we have available in that aspect, the harder it is to defend.”
Gase also was able to become more aggressive in his play-calling because he had Darnold back.
The Jets threw on first down far more often than they did Oct. 6 against the Eagles. They opened six of their 10 drives on Sunday with a pass after beginning three of their 14 drives by throwing a week earlier.
“This week was a different style of defense than we’ve seen in the past few weeks,” Gase said. “Between Philly and New England, some of the stuff they’ve been running, we kind of felt like run was better on first down. This week, it was kind of flipped for us.
“That’s how we like doing it. We want to change it up. We don’t want to be the same all the time. We want to do what’s best for that game.”
The Jets can do more with Darnold, much more, as they showed against Dallas.