Jets Take Training Wheels Off Darnold in Win Over Broncos

Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This is the Sam Darnold New York Jets fans have been waiting for.

No training wheels, no hesitation, no coddling. No game managing or worries over making a mistake.

This is the Sam Darnold that can win the Jets games, not just hop on for the ride. The stat line was far from pretty, completing 10 of his 22 attempts for 198 yards, but he threw three touchdowns, just one interception and took only one sack.

To the surprise of many, completion percentage and accuracy can be very different things in football. Darnold was accurate against the Broncos on Sunday when it mattered, hitting touchdowns for 76, 35 and 20 yards.

In a season where the 21 year-old future of the franchise has certainly witnessed highs and lows through just five games, this one was vital. Let's break down the performance.

Bombs Away

After a stretch of conservative games where Darnold looked hesitant, gun-shy and flat out nervous to push the ball down the field, he let it rip on Sunday.

He averaged nine yards per attempt in this game with a bulk of that coming due to Robby Anderson. Only Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jared Goff are averaging more than that on the season.

On the first touchdown the pass protection holds strong (great job by tight ends Jordan Leggett and Eric Tomlinson) and the young quarterback stands tall to deliver a perfect ball 45 yards in the air to Anderson.

At this point in his career it's not a matter of if Robby can beat the defense, but when. The two issues have been the protection holding up long enough to let him win down the field and Darnold putting the ball on the money.

On Sunday that not only came together once, but two times in what was the best career of the 2018 third overall pick's career:

That's next level quarterbacking as he scans the field, uses his eyes to hold defenders and drops as perfect of a throw possible into Anderson's hands for six. This is the look of a poised and confident passer not only trusting his receiver, but also his arm to get the ball in a tough spot.

Just as noteworthy is that offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates looked to get his best playmaker targets right away in this game, coming off of three straight games where he did not reach 30 yards.

Precision Passing

Once again, the stat line didn't do justice for Darnold's overall accuracy. He had quite a few passes tipped at the line (which are on him) a shocking no-call on Kearse in the end zone, a debatable no-call on Enunwa and a simple drop from him as well.

Let's take a look at the completions that weren't home runs but made a legitimate difference in the game.

Once again the offensive line and tight ends do a fantastic job in pass protection, allowing Darnold to comfortably get set in the pocket and fire.

The Broncos are giving Anderson a free release here, playing far off to respect his speed. He runs a really good sideline route and the ball is delivered with velocity and timing. No defender is getting to where the throw is placed and kudos to Robby with the toe tap before going out of bounds.

How does one improve from a 2nd and long conversion? Simply hit a 3rd and long conversion!

In the play below the Jets leave Bilal Powell and Chris Herndon to help in pass protection. The line holds it's own, especially the left side that picks up a very late stunt.

Darnold can make the safe throw to Anderson breaking over the middle, but that would leave him with eight yards he'd have to get on his own. That's a long shot for anyone not named Quincy Enunwa.

Kearse has a matchup in the slot that he can win, but he needs time to get to the marker and a perfect throw. Darnold, much like the earlier one to Anderson but even more precise, delivers. He didn't have that one at USC, not with that type of velocity at least. You simply can't teach that, which is something Jets fans should be excited about.


After a few weeks of problems all around, this was a huge bounce back performance at home.

Jeremy Bates called a great game, respecting that Denver's edge pass rush would overwhelm the Jets. He relied heavily on his tight ends and running backs to chip in with protection, which of course put more pressure on the receivers to win in coverage.

That's where Robby Anderson delivered, hitting the home runs Gang Green's offense desperately needed.

A rookie quarterback needs a support system, especially in a year of development. Sam Darnold got that yesterday and made the throws that mattered.

This is the Darnold New York has waited for.