Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs. Indianapolis

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A scoring drive in the first quarter provided hope, but the New York Jets endured yet another one-sided defeat in Indianapolis.

In a city best known for auto racing, the New York Jets fell off the pace in a hurry.

Sam Darnold threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns en route to a 36-7 defeat at Lucas Oil Stadium at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets (0-3) have been outscored by 57 points over their first three games and are the only team in the league that has yet to hold a lead over this young season.

Which plays best personified the Jets’ latest defeat? ESM investigates so you don’t have to, taking one play from each quarter…



1st Quarter: Sam-I-Ran

Whether it’s scripted or (more-often-than-not) improvised, Sam Darnold seems to do his finest work on the rollout. They saw one such play last week against San Francisco, one that could’ve been a rare touchdown had Chris Herndon held onto the ball. The early stages of the game saw Darnold channel some suppressed rushing powers that allowed the Jets to extend some drives…and, by association, rare Sunday hope.

Making a rare visit to the red zone, Darnold sent a clear message to those chanting the name of Trevor Lawrence by escaping a furious rush from the Colts to fire a 16-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Berrios. It’s a small moment that will get lost in the carnage of yet another one-sided defeat, but it was yet another flash of brilliance from Darnold in the murky mess that is New York football. It was perhaps a sign that Darnold knows that the final stretches of the season could be the make-or-break portion of his NFL career.

2nd Quarter: Same ‘Goal Jets

Alas for Darnold, the rest of the game was filled by a dangerously contagious 2020 trope: making throws that a third-year franchise man should never be making.

The Jets trailed 17-7 in the middle stages of the second quarter, but embarked on a red zone trek kickstarted by Josh Malone’s return to the New York 40. This drive seemed to further establish the slot replacement Berrios as a potential silver lining in a stagnant offense, as he and Darnold hooked up for a 28-yard gain that situated the Jets 12 yards away from another touchdown.

Alas, Darnold launched a potential touchdown pass to Lawrence Cager in triple coverage that was instead taken by Colts defender Xavier Rhodes. No points immediately emerged from the disastrous throw, but the Jets never truly threatened the game from there on out. Darnold’s first interception, also taken by Rhodes (albeit that former turnover for a score), was another bad decision tossed into a crowded era, a mistake that the Jets never truly recovered from.

3rd Quarter: Taylor’s Swift

Despite a pedestrian lead at “only” 10 points, the Colts were allowed to more or less run a cooldown lap in the second half. The Jets’ defense wasn’t doing much to inspire fear and the lack of consequences was best on display when the Colts opted to go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from New York’s one-yard-line.

The Jets got off to a good start on the tightly packed play, as Bradley McDougald invaded the backfield after the handoff to rookie rusher Jonathan Taylor. But Taylor eluded the diving safety to punch in what was more or less the final blow to the Jets’ dying hopes. McDougald, who has so far been a rare beacon of consistency since coming over from Seattle, left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury, dealing yet another medical blow to a woebegone unit.

4th Quarter: Safety Last

Someone must’ve uttered “how can this get any worse???” during the fourth quarter, because the Colts checked off one of the final boxes in the latter stages.

Another crucial injury loss, that of Mekhi Becton, was on brutal display during one of the Jets’ final drives. Backed up to their own four-yard-line after a Rigoberto Sanchez punt, the Jets advanced two yards before Darnold dropped back to pass on third down. Alas, Becton’s replacement, Connor McDermott, failed to account for the blitzing Justin Houston, taking Darnold down in the end zone for a Pacers/Fever-style two-pointer.



With Becton out for most of the second half, the rushing lanes shut down and Darnold was forced to run for his life. If the Jets miss Becton this much…and they truly have to hope that this won’t be a long-term issue…the first-round rookie might warrant a few MVP votes.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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