The Jets believe they are going places this season. On Sunday, they saw just how far they still have to go.
The Vikings came to MetLife Stadium and handed the Jets a 37-17 loss, ending their two-game winning streak and sending them to 3-4. The Jets showed that while they can beat up on teams like the Colts and Broncos at home, they are not ready to play with the league’s best.
Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold had his worst day as pro, throwing three interceptions and completing only 40 percent of his passes. The Jets had four turnovers in all on offense and forced none on defense. They made mistakes on special teams, and the defense held strong for most of the game but folded in the fourth quarter.
“It’s nothing to hit the panic button about,” linebacker Darron Lee said. “They’re a good football team that capitalized on some stuff. We were right there the whole time.”
The Vikings (4-2-1) only led 10-7 at halftime. Kirk Cousins, the $84 million man, did not tear up the Jets defense, but he did enough to break the game open in the second half. Cousins went 25-for-40 for 241 yards with two touchdown passes. Star receiver Adam Thielen had nine catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, his seventh straight game with 100 yards receiving.
The game was lost by a disappearing act from the offense in the middle of the game. After putting together an 86-yard drive in the first quarter that ended with Darnold finding fellow rookie Chris Herndon for a 12-yard touchdown, the offense vanished.
The Jets managed just 22 yards of total offense and two first downs in the second and third quarters. In the 10 drives after the Herndon touchdown, they had just 4 net yards. Darnold opened the game 6-of-9 for 87 yards and the touchdown. In the middle two quarters he went 2-for-14 for minus 1 yard and threw an interception. He finished the game 17-of-42 for 206 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
“Just a lack of execution in the other drives that we had [after the touchdown],” Darnold said. “Nothing more than that, it’s just a lack of execution, obviously. It’s a good defense. They did a good job of stopping the run and when we were passing the ball, they did a good job of covering guys. I’ve got to find completions. That’s really it.”
The Jets were playing without wide receivers Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Terrelle Pryor, whom they released Saturday. It showed on Sunday. Jermaine Kearse was held without a catch after he had nine catches last week. Robby Anderson had three catches for 44 yards.
That led to postgame questions about whether the Jets need to trade for a receiver.
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“I’m not the GM,” Anderson said. “I think we have a good group. I think we just had a tough game. It was a tough loss. We can’t act like we need to go make all of these decisions and answers just off of one loss because just last week everything was fine.”
This loss did not fall on one person or position group, though. There were mistakes across the board. Center Spencer Long continues to struggle with his shotgun snaps. There were dropped passes from Isaiah Crowell, Eric Tomlinson and Charone Peake. One led to an interception. The special teams had a rough day with four penalties, two fumbled punts and a botched snap on a punt.
The Jets also lost the battle of field position. The Jets began five possessions inside their own 20, and the Vikings had five possessions begin in Jets territory.
“Errors in all three phases were critical,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “Every time you give up field position in a game like this against a good team, you’re going to have a problem. We can’t make those mistakes.”
Defensively, the Jets held the Vikings to a 2-for-15 performance on third down. The Vikings led 10-7 before opening the third quarter with a nine-play drive that ended with a Latavius Murray 11-yard touchdown to make it a 10-point game. Vikings safety Harrison Smith intercepted a Darnold pass on the next possession and returned it to the Jets’ 9. Minnesota settled for a 22-yard field goal from Dan Bailey to push the lead to 20-7.
The Vikings blew the game open in the fourth quarter with a 38-yard touchdown run by Murray and a 34-yard pass from Cousins to Aldrick Robinson.
After the game, the talk in the Jets locker room was about avoiding a repeat of last year when they let a 3-3 start turn into a 5-11 season. Safety Jamal Adams spoke to the team about avoiding the same fate.
“We were in this situation,” Adams said. “Went down to Miami we were 3-3. Obviously, we ended up losing that game and then came back and lost the next game. You just got to stay positive, understand that we played a good football team and they made more plays than we did. We’ve just got to do the little things right at all times and always preach that.”
The Jets head to Chicago to face a tough Bears team next week, trying to get their season back on track.
“We’ve got to win,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to finish. How things go from here shows the growth of the team from last year to this year.”
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