From a state of doom to a state of delight, the New York Jets first game of the 2018 season was the ultimate mood swing. For once, the pendulum swung up for Gang Green.
All of the build up behind the Sam Darnold hype train appeared poised for derailment from the first snap after the USC prodigy threw a regrettable pick-six on his first professional pass.
But something odd happened at Ford Field that hasn’t been seen from the Jets in at least seven years. The Jets, who had gone 5-11 in consecutive painful seasons, showed resolve you’d expect from their rivals, the New England Patriots. An explosion of all three phases ensued, and three hours later, the Jets and the vocal fans who made the trip to Detroit were celebrating a statement win.
Darnold didn’t let the interception phase him like plenty of rookies have. In fact, Darnold was nothing short of magnificent after his less than stellar welcome to the NFL. The third overall pick completed 16-of-20 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns of different varieties after throwing a pick on his first attempt of his career.
What’s even better about New York’s 48-17 victory is that Darnold hardly had to do everything himself.
Return man Andre Roberts posted arguably New York’s best performance from a special-teamer since Leon Washington donned the green and white. Roberts had game-altering returns of 43, 16 and 78 yards, the third one going all the way for the franchise’s first special teams touchdown in 6 years. For once, the special teams unit changed the game.
New York’s defense also showed signs of what it can become, even with Marcus Maye and Josh Martin out of the lineup. The defensive line sans Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson barraged Stafford at times and the Jets defense was opportunistic, forcing five interceptions from the typically steady Matthew Stafford. Streaks were being snapped all night, as Darron Lee ended the team’s 73-game drought without a defensive touchdown by housing Stafford’s fourth pick.
Isaiah Crowell broke out in his Jets debut, rushing for 102 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard scamper that found pay dirt. Bilal Powell chipped in with 60 rushing yards. Quincy Enunwa’s return after missing the entire 2017 season with a neck injury was triumphant. Enunwa quickly emerged as Darnold’s favorite target and caught six passes on 10 targets for 63 yards and a touchdown. Robby Anderson caught a 41-yard touchdown pass on Darnold’s best throw of the game. The offensive line paved the way in the running game and protected Darnold well against a decent Lions pass rush.
The main story of Monday night’s drubbing will be Darnold. But to say it was a team victory might be an understatement.
The Jets played as close to perfection as one could hope on the road. Their rookie quarterback was unflappable after the worst start imaginable to his career. The defense swarmed and withstood whenever the Lions fought back. The special teams might have been the most valuable unit of the game.
Have the Jets won the Super Bowl? Of course not, and fans need to recognize this was Week 1 of 17. But do the Jets look closer to competing for one? You bet. For the first time in what feels like forever, Gang Green won in style with all three phases and a quarterback who instills hope for the future.