What was one of the offensive secrets to the Jets’ 42-34 win over the Colts today? The short answer from Sam Darnold: “We got guys.”
The longer version, the rookie QB offered, was that “We’ve got guys who can make plays, so it’s just a matter of the defense dictates what I’m going to do with the ball because I know no matter what the defense is doing, we’ve got guys in certain spots that can make plays, all the receivers.”
The guys who the ball went to in this win were Jermaine Kearse and Terrelle Pryor. No surprise for Kearse, who last season was the Jets’ leading receiver with 65 catches. But in the first five games this season he only had seven catches for 71 yards.
Today Kearse came in with nine receptions for 94 yards. The catches equaled a career best, which he racked up in last year’s 38-31 win over Kansas City. Five of the grabs moved the chains, and three of them converted key third downs as the Jets kept scoring enough to stay ahead of Andrew Luck and the Colts.
“I just continue doing what I’ve always been doing and that’s just make the most of each opportunity,” said the laid-back Kearse. “Some games there are more than others so I just try to stay focused and prepare for that situation and make sure that I’m ready so that when my number’s called, I can make plays.”
Pryor was another key contributor to Darnold’s efficient 24-of-30, 280-yard passing day. After being targeted just five times and catching two passes over the previous three games, Pryor caught five of the six balls thrown his way by Darnold. One was a 7-yard dart for the Jets’ first offensive TD of the game, giving them the lead at 17-13 that they never lost. Another was a third-and-5 19-yarder to set up the second-half-opening TD that opened the lead to 30-13.
“It was cool,” Pryor said of the added attention. “I had a good time with my teammates.” As far as his chemistry with Darnold, he said, “We’re good. I just run the route, get open, and Sam put it on me.”
WR Quincy Enunwa was clearly Darnold’s favorite target in the first four games. Some fretted that was to the exclusion of other receivers on the team. But Darnold is also a growing rookie. As Kearse noted, he’s become more comfortable every week, every game, the game seems to be slowing down for him, and he’s distributing better and better.
In fact, even behind Kearse and Pryor today, Darnold got the ball his tight ends. Neal Sterling, playing for the first time in four weeks, caught two passes, including the Jets’ first third-down conversion of the day. And rookie Chris Herndon had two catches, one for another circus catch down the left sideline, the other for his first pro touchdown at the top of the third quarter.
“This offense, we’ve got a lot of weapons,” Kearse said. “It could be anybody any game. We all try to prepare the same way and be ready for those opportunities.”