NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — So, who are these guys?
Are the New York Jets the team that looked dominant in victories over Denver and Detroit? Or, the sluggish squad that struggled through three straight losses in between?
Well, probably a mix of both. But their next game against the skidding Indianapolis Colts could help provide some clarity. Or, at the very least, some consistency.
“We’re trying to find that week after week,” coach Todd Bowles said Monday. “That’s the biggest thing after a game. We’ve got to make sure we carry it over to the next game, and make sure we continue to do things to get better. We’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep grinding at it.”
Sounds simple enough, but it has been a challenge so far for the Jets (2-3).
“We’ve got to grow up,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “It’s a maturity game for us. It’s great to get a win, but at the same time, we’ve got to keep things in perspective.”
They opened the season with an impressive 48-17 win at Detroit in front of a prime-time audience on “Monday Night Football,” a rousing debut by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.
That all quickly faded with three consecutive losses — 20-12 vs. Miami, 21-17 at Cleveland and 31-12 at Jacksonville — that had the season teetering on the brink of spiraling. The hot seat under Bowles suddenly got a lot warmer and some fans and media wondered when the next win might come.
Out of nowhere came a 34-16 victory over the Broncos on Sunday, highlighted by Isaiah Crowell running for a franchise-record 219 yards, New York putting up 512 total yards — the most in Bowles’ four seasons — and the defense making things miserable all day for Case Keenum and Denver’s offense.
So, what gives with the Jet-kyll and Hyde act?
“It just starts in practice, man, just communicating and playing fast and just making plays in practice,” safety Jamal Adams said. “I strongly believe in practicing how you play. We had a great practice week and it showed (Sunday).”
Andrew Luck and the Colts (1-4) are right where the Jets were coming into last week, having lost three in a row and in danger of already having their thoughts turn to next season. If New York can capitalize on the struggles of Indianapolis and build off its impressive victory and start a modest winning streak, the Jets’ season could look a lot better in a hurry.
Of course, the outside panic could all start up again if the Jets have another dud of a performance after such an uplifting win.
“It’s about just staying level-headed as a team,” Adams said.
The players can all look to Darnold, who has somehow been the picture of cool and calm to start his NFL career.
“He’s honestly like a five-year vet,” Adams said. “He stays grounded. He stays hungry.”
Even as he struggled during the losing streak, Darnold found some positives and assured his coaches and teammates that his mistakes wouldn’t be repeated. And, most importantly, he’d learn from them.
Perhaps even most telling is how Darnold reacted after helping lead the Jets back into the win column Sunday.
“I think his demeanor stays the same, even with the lows that we had a couple weeks ago,” Beachum said. “Even with the win yesterday, he stayed the same. As a leader, as a quarterback — the starting quarterback on this team — to have that type of demeanor, especially in a market like this, is really impressive for his age.”
The 21-year-old Darnold had mostly pedestrian numbers against the Broncos, going 10 of 22 for 198 yards and an interception — but with three touchdowns.
He placed a perfect ball into the hands of a wide-open Robby Anderson who outraced the coverage for a 76-yard TD. Darnold later threw a ball to where only Terrelle Pryor could reach, and the Jets receiver corralled it with one hand for a 20-yard touchdown. There was also the third-and-12 throw to Jermaine Kearse for 14 yards when he zipped the pass over the defender.
“I thought my feet were a lot more quiet,” Darnold said, “which means I felt like I did a better job of staying under control and taking what the defense gives me, but also taking my shot when they’re there.”
Showing patience to go along with his poise can only rub off on his Jets teammates, especially as they search for consistency as a whole moving forward.
“It’s really cool to be able to just kind of be me, but also when I do talk, when I do say something in the huddle, guys can kind of look at me and just believe, ‘OK, here we go,’” Darnold said. “I mean business, but at the same time, I’m just a normal dude who wants to get a win just like everyone else.”
NOTES: Bowles had no immediate update on the status of defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, who is sidelined with what the coach has called a “serious” illness. … Bowles on S Marcus Maye’s 104-yard interception return in which he was tackled at the 1-yard line: “It looked like it was in slow motion.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)