Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and the offense struggled to move the ball against the Bears in their 24-10 loss but refrained from using injuries as an excuse.
“We had some good reps in practice,” Darnold said. “I thought we had a good week of practice, but at the same time, it is what it is. Injuries happen. It’s football, it’s a contact sport. Guys sometimes are going to get hurt. I thought the guys, for the most part, stepped up today.”
The USC product was without starting center Spencer Long (knee/finger) and his two top wideouts in Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Robby Anderson (ankle). Long was active in case of emergency, but Jonotthan Harrison started at center and the receivers consisted of Jermaine Kearse, newly signed Rishard Matthews, Andre Roberts, Charone Peake and Deontay Burnett, who led the team with 61 yards on four catches. Darnold completed 12 of his 25 passes for 129 yards and one score.
Burnett flashed as he reeled in a 29-yard reception, the team’s longest play of the day, in the fourth quarter that set the Green & White up in the red zone for the first time in the contest. The USC product jumped over a Bears defender and came down with the ball. Two plays later, Darnold hit rookie tight end Chris Herndon for a 16-yard touchdown, his third in as many games.
“First of all, great route, great protection,” Darnold said. “We got exactly what we wanted. I saw it right away and I knew it was going to be a big play.”
The Jets totaled 170 yards of offense as running backs Isaiah Crowell and Trenton Cannon combined for 35 yards on 19 carries, and Darnold tallied 22 rushing yards. Head coach Todd Bowles said the Bears aimed to stop the run given the visitors’ injuries at receiver. Overall, Bowles was pleased with Darnold’s performance.
“I thought he played tough,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. It was one of those types of games with the wind blowing. When it wasn’t there, he threw it away, but he didn’t turn it over. That was the main thing, giving us a chance.”
Penalties also hurt the Jets offense as the line was flagged seven times, three for false starts in the first quarter.
“It’s frustrating for everyone,” Darnold said. “We just have to play better. It’s about staying in manageable down and distances. First and second down running the football and completing the football. That’s really all it is. If we can do that, we’ll be a good football team.”
Despite tough sledding in the Windy City, Darnold and Bowles praised the team’s resiliency.
“We just kept fighting until the end,” Darnold said. “I’m really proud of the guys in the locker room for that. We kept our heads up high. We didn’t play as well as we should’ve in the first half and parts of the second half. We’ll look at the film. Without looking at the film, it’s obvious we have to cut down penalties. They’re drive killers and we can’t have them.”
Bowles added, “Very proud of the way they fought and stayed together. It’s one of the first games the entire year that we stayed together as a team and fought collectively, execution collectively. Execution was not great, obviously, and we got to make more plays and we know that and we’re going to stay the course and course. And these guys are going to stay together, they fought together, and get ready for Miami next week.”