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Jets’ Sam Darnold Turns Disaster Into Dominance in Win Over Lions

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But it turned into Darnold’s night after he rebounded to complete his first N.F.L. pass, on a slant to tight end Neal Sterling. After he converted his first four third-down conversions. After he delivered a teardrop throw to Robbie Anderson for 41 yards, and his first career touchdown pass, in the third quarter.

By then that first horrendous interception was long forgotten. It had been a curious play call. On first down at the 25, Darnold faked the handoff to running back Bilal Powell and then rolled out to his right. He was chased by a defender. Then he looked all the way left, where Powell had leaked out down the sideline, and that’s where Darnold would throw.

But his pass floated in the air for what seemed an eternity. A throw back across the full width of the field is rarely advised. In this case, it was a disaster. Safety Quandre Diggs picked it off with ease and raced into the end zone.

One play, one error.

Darnold walked slowly to the sideline and stood with his hands on his hips. Coach Todd Bowles passed by. So did the offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, who gave Darnold an encouraging tap. There was a lot of game left.

It is helpful to remember that Stafford was once in a position not unlike his opponent on Monday. As a 21-year-old rookie in 2009, he started the season-opener on the road in New Orleans and threw three interceptions in a 45-27 loss. He would go on to throw 20 interceptions with 13 touchdowns passes in a 2-14 season.

On Monday, Darnold managed to showcase many of the tools the Jets adored in him. He deposited clean strikes with a strong arm. He was mobile, and showed off an accurate arm on the run. He incorporated multiple receivers, led by Quincy Enunwa (63 yards).

Darnold became the first Jets player to deliver multiple touchdown passes in his first career game.

The Jets ran the ball effectively, too, behind Isaiah Crowell and Powell. In essence, they did everything well.

The only blemish came early, very early. But soon enough that mistake became easy to forget.


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