Sam Darnold may not have been the best quarterback on the Meadowlands field on Sunday. But his first showdown with Aaron Rodgers wasn't a total mismatch, either.
And that says a ton about how far the Jets' 21-year-old rookie quarterback has come.
In yet another sign that the Jets made the right choice and have found their long-awaited franchise quarterback, Darnold nearly went toe-to-toe with all-pro Rodgers before the Jets fell to the Packers in overtime, 44-38. Darnold was brilliant, completing 24 of 35 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns. And that was enough to keep pace most of the way with Rodgers, who was 37 of 55 for 442 yards and two touchdowns, including a 16-yarder to Davonte Adams in overtime to win the game.
That's three straight strong games for Darnold, each one better than the next, since he was forced to sit and watch for three weeks with an injured foot. He continues to show everything the Jets want to see - terrific decision-making, poise in the pocket, and an ability to move and create plays when the pass rush is strong.
The fact that he's doing it all with a weak supporting cast and making it work with receivers like Robby Anderson (9 catches, 140 yards, 1 touchdown) and Jermaine Kearse (4-55) is near miraculous. The Jets may be 4-11 and have missed the playoffs for the eighth straight season, but there should be a lot of optimism that with a few added weapons Darnold could lead the Jets to the postseason next year.
1. TE Chris Herndon is going to be a big offensive weapon in the future.
His one-handed catch was unreal. It was over the middle with a defender about to hit him, and he not only held on, but he absorbed the hit and never needed his second hand. That's incredible athleticism and concentration.
Herndon has been getting better and better during his rookie season, and he was a force on Sunday, catching six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. The way Darnold is playing, if they have the right offensive coordinator and some other weapons around him, he has the ability to develop into one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the league.
2. Andre Roberts is a well-deserving Pro Bowler and the Jets should sign him to a new contract soon.
He's had a phenomenal year, in what has been one heck of a revival season for the Jets' special teams. He wasn't touched on his 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Sunday, and he averaged more than 50 yards on his four returns overall. He even had another big one called back by a questionable block in the back penalty.
Roberts is now the first player in Jets franchise history with a receiving touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown in the same season. In fact, he's one of only three Jets to accomplish all three in their entire Jets career.
3. The Jets need to re-sign DE Henry Anderson, who has been a more productive pass rusher than Leonard Williams
Henry Anderson, whom Jets GM Mike Maccagnan acquired for a seventh-round pick, had another sack on Sunday, giving him seven on the season and 4 1/2 in the last three weeks. Compare his production to that of Leonard Williams, who was once the sixth overall pick in the draft (2015). Williams had a sack on Sunday, giving him four on the season.
Both players, by the way, came into the league in 2015. Since then, Williams has 16 sacks and Anderson, a former third-round pick, has 10.
Williams, by the way, was ejected early in this game for "punching" Packers offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga and then stepping over him. The ejection seemed excessive, since it was more of a hand-slap than a punch, but Williams has to be in a little more control than that.
4. The Jets defense is a mess and even though they have talent there, they might need a major offseason overhaul.
It's been shocking how bad they've been at times this season, especially late in games. Despite all the money they spent on free agents like linebacker Avery Williamson and cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Mo Claiborne, and all the high picks they have like safety Jamal Adams and Williams, they can't generate a pass rush and they wear down as the game goes along.
Darnold had helped stake them to a couple of big leads 21-7 early and 35-20 late in the third quarter. But the Packers rolled over the Jets with 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and they moved down the field with ease on their one drive of overtime. The Jets' scheme looks out of sync, their tackling was atrocious and their secondary was remarkable in its ability to commit untimely penalties.
This was supposed to be the strength of the defense. The next coaching staff, though, will have a lot of work to do.
5. There's no way Todd Bowles can keep his job … right?
Every indication is that Bowles will be fired before the clock strikes midnight on 2018. Most people in the Jets organization are bracing for a change, according to multiple sources, and even Bowles is clearly aware that his days in New York are numbered.
But … Jets CEO Christopher Johnson has not been heard from on the subject of Bowles' future. Could he be swayed by the fact that the Jets have looked much better and continued to play hard in their last three games? Will he be impressed by the obvious progression of Darnold over the last three weeks, since the development of Darnold is what this season has always been all about?
It's probably unlikely, but what happens if the Jets go in to New England next Sunday and knock off the Patriots? Will Johnson still fire Bowles after this last impressive month? Probably.
Here's why he should, though: The defense, which is supposed to be Bowles' strength, is terrible and he can't defend that. And his team committed 16 penalties for 172 yards, including far too many from the secondary when they seemed to have Rodgers stopped. His teams have been undisciplined for years, which is absolutely a reflection on him.
The Jets need to find someone who can come in and get the players attention so they stop hurting themselves in big spots.