EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - With two minutes to go in the game and the Jets trailing and reeling, Sam Darnold made the kind of throw that star quarterbacks often make. It was 4th down and 14 and he fired it 20 yards down field, right on target.
It should have kept the Jets' desperation drive alive. Instead, the ball bounced right off Robby Anderson's hands.
And that was a reminder about the truth about the Jets and their future: They have their quarterback.
They just don't have anything else.
The 21-year-old Darnold had a terrific game on Saturday in the Jets' 29-22 loss to the Houston Texans, but whatever he does these days he is basically doing alone. The Jets don't have a running game to help him anymore and they don't have a running back who is a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. They also don't have an actual No. 1 receiver. In fact, it's not even clear that they have a legitimate No. 2.
What they have is a deep threat in Anderson, who really does little else, and enough mediocrity elsewhere that Darnold was still able to complete 24 of 38 passes for 253 yards by spreading the ball around to nine different receivers. And none of them are really very good.
That's why what's happening has to be a huge sign for Jets GM Mike Maccagnan that his top offseason priority needs to be stocking the offense. Somehow, with his $100 million in cap room and high draft pick, he needs to find his franchise quarterback a No. 1 receiver, and maybe another receiver too. And throwing a ton of money at free agent running back Le'Veon Bell would help too.
Because Darnold is good. He's starting to show that he's going to be really, really good.
But if he doesn't get some weapons next year, all that talent is just going to go to waste.
That's what's happening right now with the Jets. The players masquerading as weapons just aren't consistently getting open, which is why Darnold so often has to create plays with his legs. And even when they are open, they tend to come up small -- especially in big spots.
The throw to Anderson was the biggest example of that, even though he was the Jets' best receiver in this game. Anderson had seven catches for 96 yards and a touchdown in the game -- although he wasn't open at first on his touchdown until Darnold made an impressive play to step up in the pocket and fake a run, giving time for Anderson to find a hole.
On that fourth-down play in the fourth quarter, though, he had his chance to make his biggest play of the game. He was open, but he misjudged it and had to jump, and then the ball hit him right in the hands.
"It was just a little bit of bad judgement by me," Anderson explained. "I came a little bit too much under it and it went right off my fingertips. But I've got to make those plays."
Yes he does. He also could've made a stronger play on the deep ball Darnold threw on first down that was almost picked off by Texans cornerback Jonathan Joseph. Darnold tried a similar throw to Jermaine Kearse on the start of the next drive, with 54 seconds left in the game, but Kearse never even tried for the ball as it bounced off the head of Texans linebacker Bernardrick McKinney.
And that's the problem: Darnold is the one making the plays. He's making perfect throws at times. He's drawing in the defense by faking a run, as he did on a 27-yard pass to tight end Chris Herndon. He's scrambling around, giving his receivers time to get open.
But they're just not good enough to do it -- even if Darnold refuses to blame them.
"Every throw that I throw to our receivers I feel like they can catch," he said. "But at the same time I've got to put it in a better spot. We've got talented receivers. I'm able to put it anywhere and they can make the catch. But at the same time, I want to make it easy on them."
It would be nice if they would make it easy on him, but they can't. Darnold's best receiver -- Quincy Enunwa -- missed his third game of the season, this time with an ankle injury. Kearse had two catches for nine yards, which was actually an improvement over his last two games. Herndon (3-53) is going to be a weapon, but with the offensive line struggling, he has to help block too often. And Anderson just doesn't produce when he's not running deep.
Darnold keeps producing, though, which is a great sign for the Jets' future. But no quarterbacks ever do it alone. All the great ones at some point had great players around them. Right now, Darnold clearly doesn't.
This offseason, that has to change.