Lions vs. Jets final score, takeaways: Darnold leaps out to Rookie of the Year lead in debut
Sam Darnold overcame a rough start to win big against the Lions, who looked just terrible
This being 2018 and all, social media erupted with criticism of the rookie. It was warranted, because the throw -- across his body and across the field -- was just terrible.
But what happened next was not bad. In fact, it was really good. Darnold proceeded to go 6-of-8 on his next three series, 23 total plays that generated 10 total points for the Jets and gave them the lead. As quick as the Lions appeared to be burying Darnold, the Jets were suddenly on top thanks to their young quarterback looking pretty unflappable.
It would have been totally reasonable for Darnold to stay shook, but he didn't. Instead, he managed to keep leading impressive drive after impressive drive, got seriously aided by a ball-hawking defense, and the Jets rolled the Lions 48-17 in a stunning Monday Night Football outcome that will surely generate plenty of overreactions come Tuesday morning.
Let's dive into some takeaways from this game.
Darnold leader in the clubhouse for ROY
The Jets rookie quarterback was already one of the top favorites for Offensive Rookie of the Year before games began. Being a quarterback is a huge edge just because of how people vote. But Darnold deserves every bit of praise he'll receive over the next week. He's playing with an underrated group of wide receivers that will look, to the naked eye, rather cobbled together.
Darnold will though: he finished the day going 16-of-21 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and the single early interception. Those aren't mind-blowing stats by any means, but with Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson all currently situated second on the depth chart, Darnold's primary competition will be Saquon Barkley, at least for now.
Barkley had a long touchdown run but it was in a Giants loss. Darnold shouldn't get all the credit here -- the Jets' defense was really impressive (and Matthew Stafford was really terrible, more on that in a minute) -- but going on the road into a hostile environment for a primetime game as the youngest Week 1 starter in modern NFL history, throwing a horrible pick six and then bouncing back for an incredibly efficient game, well, that's not something your average rookie does.
Darnold should be rightly praised for his work on Monday night. If he keeps playing like that,we told you about earlier this offseason.
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So, the Lions ...
It's hard to start talking about what happened with Detroit. They scored seven points on the first play of the game and then spent the rest of the game looking like the complete and total opposite of what you would want if you hired someone who has been Bill Belichick's right-hand man for the past decade.
Matt Patricia's debut featured his quarterback throwing four interceptions and his defense giving up a whopping 34 offensive points to a team spearheaded by a rookie quarterback.
For years, one of the hallmarks of Belichick's defenses has been snuffing out rookie quarterbacks who come into Foxborough.
Out of the gate it looked like Patricia might be onto something similar. But it quickly fell apart. The zenith was most certainly the late-third quarter touchdown run by Isaiah Crowell, when the big back sprinted 62 yards completely untouched to the end zone with the Jets already leading 41-17.
The narrative we were fed before the game involved the Jets rolling in and getting overwhelmed and the Lions flying all over the place under the guidance of their new coach. It would be folly to assume Patricia wasn't going to work out in Detroit after a single game.
But his last two efforts as a defensive mastermind have been sub-optimal. Following up a Super Bowl where Nick Foles carved up the Patriots defense for four quarters with nearly getting a 50-burger hung on him by the freaking Jets and a rookie quarterback is not how you want to end and start consecutive seasons.
With the Bears, Packers and Vikings looking like potential playoff contenders through the first week and with games against the 49ers and Patriots on deck next, the Lions defense needs to shore things up and quickly or this is going to be a short honeymoon for Patricia in Detroit.
On Matthew Stafford
At some point over the last two years, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford morphed from a high-volume chunker into an efficient, borderline MVP signal caller. The expectation was he'd come out and look pretty sharp against the Jets defense, considering the consistency for Stafford and his offense. Jim Bob Cooter is still there as OC, Golden Tate/Marvin Jones/Kenny Golladay remain at wide receiver -- there's no reason to expect that Stafford would go out and throw four freaking interceptions to open the season at home.
They weren't just standard interceptions either -- they were TERRIBLE picks where he didn't appear to even see some of the Jets defenders.
Adding injury to insult, Stafford may have also suffered a pair of rough looking injuries. He got his knee kicked by Taylor Decker in the shadow of his own goal post. The Lions, despite having two timeouts, didn't use one to find out if their very expensive franchise quarterback might have a knee injury. He was fine, but it was a little weird and worth noting.
Later, Stafford would take a brutal shot to the chest that left him lying on the ground and clutching his ribs. It wouldn't be surprising to find out he broke several of them. But he stayed in then too and ended up playing a few more series. Stafford doesn't get enough credit for how tough he is.
Perhaps there's an easier explanation for why Stafford looked so terrible -- linebacker Darron Lee said after the game the Jets knew Stafford's signals.
That's some next-level stuff, man. The Jets defense knowing the signals for Belichick's old defensive coordinator in his new landing spot? Would not have guessed that was going to be a thing.
Additionally, it's worth noting that Jones couldn't reel in two really nice deep throws by Stafford that would have made this a more interesting game.
Regardless, Stafford and the Lions' offense has some work to do. At least they shouldn't feel as bad as the defense.
Bad Fantasy Football Beat of the Week
If you've got a bad fantasy football beat this week, hit me up on Twitter @WillBrinson. I love seeing them because they're just brutal. But I bet you can't beat what I got handed. Needing eight points from Stafford on Monday, I felt pretty good about winning this week. That may have been misguided, because I lost by half a point when Matt Cassel replaced Stafford early in the fourth quarter.
So things didn't go well early for the Lions offense, including a pair of interceptions from Stafford. But let's credit Kenny Golladay for making a massive defensive play on Monday night following one of those picks.
Trumaine Johnson snared the ball on Stafford's throw and was headed the other way when he ran into a freight train in a Lions uniform. The result was Golladay knocking the ball away from the cornerback and the Lions recovering.
The Jets head back to New York for a divisional matchup against the Dolphins that should see them favored, if only by a few points. It's a winnable game for Todd Bowles' group, a game they need to pick up if they want to stay competitive in the AFC.
The Lions have to regroup with a trip out west to play the 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan. Yikes. Best of luck with that.
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