Le'Veon Bell, Tom Brady
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Key numbers from the New York Jets disheartening blowout defeat to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. 

Michael Nania

3.6 – Sam Darnold‘s passer rating versus New England

Just a week after enjoying arguably his best game in the NFL, New York Jets QB Sam Darnold put forth easily the worst performance he has ever had. Darnold completed 11 of 32 passes for 86 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions, earning a 3.6 passer rating.

Among quarterbacks to throw at least 30 passes in a game, that’s the worst passer rating ever posted by a Jets quarterback, and the ninth-worst passer rating in NFL history.

Darnold’s average of 2.7 yards per pass attempt was also historically awful. He became the first Jets quarterback ever to throw for under 3.0 yards per attempt on at least 30 passes. Minimum 30 pass attempts, it stands as the 14th-worst mark in league history, and the worst since Andy Dalton had a game averaging 2.6 back in 2014.

Among qualified quarterbacks in 2019, Darnold now ranks second-worst in interception percentage (5.6 percent), second-worst in passer rating (64.7), and third-worst in yards per attempt (5.7).

Of course, Darnold played one of his three games while dealing with mono, but those are still unacceptable numbers.

The Jets have an extremely soft slate of opponents coming up. Each of their next seven games is against teams that do not currently have a winning record. To wash out the bad taste left by his Week 7 performance, Darnold sorely needs to string together a long streak of impressive performances against this stretch of weak opponents.

70 – Rushing yards for Le’Veon Bell

Bell rushed for 70 yards, a season-best. Doing that on 15 carries, he averaged 4.7 yards per attempt, a season-best and his first game with an average above 4.0.

Once again, Bell was bailing out his offensive line with consistency. He did a great job creating after contact, using his power to bounce off of defenders in the trenches and consistently maintaining balance to churn forward for quality gains. In other games, we’ve seen Bell win with lateral elusiveness, but this time around he was getting it done with his strength. It was just another example of the numerous ways Bell can beat a defense.

It’s a shame the Jets do not have a competent offensive line for Bell to run behind. He has been playing elite football all season, but because of his offensive line’s incompetence, he is forced to carry around poor stats that make him look much worse than he really is. We saw in Pittsburgh how much damage Bell could do with some strong blocking. Here in New York, we’re seeing just how much a bad offensive line can limit a talented running back.

The good news is that Bell is under contract for through 2022. Hopefully, Joe Douglas can put together a solid offensive line while Bell is still playing at a high level. Once the Jets can make that happen, Bell should get back to producing at historical levels.

Until then, it seems we will have to deal with lackluster box score production from Bell in 2019. Those uninspiring numbers should not mask his impact, though. It’s all about what a player produces versus expectation, and Bell has consistently made the best impact possible out of the situations he has been presented with. Behind this offensive line, an average running back would be even less productive than Bell has been. He also makes a plus impact as a pass-blocker, receiver, and play action threat.

We may have to wait until 2020 for Bell to become a fantasy legend again, but he has remained a tremendous football player in spite of what the standard box score stats say.

0 – Sacks on Tom Brady

The Jets’ defense could barely lay a finger on Tom Brady. Across 45 dropbacks, the Jets knocked down Brady just three times while failing to pick up a single sack.

Failing to sack Brady has always been a disastrous recipe for the Jets. In his career against the Jets, when not being sacked a single time, Brady is 10-1 while posting an average passer rating of 103.2. When the Jets have sacked Brady at least twice, he has gone 11-5 with an average passer rating of 89.8.

Picking up sacks continues to be an issue for the Jets defense, which is now ranked 31st in sack rate (2.9 percent). They have done a good job racking up quarterback knockdowns, ranking eighth in knockdown rate (7.8 percent), but their ability to create havoc, on the whole, has been poor. The Jets have created any kind of pressure on just 17.1 percent of opponent passing plays, 30th in the league. Obviously, it is going to be difficult to pick up sacks when you are getting to the quarterback that infrequently.

On the plus side, Leonard Williams made a big pass-rushing play against the Patriots. Taking advantage of good coverage on 1st & 20, Wiliams stayed with the play and got some late pressure, grazing the ball as Brady released it. Williams’ pressure resulted in a terrible throw by Brady, gift-wrapping an interception for Trumaine Johnson (who played an absolutely terrible game).

The Patriots did make a point to release the ball quickly, mitigating the pass rush’s ability to make a tangible impact. But that in and of itself is impact ⁠— New England saw what the Jets did to Dak Prescott a week earlier, and made it a point that they would not let that happen to Brady.

When a team decides to go that route, it limits their ability to attack downfield and do damage with longer-developing routes. In exchange for mitigating the pass rush, the offense mostly gives up its deep game and allows the defense consistent opportunities to limit plays to short gains.

It was upon the cornerbacks and linebackers to take advantage of the Patriots’ approach by holding their quick passes to modest gains without allowing any extra yardage. They were not up to the task, constantly taking bad angles and allowing yards after the catch underneath. The result was a strong offensive performance by New England.