After going nearly two full seasons without one, the New York Jets have scored opening drive touchdowns in each of their past four games.
LANDOVER, MD—The New York Jets save their best for … first?
Fans arriving late to Jets games or watch parties often had an excuse: it’s not like they would be missing any green scoring. After all, the Jets had nearly gone 32 consecutive games with scoring on their opening drive. Such a streak dated back to October 2017.
But, over their past four games, the Jets have scored a touchdown on their first offensive possession in each of the past four games. That tally continued on Sunday, as the Jets needed seven plays to go 75 yards after a touchback on the opening kickoff. The finisher was a 20-yard Sam Darnold touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Brown that gave the Jets the early lead.
That score provided the necessary momentum to begin a 34-17 shellacking of the Washington Redskins at FedExField, allowing the Jets to earn their first winning streak since last October.
Each of the four touchdowns scored over the past quartet has come from Darnold. Sunday marked the third time in the aforementioned span that the opening drive ended with a Darnold touchdown pass, the lone exception being his two-yard scoring punch in last weekend’s win over the New York Giants.
After a literally perfect drive to open Sunday’s proceedings (4-for-4, 57 yards), Darnold is 24-of-26 for 277 yards on the last four opening drives.
— NFL (@NFL) November 17, 2019
Asked what the secret behind the scoring, Darnold turned to a source that some Jets fans might find unconventional.
“I think it’s just (head coach Adam) Gase,” Darnold said. “(It’s) he way that he game plans. Really, for us, (it’s) just (about) going out there and executing, staying in the rhythm once we get the first first down, making sure we stay in a good rhythm.”
Considering the game’s sluggish opening pace, that could’ve been lost in the early going. The Jets challenged the first play of the game, an eight-yard completion to Jamison Crowder that was ruled official upon review. Two Washington penalties slowed down the quick-paced offense, but the Jets recovered via touches by Crowder and Le’Veon Bell.
The final touch featured an improbable recipient in Brown, whose scoring reception was his first catch since December 2017. Brown was originally designated as a blocker, but improvisation got him open for the first score of the game.
“He wasn’t supposed to be open or anything,” Darnold admitted. “But he did a really good job once I broke the pocket.”
The Jets’ opening scores go far beyond merely making the offense feel good. Members of the defense were most pleased with the early power shift, especially on the road against a Washington team coming off their bye.
Defensive lineman Steve McLendon noted how the offense’s early score was a perfect example of complementary football that was missing from the Jets’ previously dry spell.
“Some weeks, the offense is going to play harder than the defense and some week the defense is going to play hard than the offense,” McClendon said. “We have to understand we’re brother and we’re in this together. Don’t let your mindset change. That’s exactly what we’re doing, we’re not going to let our mindset change.
“If we do those things, we’ll be victorious next week as well.”
Over the past two weeks, both Jets’ victories, New York has been able to keep the momentum going. The wins over the Giants and Redskins mark the first time the Jets have tallied consecutive 30-point efforts in victory since the brief, aforementioned winning streak last season.
Members of the offense are pleased to see the consistency flowing as they go for their first three-game winning streak since the earlier stages of 2017.
“We’ve just got to stay on assignments: protecting the football, running the ball efficiently, everybody making a play,” running back Le’Veon Bell said. “Crowder and (Demaryius Thomas) did a great job of making catches when they needed to. (Ryan) Griffin did good on tight ends. The guys made plays, so that’s the biggest thing.”
The Jets (3-7) face off against the Oakland Raiders next weekend at MetLife Stadium (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS).