There was some hope — albeit just a glimmer — coming in for the New York Jets.
Sam Darnold was back at quarterback after a two-game absence with a shoulder injury and he was playing with all three of his starting wide receivers for the first time this season. After two promising overall performances in their last two games, maybe this was the week the Jets would finally shed that ugly zero from their win column.
And then, thud.
The Jets fell to 0-11 with a 20-3 clunker against the Miami Dolphins as Darnold and coach Adam Gase's offense struggled to do much of anything.
“We just didn't take any advantage of turnovers, the defense stopping the ball and forcing those guys to punt, especially in the second half,” Gase said. “We had opportunities. We just didn't make the plays we needed to make.”
That has been the running theme for the Jets all season and the primary reason they are off to the worst start in franchise history. The 11-game skid is just one shy of tying the streak the Rich Kotite-led squads had over the course of the 1995-96 seasons.
“I mean, 0-11, no one at the beginning of the season thought that we’d find ourselves in this position at this point in the season,” Darnold said.
The Jets are in real danger of joining the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns as the only teams in NFL history to go 0-16. It has gotten to the point where many fans are even rooting for that — if only to assure New York of getting the No. 1 overall draft pick, and likely Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Not that Darnold and his teammates are thinking along those lines.
“No,” the quarterback said. “I mean, we’ll find one.”
Some thought this could be that chance. And New York started on a positive note by getting a 38-yard field goal by Sergio Castillo on its first possession to take a 3-0 lead.
Little did the Jets know that would be it for the the rest of the game.
“They're a good defense,” right guard Greg Van Roten said of Miami. “We did not play well as an offense today.”
Darnold went 16 of 27 for 197 yards and two interceptions, failing to throw a touchdown pass in his third straight game.
“I’ve got to be better,” he said. “I didn’t play well enough to win a ballgame today.”
New York managed just 260 yards of total offense, only 10 first downs and 3 for 13 on third down. The Jets were also 0 for 3 in the red zone. Castillo missed a chip-shot 29-yarder before halftime.
“Obviously, three points is what we get for that,” Gase said. “We just have to find a way to make the plays when they are there to be made.”
And there were some opportunities in this one.
Quinnen Williams popped the ball out of Matt Breida’s hands and Harvey Langi recovered to give the Jets the ball at Miami’s 45 with 4:09 remaining in the third quarter.
New York went three-and-out.
On the Dolphins’ next drive, Jordan Jenkins knocked the ball out of Patrick Laird’s hands and Neville Hewitt scooped it up and returned it to Miami’s 26.
New York’s offense stalled again. The Jets went for it on fourth-and-1 from the 17, but Frank Gore was stuffed for a 1-yard loss.
“I think our defense played really well today,” Van Roten said. “They gave us a lot of short fields.”
There was some question during the game as to whether Gase had reclaimed the offensive play-calling duties after handing them off to coordinator Dowell Loggains the past four outings. Gase insisted after the game that was not the case and Loggains was still making the calls, and the coach was only calling some of the 2-minute situations.
Regardless, nothing has been working well for the Jets this season.
And it has them all in a situation where there could be wholesale changes coming soon, if not after the regular-season finale, including Gase being replaced.
“I’m not going to be concerned about anything with that,” Gase said. “I can control one thing and that’s making sure I come to work every day and try to do the best I can with our guys and put them in the right position and try to help them get better.”