Sam Darnold with weapons looked an awful lot like Sam Darnold without weapons.
The Jets starting quarterback returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a shoulder injury. It was the first game of the season that he played with the Jets’ top three receivers, something the team hoped would lead to better production from the third-year quarterback.
Instead, it was more of the same from Darnold, who threw two interceptions and failed to get the ball into the end zone in a 20-3 loss to the Dolphins.
The loss drops the Jets to 0-11, the worst record in franchise history through 11 games. The 11-game losing streak is second in franchise history, behind only the 12-game streak in the 1995-96 seasons. The loss keeps the Jets on pace to get the No. 1 pick in the draft and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Jets coach Adam Gase appeared to take back play-calling after letting offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains call the past four games. The move didn’t work. If anything, the offense looked like it regressed with Gase and Darnold instead of Loggains and Joe Flacco.
You have to wonder if this now enough for team CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson to fire Gase. It has been clear for weeks that the Jets need to make a coaching change after the season, but why wait at this point?
Darnold started off strong but faded quickly. He ended up completing 16 of 27 passes for 197 yards. He has now gone 19 quarters without throwing a touchdown pass. His last touchdown came on Sept. 27 against the Colts. This was his fourth game since then. He has missed twice missed two games with a shoulder injury.
The Dolphins improved to 7-4 and remain in the AFC playoff hunt. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick started at quarterback in place of an injured Tua Tagovailoa and carved up the Jets defense early. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns. Fitzpatrick found tight end Mike Gesicki for a 13-yard touchdown in the second quarter that put Miami up 10-3. The teams exchanged field goals in the first quarter.
Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders made field goals of 54 and 51 yards, the second one put the Dolphins up 13-3 with 5:23 left in the second quarter. The Jets mounted a 13-play drive just before halftime but stalled at the Dolphins’ 11. Sergio Castillo attempted his second field goal of the game, but missed the 29-yard chip shot, sending the Jets to halftime trailing by 10 points.
The Jets defense picked things up in the second half and forced two fumbles in the third quarter. The turnovers gave the Jets the ball at the Miami 45 and 26 and they came away with no points either time.
On the second fumble when they started at the 26, the Jets went for it on fourth-and-1 and Frank Gore was stuffed on a run up the middle by Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts.
The Jets inexplicably leaned on the 37-year-old Gore to be the majority of their offense. With rookie La’Mical Perine out with injury, Gase rode Gore, who had 18 carries for 74 yards and three catches for 12 yards.
Darnold was 5 of 6 for 84 yards in the first quarter and looked like he was ready to have a big day. Then, he faded. He connected for long passes with Breshad Perriman for 37 yards and Denzel Mims for 30 yards but it did not happen enough. The Jets hoped Darnold would click with Perriman, Mims and Jamison Crowder playing with him for the first time this season. Instead, the offense fizzled.
Darnold’s worst pass came early in the third quarter on third-and-8. Darnold, rolling to his right, threw late and across his body and was intercepted by Dolphins cornerback Nik Needham.
The Dolphins put the game away in the fourth quarter with a Fitzpatrick 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Adam Shaheen that put the Dolphins up 20-3 with 6:54 to play. The touchdown was set up by a pass interference penalty on Jets cornerback Arthur Maulet that moved the Dolphins 30 yards to the Jets’ 12.