When the final seconds melted off the clock, the Jets could do nothing but watch Ryan Tannehill take knee after knee after knee, icing the Dolphins’ 20-12 win Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
If the Jets handled the final seconds of the first half better, Sam Darnold may have been leading the victory formation.
Trailing 20-0 with just 41 seconds left in the first half, the Jets gave their rookie quarterback a chance to score before halftime. Darnold seized the opportunity with his longest pass of the game, connecting with Terrelle Pryor for 44 yards to bring the Jets into Miami territory for the first time. The Jets then called their second timeout.
Following an incomplete pass, Darnold hit rookie tight end Chris Herndon for 17 yards to reach the 14-yard line. The Jets called their final timeout of the half with 16 seconds remaining. After another incompletion, 10 seconds were still on the clock.
The Jets could have kicked a field goal, but felt that still would be an option if another pass fell incomplete.
“We had a play designed to try to get six points,” coach Todd Bowles said.
Darnold found Herndon in the middle of the field, but threw it short of the end zone to keep it away from Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald. The tight end turned and lost the ball while making his move toward the goal line. Herndon recovered, but was tackled at the 1-yard line.
Time remained, but the clock couldn’t be stopped. The first half was over.
“I knew that if I got it to him and they tackled him inbounds that we weren’t gonna be able to get [another] play off,” Darnold said, “so I just tried to get it to him and thought, ‘Let’s go get a touchdown.’ I didn’t have any doubt in Chris, in his ability to score.”Bowles had no regrets about the decision after the game.
“It was bang-bang play. The guy made a heck of a tackle at the goal line,” the coach said. “We took our shot. It didn’t work.”
Sitting at his locker, Herndon still couldn’t figure out how it didn’t.
“I caught it, and I was trying to get a feel of where I was, but I got hit,” Herndon said. “I still should’ve scored, though. … I should’ve known where I was and got in the end zone.”
The Jets started with the ball in the second half and scored a touchdown in just over three minutes, but Herndon killed another potential scoring opportunity midway through the quarter. On perhaps Darnold’s most impressive play of the day, the rookie scrambled away from pressure and rolled to his left, where he uncorked a deep throw to the wide-open tight end. The ball hit Herndon’s hands, then hit the ground.
“I should’ve focused more and did what I had to do for the team,” said Herndon, a fourth-round pick who had no targets in Week 1. “I just dropped it. I didn’t focus and look it in, but it’s no excuse.”