In the middle of the disaster, with the walls coming down around his team, Adam Gase admitted he was worried about his young, franchise quarterback. This was the 16th start of Sam Darnold's career and, by far, the worst.
And Gase was worried that the beating might leave Darnold shell-shocked, that this nightmare could linger into next week and beyond.
"That thought will always kind of pop into your head," Gase said. "Especially with a young quarterback."
But it can't. It just can't. The 22-year-old Darnold and the Jets just can't afford that.
Starting next Sunday against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, their franchise quarterback has to be much, much better than that.
It's legitimate to wonder, of course, after watching Darnold smack head-first into rock bottom. In a season when he was expected to arrive as a near-elite quarterback, he was supposed to be far beyond this. And this was bad: 11-of-32, 86 yards, four interceptions and a lost fumble. His passer rating was 3.6. The Jets lost, 33-0, to the New England Patriots and it felt much worse than that.
And the numbers weren't the worst part. Darnold looked rattled. He admitted to "seeing ghosts." He looked more like a confused rookie than he ever did during his rookie season.
"It was a rough day out there," Darnold said. "Obviously I've got to be better and learn from the mistakes. But we will get better."
He's not the first quarterback, of course, to have a game this bad. It was just shocking because Darnold was supposed to be past this stage. He's not a rookie. He's supposed to be able to pick up blitzes, especially when the same one was called over and over again. He's supposed to be able to read coverages that were barely disguised.
That's why his next game becomes so crucial. This season has been a disaster for him, from his opening day collapse to his month-long bout with mono, to his ugly game on Monday night. The 2019 season may be lost, but he needs to start building something for 2020.
Darnold needs to show he's able to bounce back.
That's one of the reasons Gase said he kept Darnold in to the bitter end. He was hoping that something -- anything -- positive would happen.
"I kept thinking, 'Let's keep going,'" Gase said. " 'Let's find a way to put together a good drive. Let's build off of something for the next game.' I mean, that's the one thing about the NFL: When a game like this gets a little out of control, you're trying to think 'How do you put something positive together so you can look at it and say 'OK, that was good. Now we're heading into next week.'"
It never happened, obviously. There was no momentum, no positive to carry with them. But give Gase credit: He tried everything he could. During the game, he was caught on the ESPN microphones giving Darnold a second-half pep talk, doing his best to try to get him to "reset".
After the game, Gase even made a rare appearance in the postgame locker room when the media was in there and had a long talk with Darnold before he met the press.
Darnold's teammates were supportive, too. "He said he felt like it was one of the worst games he ever played," Le'Veon Bell said. "I said 'Hey bro, now you know it can only get better. You can never play worse than you did tonight.'"
The words are nice, but now Darnold needs action. He's right when he said "I didn't play well. I can play a lot better."
He just needs to prove it quickly. He needs action to back up those words.