After his second interception of the game, with the Jets already trailing, 24-0, Sam Darnold was catching his breath on the sidelines, lamenting the blitzes that kept breaking through the offensive line. It was clear he was either rattled or, at the least, confused by what he was seeing.
That's when the ESPN mic caught him saying "I'm seeing ghosts."
That's not a good sign for a quarterback, but it's clear that's what was happening. He was under so much pressure in the pocket, forced to deal with pass rushers coming from everywhere, he couldn't get an accurate read on the coverage. He was seeing things that weren't there, and not seeing things that were there.
The predictable end result was the worst start of his career.
There were a lot of reasons why Darnold went 11-for-32 for just 86 yards and four interceptions as the Jets suffered an embarrassing, 33-0 loss to the New England Patriots on Monday night. But start with the awful, awful performance by the Jets' offensive line. Adam Gase shook it up again, with rookie Chuma Edoga moving to left tackle and Brandon Shell moving back to right tackle.
Obviously it didn't work.
Darnold -- who needed a late rally in garbage time to get his passer rating for the game up to 3.6 -- was sacked only once, hard as that is to believe. But it was only that low because of quickly he was getting rid of the ball (for better or worse … mostly worse). The Patriots ran their "zero blitz" time and time and time again getting a defender (or two) in Darnold's face. They didn't even disguise it and yet they were constantly breaking through.
Darnold was on his heels all night, including when he was picked off on his first pass of the game. On that play he even pointed out the blitzing linebacker before the snap, but guard Brian Winters still let him through.
Unfortunately for the Jets, help isn't on the way. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum and left guard Kelechi Osemele are hurt, and center Ryan Kalil left the game for a bit, too. The line wasn't exactly good when they were all in there, either. Against the top-ranked Patriots defense, they never had the chance.
The Jets only hope in this game was that their young, franchise quarterback could've found a way to make things happen anyway. He's so good, usually, at escaping the pocket and creating plays. But he didn't do it on Monday night. He looked as rattled and shaken as he's looked in his now 16-game career.
And in a game the Jets absolutely had to have to salvage any faint hope of having a meaningful season, that just wasn't good.
Here are some more takeaways from the Jets' fifth loss of the season …
1. The offensive line deserves plenty of blame for this disaster, but the Patriots were essentially running the same blitz over and over again and Jets coach Adam Gase never had an answer or an adjustment. How about keeping someone in the pocket to help the offensive line? Or maybe rolling the pocket to neutralize the blitzer? Call more quick screens maybe to keep the defense on its heels? Or maybe a little play-action? Slide the line, perhaps? Anything? The Jets' coaching staff absolutely failed Darnold in this game. The linemen were disgraceful, but the coaching staff had to make some adjustment, find some way to alleviate the pressure.
2. At least anyone watching this game knew the way it was going to go early. The Patriots' opening drive was a clinic - 16 plays, 78 yards, 8:47. They went 4 for 4 on third downs. Tom Brady went 9-of-9 for 55 yards. They dinked and dunked their way down the field and the Jets' defense provided no resistance. It never got any better.
3. The biggest problem for the Jets' defense? Tom Brady had enough time to plant a garden in the pocket behind his offensive line. It's well-known the Jets don't have much of a pass rush, but they didn't have any pass rush in this game. It was another zero of a performance for Leonard Williams and if Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was calling blitzes, it certainly wasn't obvious.
4. Remember when it seemed like a good idea that the Jets signed CB Trumaine Johnson to a five-year, $72.5 million contract? No? Yeah, it's not working out. He was burned badly by WR Phillip Dorsett on a 26-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. He was beat on the first move and never caught up until the very end of the play. Receivers are repeatedly open when he's covering them. What a waste of money. … Oh, and yes, he had an interception in the third quarter. It took a hit by Leonard Williams to force Brady to float it right into Johnson's hands. Don't be impressed.
5. The best part about this game was having Darnold mic'd up on ESPN. Aside from the "ghost" comment, one of the cooler moments came on the sideline after his first interception on the first pass of the game. Before the snap, Darnold called out the Patriots player who was about to blitz, but Winters still missed the block. On the sideline, Darnold took responsibility telling Williams "I've got to be louder". It totally wasn't his fault, but he still put it on his shoulders. That's a sign of leadership.
6. Want a positive for the Jets? Well, RB Le'Veon Bell ran really hard for most of the game. He ended up with 70 yards on 15 carries, and it could've been a lot more if he had any decent blocking in front of him. He seemed close to breaking a couple of long runs. The $52.5 million back still hasn't has his breakout game, but it feels like it's getting closer.