Ryan Griffin gave Sam Darnold the go-to target that the Jets needed in Sunday's 34-17 win over the Washington Redskins.
As the second-year quarterback completed 19 of 30 passes (63.3 percent) for 293 yards and a career-high four touchdowns to one interception, the veteran tight end was New York's leading receiver with five receptions for 109 yards (21.8 average) and a touchdown.
Griffin, who caught all five passes Darnold targeted him on and hauled in a long of 45 yards, buried the Redskins (1-9) with 36 seconds left in the second quarter when he caught his 16-yard touchdown pass to put the Jets (3-7) ahead, 20-3, at halftime.
"It was just one of those games where he kept popping free," first-year head coach Adam Gase said of Griffin. "We didn't do anything different from what we've done in the past and it was just -- whatever reason, it was his turn."
On the play, the third snap of the eventual 83-yard drive in 43 seconds, the Jets entered the red zone and Darnold found Griffin, who was wide open as he slipped his way through the Redskins' zone coverage and corralled the ball at the four-yard line before falling into the end zone for the decisive score.
"It was just -- he had time, he stepped up and those guys have a good feel, kind of working in practice and those guys just kind of do it on their own," Gase said of Darnold and Griffin. "But that's a good kind of hookup there."
Darnold thought that the connection put the Jets firmly ahead of the Redskins, who eventually went down, 34-3, early in the fourth quarter after two more touchdowns on wide receiver Jamison Crowder's 29-yard reception and running back Le'Veon Bell's one-yard run.
"It was huge," Darnold said. "Any time you can go down there, especially with them getting the ball to start the second half, I think whenever you can go down there and score -- really, any time in the game, but especially a two-minute drive to get things, to kind of get momentum for the second half -- I think it's always huge."
Before Week 11, Griffin strung together a couple of strong outings that led to the breakout performance. In Oct. 13's 24-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Darnold's first week back from a month-long bout with mononucleosis that sidelined him three games, Griffin caught all three passes thrown his way for 28 yards and a touchdown.
After he was limited to one reception for one yard in Oct. 21's 33-0 loss to the New England Patriots, Griffin combined for 10 receptions on 12 targets and 116 yards (11.6 average) and two touchdowns despite the Jets' losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars (29-15, Oct. 27) and Miami Dolphins (26-18, Nov. 3).
In 10 games, Griffin has 25 receptions for 269 yards (10.76 average) and three touchdowns. Also within the position group, tight end Daniel Brown got the Jets on the board at the 11:50 mark of the first quarter with Darnold's 20-yard pass while rolling left.
"They're so selfless," Darnold said. "They're just able to go out there and do every single day in practice, how much work they put in off the field and then what they're able to do in the run game, even pass protecting sometimes, but also out there on some routes. They do a really good job and they're the ones -- they don't care who makes the play, but if the play's there to make, they'll go out there and take advantage of their opportunity. They don't get enough credit, but I definitely think they showed up in a big way today."