How much different did the Jets look on offense with quarterback Sam Darnold in Sunday's 24-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys?
Just ask Robby Anderson.
The wide receiver caught five passes for 125 yards and a 92-yard touchdown, igniting an offense that the Jets (1-4) desperately needed to get back on track and did against the Cowboys' defense.
"You see what it was," Anderson said with a smile. "You know what I'm saying? It was amazing having my brother back out there with me. It makes a big difference, you know?"
Darnold completed 23 of 32 passes (71.9 percent) for 338 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in his first game back since Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, Sept. 8's 17-16 loss, which he played while mononucleosis started to bring him under the weather.
In Darnold's three-game absence, the Jets failed to score an offensive touchdown, struggling mightily after backup Trevor Sieman's season-ending ankle injury Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns forced third-stringer Luke Falk off the practice squad and into the starting role for Weeks 3 and 5 -- Sept. 22's 30-14 loss to the New England Patriots and Oct. 6's 31-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
During the month-long stretch, defenses loaded the box to limit running back Le'Veon Bell without a true passing threat, but Darnold made the Cowboys pay when they did the same with their defensive approach.
"He's a special player"- Jets Videos (@snyjets) October 14, 2019
Le'Veon Bell says the Jets are revitalized with Sam Darnold back: pic.twitter.com/FRsrnMrA7o
"Sam's a special player," said Bell, who took 14 carries for 50 yards (3.6 average) and a two-yard touchdown with 3:24 left in the first quarter to put the Jets ahead 7-0 over the Cowboys (3-3) early on. "So when you've got a guy in there who's able to make some plays, get the ball downfield and get everybody lined up perfectly, get everybody in and out the huddle, a vocal leader in the huddle -- he's a special player, so we've been missing that the last couple of weeks, so it felt good having him out there. Obviously, guys protected him well enough today and we made some plays on the outside. So we're going to continue to get better. We're going to watch the film and see what else we've got to improve on."
Bell added that the quarterback's presence alone changed the Jets' offensive mentality.
"It's a lot different, having your guy in there," Bell said. "He's the leader on the offense. When you've got a guy calling plays in the huddle, getting guys lined up, making all the checks and things like that -- when you miss that for a few weeks, it's tough. So the fact that he's back out there, it showed today."
Back at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for Week 7's Monday Night Football on ESPN against the Patriots (6-0), the Jets have a tough turnaround before the 8:15 p.m. ET kickoff, but Darnold has the skill players around him believing again.
"I think just a really good week of practice and studying -- and, obviously, a really good game plan of going in," Darnold said. "So that's really all and, again, I'm just really happy for the guys in this locker room. We were starving for a win and to come out here and do it in the fashion that we did -- defense getting a huge stop on the two-point conversion -- I wouldn't want it any other way."
"We were starving for a win, and to come out here and do it in the fashion that we did, wouldn't want it any other way" - Sam Darnold pic.twitter.com/JSBZha1djQ- Jets Videos (@snyjets) October 14, 2019