Darnold threw an interception on the very first snap of his National Football League career - and it was run back for a Detroit touchdown - but New York's quarterback shouldn't sweat that too much after the Jets stormed back and routed the Lions 48-17 on Monday night. "I have to do a better job and that's always where I'm going to take it".
The former USC star, drafted No. 3 overall, shook off the nerves and finished 16 of 21 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets did end up losing, but the team was confident it had a viable starter under center after this performance.
"I know it sounds insane, but we're a lot better football team than we showed", tackle Taylor Decker said. He was 8 of 12 for 61 yards and an interception, while Stafford was 4 of 10 for 40 yards and two interceptions.
Sam Darnold had nowhere to go but up after his first career snap. And, they may have gotten yelled at more. Quandre Diggs intercepted his ill-advised lob down the left sideline on the first play from scrimmage and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown 20 seconds into the game.
The Jets said they weren't stealing signals, attributing the success to thorough preparation and scouting.
His game highlight reel included one superb pinpoint pass to Robby Anderson for a 41-yard touchdown in the second quarter which helped put the Jets 17-7 ahead.
"People can change and do certain things, but we have keys to read, and we have coaches, and we coach them up the best we can". Darnold converted a third down with his legs to take the Jets into field goal range.
"I told those guys in there, 'I'll take this one, '" Stafford said. The last Jets linebacker to pick off two passes in a game was Kyle Clifton in 1990. The Jets intercepted Matthew Stafford four times in a dismal debut for new Lions coach Matt Patricia.
"On that interception, I was pretty nervous", Darnold said. His cool and calm ways were respected and they appreciated that he cared about them off the field.
What the New York Jets displayed on defense and special teams may have been even more encouraging for Darnold and his teammates.
Working together with the D-line, the Jets held Detroit to just 39 yards on fifteen carries. Leonard Williams, first-round pick in 2015; Lee, first-round pick in 2016; and Jamal Adams, first-round pick in 2017.
Do I expect the Lions to beat the 49ers, 42-0, on Sunday? Breaking Sam Darnold in slowly, so if they have the ball, I could see it ending in a run.