CLEVELAND – After being outplayed by fellow rookie Baker Mayfield, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold blamed himself for a sputtering second-half offense in a 21-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“From my point of view, I just have to play better, simple as that,” Darnold said. “It’s not acceptable, the way I played. I know that, and I have to take it like a man. I feel like I’m responsible for some of the stagnant offense we had. I just have to play better, that’s it.”
Unlike Mayfield, Darnold struggled to spark the Jets. He completed only 15 of 31 passes for 169 yards and two interceptions, both of which came in the final 1:27 of the game.
Concerned about the Browns’ blitz, the Jets played extremely conservative, as Darnold didn’t attempt any long throws. In the first two games, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates took chances, seemingly not worried about Darnold’s lack of experience.
That changed on Thursday night.
Darnold struggled whenever he wasn’t throwing a screen pass. Darnold was 6-of-8 for 63 yards on screen passes, only 9-of-23 (39 percent) with two interceptions on all other passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“He did as well as he could with the plays that were given to him,” said wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, tip-toeing around the issue. “They had a lot of pressure and that kind of messed us up.”
After Browns starter Tyrod Taylor left with a concussion, the game featured the first and third overall picks in the draft. The Browns passed on Darnold to take Mayfield, who delivered the franchise’s first victory in 20 games. He rallied the Browns from a 14-0 deficit.
“I know Baker is a great player,” Darnold said. “He did some great things at Oklahoma and he continued to do great things tonight. I felt the crowd rallied pretty well around him. At the same time, I have to continue to do my job and keep the offense rolling. I’m not worried about [Mayfield].”
Darnold regressed after two promising starts. He avoided turnovers until the fourth quarter, when he missed two chances to stage his first come-from-behind win.
“I tried to force it in there,” Darnold said.
After three games, Darnold has four interceptions, including two in the first quarter and two in the fourth.
“I felt really comfortable throughout the whole game,” he said. “I just made stupid mistakes in the fourth quarter and missed opportunities throughout the whole game. I have to play better, and that’s on me.”