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Jets, Darnold flying high, brace for Dolphins

Sports Xchange
14 Sep 2018, 16:21 GMT+10

New York Jets owner Chris Johnson is trying to temper his giddiness as his club prepares to host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

It has been hard, though, after New York began the Sam Darnold era with a resounding 48-17 victory over the Lions on Monday in Detroit.

Darnold, the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, recovered from throwing a pick-six on his first NFL pass to complete 16 of 21 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns.

"I've been working since (Monday) to keep my enthusiasm level iceman," Johnson said. "It was a great game, but it was one game. Trying to keep that in mind."

Johnson, who was in the process of leaving the field and heading up to his luxury box after the national anthem, heard a commotion from a Ford Field elevator and knew something bad had happened for the road team.

"My heart sank," Johnson said about Darnold's interception. "(Then) I thought, 'OK, he's been punched in the face. Let's see how he responds. I think he's going to do a good job.' I did not lose heart entirely."

The Jets are on a short week, but Jets coach Todd Bowles isn't worried about Darnold's preparation, despite his youth.

"I don't know a 21-year-old kid that's down to earth," Bowles said. "But from a football standpoint, he is. Off the field, he is still 21 years old, but he handles everything the right way, which is good."

Miami also won its opener, 27-20 over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in a game that began at 1 p.m. but ended after 8 p.m. because of two lightning delays.

"I love the way we responded -- the way we were able to overcome the delays, to come out with energy after sitting around," Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said after completing 20 of 28 passes for 230 yards, including two touchdown passes to Kenny Stills. "To come away from this long day, this grind of a game, and get a win, it feels good."

New York also got support from the running game in Isaiah Crowell, who rushed for 102 yards on 10 carries in his Jets debut. His 62-yard touchdown run was the third-longest run of his five-year career.

Defensively, New York intercepted five passes Monday after picking off 11 passes last season. Linebacker Darron Lee, who had two interceptions against Detroit -- including one returned for a touchdown, said after the game the Jets' defense knew the Lions' signals and were calling out their plays pre-snap.

Bowles said Wednesday that wasn't the case.

"We didn't know any audibles and we didn't know any plays," the coach said. "Those guys did a good job following out their assignments that the coaches taught them. They were anticipating certain things if they saw certain formations and they were in good positions to make those type of plays. I don't think we knew the plays."

Lee didn't double-down on his assertion Wednesday, saying he was now focused on the Dolphins.

"I feel pretty comfortable with what we're doing," said the third-year man out of Ohio State, who also had six tackles and three pass deflections. "I guess that enables me to play fast."

The winner of Sunday's game will be one of the surprise 2-0 teams in the league. But even though teams that start 2-0 make the playoffs at a rate of about 60 percent, all Johnson would guarantee is that the Jets, like last season, will be "a team to be reckoned with."

"Time will tell," he added when asked if New York can secure a playoff spot. "I think this looks like a good team, I really do."

Good teams generally have good quarterbacks, but even though Bowles has praised Darnold at every turn since his arrival less than five months ago, the coach isn't ready to anoint him as a franchise quarterback.

"We won one game, I can tell you after about 100 more of them whether we have (a franchise quarterback) or not," Bowles said. "Right now, it's a little early."

The Jets lead the series 54-49-1 after blowing a chance to sweep the 2017 encounters. After a 20-6 victory in Week 3, New York lost a 28-14 lead in the fourth quarter and fell 31-28 in Week 7.

The Jets will be favored at home for the first time since Week 13 in 2016, when they lost to the Indianapolis Colts 41-10.

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