The New York Jets vs. Detroit Lions Week 1 game will go down in the history books as one that was ultimately defined by greatness. The greatness of a young rookie quarterback coming back from a nightmare.
Let’s envision what things must have been like for rookie quarterback Sam Darnold heading into a Week 1 matchup between the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. Not only was Darnold the youngest quarterback to ever start the season for a pro football team but it was under the primetime lights of Monday Night Football.
It was only a few months ago that Darnold didn’t even know where his new NFL home would be, let alone earn the right to be a starting quarterback as early as his rookie year. After weeks of preparation in training camp and preseason football, Darnold performed above expectations to the point where everyone saw something special brewing at One Jets Drive.
Imagine getting the football first in an epic Week 1 regular season game where every media outlet all week long pretty much picked the Lions to defeat the Jets by a landslide. Imagine knowing that everyone wrote off your team for this game before the football was even snapped.
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Now, imagine the frustration, anger, and regret that as a rookie potential franchise quarterback, your first ever pass in the pros is an interception ran back for a touchdown. The ill-fated “pick-six” that can change momentum in a football game faster than a New York minute.
Without a doubt, fans likely started thinking that of course, this could only happen to the Jets. A franchise that hasn’t had a consistently winning quarterback in decades. Fans likely thought of that infamous “Same Old Jets” phrase that has haunted this team for a very long time. What happened after that dreaded play, proved that Darnold is defined by greatness.
The man literally went right back to work and played through adversity. Darnold didn’t quit or begin a snowball effect after such a nightmarish play, but rather, saw the error in his ways, and focused on coming back better, smarter, and more focused.
What ensued was a 48-17 drubbing of the Lions in a game that saw Darnold’s leadership and ability to overcome any obstacle in his way have a trickle effect across the entire team. The Jets defense rose to the occasion and produced five (not a typo) interceptions. The Jets special teams scored a touchdown (also not a typo) that had Jets fans screaming and dancing in joy both in Ford Field and at home watching.
It all starts with that gritty, winning, and competitive spirit of Darnold who defined what greatness looks like at the young age of just 21-years-old. If he’s doing this now, one can only imagine the greatness that awaits in his future. This was a huge test for a rookie quarterback who passed it with flying colors.