Sam Darnold’s best game is done in as Jets defense crumbles late


If the Jets were a baseball team, they’d be shopping for a closer.

Gang Green fell apart in the fourth quarter yet again Saturday in a 29-22 loss to the Texans. The Jets’ defense was unable to close out a game again, with Deshaun Watson finding DeAndre Hopkins for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 2:15 left to play to give Houston the lead for good.

The Jets fell to 4-10 and have now lost 10 games in three straight seasons under coach Todd Bowles, who is almost certainly in his final days with the franchise.

It was the second time in three weeks they lost a game late after a killer penalty. Two weeks ago in Tennessee, it was cornerback Trumaine Johnson’s facemask call that helped the Titans win. On Saturday, it was the other cornerback, Morris Claiborne, whose holding call on Hopkins on a third down gave Houston life.

Asked if he thought he held Hopkins, Claiborne said, “Not at all.”

“This is how I feed my family,” Claiborne said. “Those types of calls, when you don’t get them right, it makes it hard for me to do that.”

Modal TriggerTexans receiver DeAndre Hopkins catches the game-winning touchdown against Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne in the fourth quarter.
Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins catches the game-winning touchdown against Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne in the fourth quarter.Getty Images
The loss ruined the best game rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has played this season. Darnold showed poise, made plays with his feet and threw a few beautiful passes in the loss. He completed 24 of 38 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran six times for 35 yards.

The Jets went toe-to-toe with the AFC South leaders, who are now 10-4, but fell short.

It looked like Darnold was going to lead the Jets to their second straight comeback win, building off his heroics in Buffalo. He led a 15-play, 73-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended with Elijah McGuire being pushed into the end zone by the offensive line for a 2-yard touchdown and a 22-19 lead — the Jets’ first of the day — with five minutes left in the game. On the drive, Darnold converted two third downs with runs and another with a pass to Chris Herndon, and a fourth down with a pass to Robby Anderson.

All the Jets needed from there was a stop by their defense, which had played well in the second half after spotting the Texans an early 16-3 lead.

The Texans got the ball at their own 25 with 5:00 left on the clock. Watson began the drive with a 20-yard strike to Hopkins. The Jets then got the Texans to third-and-4, and Watson’s pass sailed over Hopkins head out of bounds. But the referee flagged Claiborne for holding, keeping the drive alive. Watson took advantage and found Hopkins for the 14-yard touchdown four plays later. Hopkins made a terrific catch on the play despite tight coverage from Claiborne to cap the seven-play drive.