Sam Darnold's resilience tested yet again as Jets visit Browns


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Sam Darnold’s football career has been highlighted by his ability to bounce back.

After beginning his redshirt freshman season at USC on the bench, Darnold started at quarterback in the team’s fourth game of the season, a 31-27 loss against a ranked Utah team on the road. But that was the last time the Trojans lost that season. Darnold led them to nine straight victories, including wins over No. 4 Washington on the road and No. 5 Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

In his first NFL game with the Jets a couple weeks ago, Darnold had to bounce back after his first career pass resulted in a pick-six against the Lions. After that, the 21-year-old completed 17 of his last 21 passes, threw two touchdowns and led New York to a 48-17 win.

In Week 3 against the Browns, Darnold will have to bounce back yet again. He threw two interceptions in the Jets’ home debut last week, a 20-12 loss to the Dolphins.

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"Every loss that we have as a team, every loss that I have as an individual, whether it’s a game or whether it’s a play, I’m going to take that as a lesson that I can learn and not a loss," Darnold said after the loss to Miami. "I’m going to come back and probably on that same play, if that same thing happens, probably won’t throw it next time."​

Darnold’s second interception in the Dolphins game came in the end zone after the Jets had forced a turnover at the opponents’ 12-yard line. Looking to throw a touchdown to Terrelle Pryor on the first play of the possession, Darnold threw an interception, instead.

Though Pryor told media the pick was his fault, Darnold accepted accountability when asked about the play.

"We were on the same page; just have to execute a little bit better,” Darnold said of the connection with Pryor. "Whenever you get a turnover in the red zone … you want to be able to put that one in the end zone. We've got to make them pay for turning the ball over, and we just gave it right back to them. That’s not something you want to do.

"Again, I put that on myself. I could have put the ball up a little more, give (Pryor) a chance maybe to go up and snag it with his big body and his long


Added Pryor: “It's not (Darnold's) fault. I'm telling you guys right now. It doesn't mean anything to me because he's taking it and he knows that it was my fault. But I can appreciate that.”

WATCH: All of Darnold's throws in Week 2

The tone of Darnold’s words the day after the loss to Miami made it clear he was not harping on his mistakes. Instead, the QB had moved on to the Week 3 challenge in Cleveland. 

And this particular week is not normal for any NFL player, let alone a rookie passer. The Jets are traveling and playing on a short week. Thursday night’s game also marks the second primetime game on the road for Darnold in his early career.

"It's a different challenge. It isn't necessarily something that I’ve dealt with,” Darnold said Monday. "But it’s awesome. It’s just another challenge for this team. And we’re going to take it head on.

"Looking at Cleveland (on Sunday night), moving on right after, watched that game and moved on to Cleveland. We move on as fast as possible to Cleveland because it’s a short turnaround."

Jets coach Todd Bowles said he liked Darnold's approach this week.

"It’s football. He knows what he knows and our system," Bowles said. "You have things that you do normally, and you have things that you tweak. We go along with that, and with repetitions in practice, he'll be fine."

Pryor also complimented Darnold's ability to move forward. The WR saw it when Darnold got the Jets back in the Dolphins game by leading a couple scoring drives in the fourth quarter after the QB had thrown both interceptions.

"He did great," Pryor said on Darnold's play in the fourth quarter. "He's going to be a great player for a long time. He's such a talent.

"He works too hard. We got to work hard, too."