Monday Night Football: Darnold's Debut and Gruden's Gridiron Return

By Michael Vesci
Sep. 10, 2018

After an exciting weekend of games, the National Football League's slate of games for Week 1 concluded with two matchups as the New York Jets visited the Detroit Lions and the Oakland Raiders played host to the Los Angeles Rams. Both of these games had storylines to watch as the Jets debuted rookie Sam Darnold as their new quarterback and Jon Gruden returned to the field as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders for a second go-round with the team.

New York Jets 48, Detroit Lions 17

Welcome to the NFL, Sam Darnold. The rookie quarterback debuted on Monday Night Football and his first pass of the night resulted in a pick-six by cornerback Quandre Diggs to give the Lions the early 7-0 advantage. But the rookie quickly recovered on his next drive which ended in a six-yard rush by Isaiah Crowell to knot the game up at seven. Shortly after the start of the second quarter, kicker Jason Myers gave the Jets a three-point lead on a 35-yard field goal and tacked on another seven points to stretch the lead to 10 on a beautiful 41-yard touchdown pass from Darnold to Robby Anderson. Detroit would respond before the half with a field goal to trim New York's lead down to seven heading into the break.

But the third quarter was a big difference maker in this one as the Jets managed to rattle off 31 unanswered points following a four play, 75-yard drive by Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense to tie the game back up at 17. Another Darnold touchdown pass, this time to Quincey Enunwa helped the Jets regain the lead. What would follow that touchdown was 24 more points by New York in the next eight minutes and 22 seconds to give the Jets full control of the game. A pick-six by linebacker Darron Lee, punt return touchdown by Andre Roberts, Jason Myers field goal, and 62-yard touchdown run by Crowell for his second touchdown of the evening gave the Jets a 48-17 lead.

Nothing was doing for the Lions in primetime and Matthew Stafford struggled mightily. In fact, at one point it looked like he would be exiting the game after he took a hit to the knee and came up limping on the field. He stayed in the game and finished 27-for-46 with 286 passing yards to go along with his one touchdown and four-interception performance. Matt Cassel came in for the final two drives the Lions had and threw an interception as well to bring the total for Detroit up to five on the evening. As for Darnold, he had a solid debut after the pick-six, going 16-for-21 passing with 198 passing yards, two touchdowns, and that one interception at the beginning of the game. Running back Isaiah Crowell had himself a game as well, carrying the ball 10 times for 102 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Los Angeles Rams 33, Oakland Raiders 13

A promising first half performance by the Oakland Raiders went to waste in Jon Gruden's return to coaching. Derek Carr and the Oakland offense found a way to manufacture 13 points in the first half and went into the locker room up 13-10 over Los Angeles. But the Rams' offense came out in the second half of this one and put up 23 unanswered points en route to a blowout win in prime time. Quarterback Jared Goff led the way for the Rams, putting up 233 passing yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-33 passing. The rushing attack was strong too from running back Todd Gurley who ran for 108 yards on 20 carries and special teams performed well as kicker Greg "Legatron" Zuerlein made four of his five field goal attempts including a 55-yard kick in the second half.

On the other side, Derek Carr had a rough evening, going 29-for-40 passing with 303 passing yards and three interceptions. Those three interceptions led to two field goals and a pick-six allowing the Los Angeles Rams to produce a total of 13 points off the turnover on the evening. If there was one positive to come out of the evening for the Raiders, it was their receiving leader, tight end Jared Cook who hauled in eight receptions for a total of 180 yards. However, held back by their own mistakes on offense, the Raiders managed just one touchdown on a first-quarter run by running back Marshawn Lynch for a 10-yard score.

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