The question — What kind of a difference did Sam Darnold make? — produced a grin, but not because Le’Veon Bell found it funny. The Jets running back was happy the situation — the quarterback sparking a victory after missing three games with mononucleosis — produced such a question.
“Ya’ll tell me. Ya’ll seen it. Sam’s a special player,” Bell said after he won for the first time as a Jet, 24-22 over the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. “When you have a guy in there who’s able to make some plays, get the ball down the field, get everybody lined up perfectly in and out of the huddle, vocal leader in the huddle, he’s a special player. … We’ve been missing that these last couple weeks.”
Bell didn’t quite have the breakthrough performance he has been waiting for — 50 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown is nothing to brag about for an elite running back — but the Jets didn’t need a superhuman effort from him. The Cowboys forced them to go to the air, and with Darnold back throwing darts, the Jets can now capitalize when an opponent dares them to open up the offense.With the Cowboys focused on Bell, Darnold completed 11 passes to receivers Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder for a combined 223 yards.
“I didn’t really touch the ball that many times. I didn’t need to,” Bell said. “Sam was making plays, guys on the outside were making plays. When I did get the ball, I felt like I had some lanes now and then.”
There was not running room aplenty for Bell, though it did slightly open up in the second half, when he picked up 26 yards on five carries. He equaled his season-high with a 13-yard run. If the Jets can continue to make the opposition pay for stacking the box, it will force them to make a decision.
“Today was a first stepping-stone as an offense, really showing how versatile of an offense we can be,” Bell said. “You can’t key on one thing, just stopping the run or just trying to stop the outside passes, screens. We got a lot of guys, playmakers everywhere. We want to get to a point where defenses have to pick their poison.“Today, the Cowboys really did a good job of taking me out of the game and other guys were making plays. That’s how football is supposed to be. If they want to stop the run and things like that, we got to kill them over the head with passing plays and play-action, and that’s what we did.”