LANDOVER, Md. -- Call him Sam Darnold, ghostbuster.
Showing steady improvement since his infamous "ghost" game last month, the New York Jets quarterback delivered arguably the best performance of his young career in Sunday's 34-17 win against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Darnold threw a career-high four touchdowns, including three in the first half, to give the Jets (3-7) a much-needed laugher.
The Jets played their best all-around game, but the big story was Darnold, whose confidence seemed shattered only a few weeks ago. Instead of tanking after seven interceptions in back-to-back losses to the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars, he rallied by displaying the mental toughness required for long-term success in the NFL.
Behind the scenes, Darnold took ownership of the offense, becoming more assertive in meetings with coach Adam Gase. He took the same approach in the huddle, according to teammates. This is Darnold 2.0. He's not seeing ghosts anymore; he's seeing open receivers. On Sunday, he threw touchdowns to four different receivers -- tight ends Daniel Brown and Ryan Griffin and wide receivers Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder. He finished with 293 yards and a 121.3 passer rating.
Darnold spread the ball evenly and made plays with his legs, both on designed rollouts and off-schedule plays in which he was flushed from the pocket. He made one bad decision (an interception on a screen pass), but it was only a momentary loss of poise.
Just like that, the Jets' season, unraveling after an embarrassing loss to the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago, has an upbeat feel.
Promising trend: Win. Win. It shouldn't be that hard -- a two-game winning streak -- but the Jets tend to increase the degree of difficulty. They won back-to-back for the first time in 20 games. This qualifies as the glory days for Gase, who has experienced mostly turbulence in his first season. The Jets are 2-0 since CEO Christopher Johnson, in a private address to the team, gave Gase a vote of confidence. The Jets improved to 3-1 versus the NFC East.
Buy Jamal Adams' performance: Dude is on fire. Adams became only the second defensive back in the past 10 years to record three sacks in a game. (Mike Hilton did it for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017.) The star safety, who has five sacks in the past two games, seems like a different player since burying the hatchet with management in the aftermath of his trade-deadline snit.
Buy Gregg Williams' performance: The Jets' defensive coordinator, playing with third-string cornerbacks and second-string inside linebackers, confused rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins by changing looks. The Jets didn't blitz a lot -- save for Adams -- but they played coverage and forced him to hold the ball, resulting in six sacks. This may have been an audition for Williams. The former Redskins assistant could be a head-coaching candidate for them after the season. The Redskins' ownership has an affinity for Williams.
Troubling trend: Another tough game for running back Le'Veon Bell, who was held under 71 yards for the 11th consecutive game -- by far the longest slump of his career. They tried a wrinkle, using a fullback more than in previous weeks, but Bell (18 carries for 59 yards) was unable to get to the second level. He managed a fourth-quarter touchdown to ease the frustration, but let's be real: His hunt-and-peck running style isn't a great fit with this struggling offensive line, which started its sixth different combination. Frankly, Bilal Powell (seven rushes for 42 yards) was more effective than Bell in a change-of-pace role.
Eye-popping stat: Darnold became the second Jets quarterback in the past 15 years to have minimums of 200 yards and one touchdown pass in four straight games. Ryan Fitzpatrick did it in 2015.