DETROIT—Sam Darnold rolled right and made a rookie move—lobbing a football across the field that was picked off and returned for a touchdown.
It might have been his only mistake all night.
Darnold made a stellar debut after throwing a “pick-6” on his first NFL snap, and the N.Y. Jets intercepted five passes and also scored on special teams, in a 48-17 rout over the Detroit Lions last night.
The 21-year-old Darnold became the youngest quarterback to start a season-opener since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and looked his age on the first play.
“Licking my chops a little bit too much, I think, on that play,” he conceded.
Quandre Diggs intercepted his ill-advised pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown just 20 seconds into the game.
“On that interception, I was pretty nervous," Darnold said. "After that, I put it behind me.”
The former USC star, drafted No. 3 overall, shook off the nerves and finished 16-of-21 for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
“He didn't flinch," said Jets' coach Todd Bowles. "He didn't even blink.”
Darnold helped the Jets set a franchise record for points on the road, surpassing the 47 they scored back in 1967 against the Boston Patriots.
He also outplayed 30-year-old Matthew Stafford.
Stafford threw four interceptions—one shy of his career high—and left the game briefly in the third quarter after being hit from the front and back by the swarming, hard-hitting Jets.
“We wanted to make sure we came out and made a statement in this game,” New York linebacker Darron Lee said.
Stafford was 27-of-46 for 286 yards and a TD pass to Golden Tate early in the third quarter to tie it at 17-17.
He mercifully was taken out midway through the fourth quarter and replaced by Matt Cassel with Detroit down by 31.
“Story of the game's turnovers, you know?" he remarked. "We had too many of them, I had too many of them.”
The Jets dominated in all phases. New York scored on the ground and through the air, on defence, and on a punt return by former Lion Andre Roberts.
Lions' coach Matt Patricia, meanwhile, will want to forget his debut as an NFL head coach.
“We've got to coach this a lot better than what we did," he admitted. ”We've got to go out and execute a lot better on the field.
“It's a team game, and it starts with me.”
New NFL head coaches dropped to 0-6 in Week 1, with Oakland's Jon Gruden the group's final hope for an opening victory in the Monday nightcap.
But it was not to be as the Raiders fell 33-13 to the L.A. Rams.