Look who's talking: Emboldened Sam Darnold takes control of Jets' huddle

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This is the way it works in the New York Jets' huddle: Quarterback Sam Darnold handles the important stuff (the playcall), running back Le'Veon Bell provides the entertainment.

Bell brings the energy, yapping and dapping. He keeps everybody loose and provides the spark. Every team needs a Bell in the huddle.

On Sunday, Bell was muted by Darnold, no longer the quiet man. The second-year quarterback raised his volume, not to mention his game in the Jets' 34-27 victory against the New York Giants.

"He took command of the huddle," Bell said. "I was kind of in the huddle, kind of quiet today. Sam controlled the huddle. That's big. That's huge for us. I'm glad he was able to do that."

Darnold needed this game -- badly. After eight interceptions in three games, giving him the NFL's lowest Total QBR (21.0) over that span, he played his first interception-free game since Week 1. He played a clean game -- no turnovers, only two sacks -- emerging from the first significant funk of his 19-game career.

He opened the game with two touchdown drives (75 and 50 yards), hit a lull in the second and third quarters and regained his mojo in the fourth quarter, completing four of five passes for 76 yards. He didn't complete a pass on the day that traveled longer than 20 yards in the air, but he operated a sound, conservative game plan that helped him regain his confidence.

Again, the big story: No turnovers.

"That's a big deal," coach Adam Gase said. "It's been a couple of weeks in a row where he's walked out of those games where he's frustrated with what's happened with the turnovers and the missed opportunities. For him to play a game like that is valuable for his growth."

Darnold actually had some promising moments in last week's rock-bottom loss to the Miami Dolphins, but the baby steps were overshadowed by his horrendous interception in the red zone, an ill-advised pass under pressure that came out like a wet bar of soap. That, Gase insisted, would never happen again.

He was pressured 12 times by the Giants, according to NFL Next Gen Stats data, but he managed to avoid any catastrophic throws. He made a falling-forward throw to wide receiver Robby Anderson that caught some teammates by surprise. He threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score in the first quarter, becoming the first quarterback this season to do both in the opening quarter. His one hiccup: He misfired on a long flea-flicker to wide receiver Vyncint Smith, who had nearly three yards of separation on his man.

"I think, for me, I was just really in control out there," said Darnold, who passed for 230 yards and one touchdown on 19-for-30 efficiency. "I think I did a lot better job of controlling myself, making sure I wasn't doing too much."

That Darnold was more vocal in the huddle underscored a recent trend. Two weeks ago, after a dismal performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he became more assertive in meetings with Gase, according to the coach. He articulated his likes and dislikes in terms of play selection. Gase was taken aback at first, but he welcomed the new attitude. He always wanted Darnold to take ownership of the offense, to show some bite.

Call it part of the maturation process. Remember, he's 22 years old with only 19 starts.

"He understands his role for this franchise, not only the team, but the franchise," left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. "We seek and we get energy from him. He's talking and able to encourage guys. He's seeing things on the field other guys aren't seeing, wanting to go back to certain plays, wanting to go back to certain routes. That's a positive trait."