DETROIT – Sam Darnold made a stellar debut despite throwing a pick-6 on his first NFL pass and the New York Jets intercepted five passes while routing the Detroit Lions 48-17 in their season opener Monday night.
The 21-year-old Darnold became the youngest quarterback to start a season opener since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and he got off to an inauspicious start. Quandre Diggs intercepted his ill-advised lob down the left sideline on the first play from scrimmage and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown 20 seconds into the game.
The former USC star shook off the rough start by completing 16 of 21 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He helped the Jets set a franchise record for points on the road, surpassing the 47 points they scored in 1967 against the Boston Patriots, and 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. He was mercifully taken out of the game midway through the fourth quarter and replaced by Matt Cassel with Detroit down 31. 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.
The Jets dominated in all phases. They scored 31 straight in the third quarter to pull away, sending Detroit’s fans for the exits and setting off a jolly green party in the Motor City.