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Jets get back to work with focus on Jags, not loss to Browns

DENNIS WASZAK Jr. (AP Pro Football Writer)
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, right, throws a pass against the Cleveland Browns during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -- Sam Darnold and the New York Jets were back on the practice field after some time away.

Time enough to mostly clear their heads of the miserable 21-17 loss at Cleveland last Thursday , not that the sting was easy to brush off in the few days since.

''Yeah, they've been pretty hard,'' rookie quarterback Sam Darnold acknowledged Monday. ''I'm not going to lie to you guys.''

New York is 1-2 after playing three games in 11 days and riding a roller coaster of emotions during that brief span. From the highs of a dominant victory at Detroit in the opener to the uneasiness of a loss to AFC East-rival Miami at home six days later to the frustration and disappointment of being the first team to lose to the Browns since 2016.

Now comes the big test for not just Darnold, but the rest of the Jets - including Todd Bowles and his coaching staff. With a game at Jacksonville on tap next, New York needs to rebound from the defeat in Cleveland to prevent the season from spiraling.

''I don't think it's going to be tough at all,'' Bowles insisted. ''It's a long season, we understand that. If we would have won, we would have moved past it. We lost the game, we're going to move past it.''

All eyes will be on Darnold, of course, as they have been from the moment he became the future - and now, present - of the franchise.

The 21-year-old rookie is supremely confident in himself, and has been lauded throughout his playing career for his ability to focus on the task at hand and not repeat mistakes. The Jaguars will surely be aiming to make Darnold uncomfortable on Sunday and force him into errors.

''Yeah, Jacksonville is a great defense,'' Darnold said. ''Obviously, they've got great players, but they also just play together very well. That's what I noticed and that's going to be a fun challenge going up against them in their place.''

Bowles, for one, isn't concerned about Darnold shaking off his play - one touchdown, four interceptions - in New York's two losses.

''I think he'll come out of it fine,'' Bowles said. ''I think Sam has the right mentality and he has the right work ethic to learn what he has done wrong, as well as the rest of the team. They come back out of it, and he's not in it by himself. We are in it as a team.''

And that's why the heat has been turned up a bit under Bowles, who's in his fourth season with the Jets and has a 21-30 record with no playoff appearances.

Owner Christopher Johnson has said there is no postseason mandate for Bowles or general manager Mike Maccagnan. His main priority is seeing overall progress from the team, which makes this a critical stretch for the coach.

An ugly loss such as the one against the Browns can send some teams into a freefall. From the sense he got with his players at practice, Bowles believes there will be no lingering effects.

''We don't carry anything too long,'' he said. ''We have practice to get better at, and we have Jacksonville to get ready for, so we're on to the next one.''

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson, in his first season with the Jets after four with the Rams, echoed his coach's sentiments.

''We can't dwell on that loss,'' he said. ''We've got 13, 14 more games in the season and hopefully the playoffs. Just move on from it.''

But, they also hope to learn from it, too. And fix the mistakes that put the Jets in this position in the first place.

''Yeah we could have coached better and we could have played better,'' Bowles said of blowing 14-3 and 17-14 leads in the second half. ''All the way around on both sides of the ball, including special teams, we just couldn't make a play. There were a lot of things we could have done better that have hurt us in the past two or three weeks that we are going to try and work on.

''We understand that we need to do a better job on both sides.''

NOTES: The Daily News reported that the Jets have reached out to the Steelers to inquire about disgruntled running back Le'Veon Bell, but there's nothing imminent, according to several published reports. ESPN reported Sunday that Pittsburgh is willing to trade Bell, who has yet to play this season while in a contract dispute. ... Bowles is hopeful S Marcus Maye will be closer to playing this week. The second-year safety has been sidelined the first three games with a foot injury.

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