Remember last season? That was wild.
Well, apparently, it was just a warm up. In a 2022 season filled of unlikely finishes, Sunday topped it with one of the most memorable, silliest endings in NFL history as the Las Vegas Raiders beat the New England Patriots 30-24 on a Chandler Jones lateral return on the stupidest play you will ever see as time expired.
Let’s dive into the details:
The gods were smiling:
Nothing will likely ever make up for the Tuck Rule game but it is pretty delicious that this was the Patriots who handed the Raiders this unforgettable victory. This game was over. But the Raiders got a gift call from the officials on a 30-yard touchdown by Keelan Cole to tie the game in the final minute. It’s Ok, we can all admit it, Cole’s foot was out. It would have bene third and 10 from the 30 with just seconds remaining.
But hey, the play stood and then, it was Jakobi Meyers who gifted the Raiders the win. We’ve see these types of things happen on desperation plays at the end of the game. But not like this. This game was seconds from going to overtime. The Patriots didn’t need to be desperate. That’s why it will be remembered as an all-time dumb NFL play. The Raiders have taken a lot of gut punches this season, but this one eases the pain some and will never be forgotten by the Raider Nation.
Win masked some issues:
Could you imagine if the unimaginable didn’t happen? The Raiders were a miracle away from being 0-5 in games that they led by double digits (17-3) at halftime. People would be calling for Josh McDaniels to be fired on the spot right now. The Raiders were outscored 21-0 in the second half until the nuttiness ensued. The offense was awful. The Raiders didn’t do anything. But they found a way to win. Yet, the reality is 14 games into the season and the Raiders are basically who they are. Sometimes they win close games, more often, so far, they lose close games. Today, however, was one of the good days,
Carr throws another Pick 6:
The Patriots started their comeback on a great interception for a touchdown by Kyle Dugger on a screen pass deep in Las Vegas territory. He read it all the way.
Kyle Dugger walks in for the pick-six ‼️— NFL (@NFL) December 18, 2022
: #NEvsLV on FOX
: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/SuNPv0yZ94 pic.twitter.com/a36pvmm0qi
It was the second straight home game that Carr threw a Pick 6. Remarkably, the Raiders won both games. Carr has thrown six interceptions in the past four games and if the Raiders don’t make the playoffs, his play down the stretch could determine in his future in Las Vegas.
Only other player since 1991 to have multiple pick-6s in 5 straight seasons is Philip Rivers, who did it 6 straight from 2011-16 https://t.co/wtYUMNZ0ce— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) December 18, 2022
Yes, playoffs. The Raiders now have a five percent chance of making the playoffs. They need a lot of help, but the Patriots began the gift-giving season Sunday. So, we shall see. Maybe they win their final four games of the season to make the playoffs for the second straight year.
The Raiders’ defense had a stretch in which they allowed 32 straight touchdowns when their opponent had goal-to-go. It ended in the second quarter with a ton of help by the Patriots. New England scored twice in the sequence, but coach Bill Belichick called a time out before one and a false start wiped away another on fourth down. They had to settle for a field goal. By any means necessary, I suppose.
Undrafted rookie linebacker Luke Masterson continued to flash Sunday. He finished with five tackles and he made two big plays on a drive in the second quarter. The Wake Forest safety turned NFL linebacker has taken advantage of his opportunities through injuries and has been a solid starter in recent weeks. It will be interesting to see if the Las Vegas brass pencils him in as a 2023 starter this offseason or looks to upgrade.
Big special teams play:
The Raiders have been quietly solid on special teams this season. Sunday, they came up with a big play, with backup defensive end Malcolm Koonce blocking a punt and taking over deep in New England territory in the final minute of the first half. It setup a touchdown and gave Las Vegas a 17-3 lead at halftime. It was the Raiders’ first blocked punt in eight years.
The Raiders used their 15th different offensive line alignment of the season. With major upheaval at guard, the Raiders started backup center/guard Hroniss Grasu at right guard. Starter Alex Bars didn’t play because of a knee injury he suffered in Week 14. The Raiders just cut guards John Simpson and the injured Lester Cotton. Newly signed Natane Muti was inactive. Perhaps he might be in the mix next week if Bars can’t play at Pittsburgh on Saturday night especially with rookie left guard Dylan Parham hurting his leg Sunday. Jordan Meredith, elevated form the practice squad Saturday, replaced Parham.
Big Patriots’ crowd:
As has been the case, often at Allegiant Stadium was opened to fans last season, there was a big presence by visiting fans. There were many Patriots’ fans in the stands.
Wow. Home game in Vegas! Helluva job traveling— Scott Zolak (@scottzolak) December 18, 2022
It may be a similar situation in the final two home games when the Raiders host the San Francisco 49ers on new Year’s Day and the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 9. Both of those fan bases travel well.