If you told people the Las Vegas Raiders would be the benefactors of both replay review and an epic boneheaded mistake, they’d likely laugh as they walked away. But that’s exactly what happened in a wild finish inside Allegiant Stadium this past Sunday.
The visiting New England Patriots not only felt the sting of a lengthy review of Keelan Cole’s 30-yard touchdown pass that was upheld upon further review, but also out-Raider-ed the Raiders on an ill-fated lateral sequence as time expired that ended up with Chandler Jones sprinting 48 yards for the game-winning fumble return to make it 30-24, Silver & Black.
It needs to be seen to believed, thus:
What just happened?? The @Raiders win on the final play!! #NEvsLV pic.twitter.com/cmKNUuab1k— NFL (@NFL) December 19, 2022
Almost makes you wonder if the last-play lunacy would’ve happened if the NFL didn’t decide to flex the matchup out of the primetime Sunday night spot.
“I mean, its football, the ball bounces crazy, crazy ways,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said. “It’s not a predictable game sometimes. And obviously the ending was probably the most insane ending I think I’ve ever been a part of, but we’ll take it. We’ll take it for sure.”
Nonetheless, the stiff arm Jones applied to Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, before his jailbreak sprint to win the game, had power of Raider Nation’s collective frustration after watching the team’s 17-3 halftime lead disappear and turn into a 24-17 deficit with 3:43 left to play. And for McDaniels, there was only one thing going through his mind on that particular Patriots’ gaffe: “Don’t get tackled by the quarterback.”
“I mean, literally I just was thinking — I don’t know what the word would be, but once Rhamondre (Stevenson) pitched the ball to Jakobi (Meyers), I figured we’d probably just tackle whoever had it and then that would be it, and we’d go to overtime,” McDaniels expanded. “And then, when he lateraled the ball, I had no idea. It didn’t seem like a lateral play to me when they handed the ball off to the back. So, when they handed it to the back, I thought, ‘Okay, tackle him and go to overtime.’ And then when I saw the ball up in the air and then I saw Chandler underneath it, I’m thinking, ‘Oh my god, we might have a chance at this.’
“And then when he caught it, I saw Mac (Jones) was back there, and just hoping that he could avoid whatever effort Mac had to tackle him and then hopefully had enough juice left in his body to get to the end-zone.”
Instead of the Raiders contemplating what could’ve been and McDaniels speaking on “hard learning lessons” and “avoiding critical mistakes” after another lost double-digit advantage, that fell on Patriots shoulders.
“We talk about situational football,” New England boss Bill Belichick said in the postgame press conference. “We talk about it every week, but we obviously have to do a better job playing situational football and not making critical mistakes.”
Hold up. Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar? Take Belichick’s name off of that quote and insert McDaniels and you can easily see both coaches say the same exact thing — verbatim.
Another thing that can’t be ignored from the Raiders hellacious victory: The Raiders played complementary football on back-to-back series — offense and defense — to win this ballgame. When it mattered most, Las Vegas executed.
Las Vegas offense was getting manhandled by New England’s defense much of the second half and came to life on the final possession. The offensive line that was getting smothered held up for quarterback Derek Carr. His receiving targets got open and made timely catches. And when the team needed it most, Carr went deep and found Cole in the back left portion of the end zone for the score. Whether his foot was inbounds or not is still up for debate but there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the play, and after the point after, tie ball game.
“In that situation, everybody in the stadium knows you’re throwing it, and I really give credit to our offensive line at that point,” McDaniels noted.
Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as Chandler Jones galloped to the end zone to win Sunday’s game:
—The much-maligned Raiders defense held New England’s offense to three field goals before Stevenson’s 34-yard go-ahead touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. That was the lone TD the group gave up. Point out the 318 total yards surrendered all you like, but Patrick Graham’s unit held strong until it eventually broke down. Yet, it was the defense than won the ballgame.
—Cole finished as the Raiders leading receiver (yards) with two grabs for 50 yards and the 30-yard score. Davante Adams and Mack Hollins tied for the team lead in catches with four apiece.
—Las Vegas tight end Darren Waller returned to action and caught a trio of passes for 48 yards including a 25-yard touchdown strike from Carr. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow returned as well and caught one pass for 14 yards.
—Undrafted free agent Luke Masterson led the Raiders defense with 11 total tackles. He was followed by fellow linebacker Denzel Perryman who racked up nine total stops.
—Las Vegas cornerback Amik Robertson had a solid outing on the boundary as he was sticky in coverage and made plays on the ball in flight. While he finished with only one tackle, he had three passes defensed (deflections).
—While New England deployed three running backs, Las Vegas stuck with workhorse tailback Josh Jacobs and he produced 93 yards on 22 carries.