The New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick took their talents to the desert Sunday to take on the Las Vegas Raiders and his former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in an afternoon showdown between student and teacher. These two teams practiced together in the offseason and played a preseason game together, but this time, the game counted and had playoff implications.
Despite losing their lead in the third quarter, the Raiders won in dramatic fashion yet again after one of the craziest plays in NFL history that resulted in DE Chandler Jones intercepting a long lateral and returning it for a touchdown.
“We have a lot of character in our locker room to continue to fight and press on even when it felt like it was hard… (the) guys came back and made the plays that they need to make to win,” McDaniels said after the game. “The ending was probably the most insane ending I think I have ever been apart of.”
To start the game, each offense had the ball twice in the first quarter. The Raiders managed to get three points on their first drive after being stalled due to penalties, which was a problem for them all game. The Patriots were held scoreless with their first quarter attempts, but started the second quarter with the ball and finished that drive with a field goal, tying the game at three.
The Raiders responded quickly to the field goal with a 25-yard touchdown pass to TE Darren Waller, his first catch of the game. Waller was active today for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury early in the team’s Week 5 loss to Kansas City.
Right before the end of the first half, Raiders DE Malcolm Koonce blocked a Patriots punt, giving the Raiders offense great field position with 27 seconds on the New England 20 yard line. After penalties from both sides, QB Derek Carr threw a dart to WR Mack Hollins in coverage for a five-yard touchdown, capitalizing on the opportunity from Koonce’s blocked punt.
The Raiders went into halftime with a 17-3 lead.
Although the Raiders were up by two scores, many Raiders fans were not getting comfortable. The Raiders have suffered four losses in 2022 after heading into halftime up by two or more scores.
After the half ended, history seemed to be repeating itself. Carr threw a pick-six to Patriots DB Kyle Dugger on a screen play that was intended for WR Davante Adams, closing the score gap by one possession.
The Patriots dominated the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points and taking a 24-17 lead with under five minutes left to play. McDaniels and his high-powered offense stalled on their first try at a touchdown and punted the ball, trusting that the defense led by DEs Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones would prevent the Patriots from running out the clock, and they did just that.
The Raiders offense had one more shot with 2:11 remaining, needing to drive for a touchdown. The first three attempts were deep shots intended for WR Hunter Renfrow and WR Mack Hollins. The failed attempts left the Raiders with one more try to extend the game and on fourth and 10, Derek Carr hit Hollins on the sideline for a first down.
The Raiders moved fast and efficient after the first down, throwing another quick first down to Hollins for 13 yards, a 20-yard first down to TE Darren Waller after a Josh Jacobs pick up of six, and then a 30-yard touchdown pass to WR Keelan Cole in coverage.
Cole’s catch was ruled a touchdown and was reviewed by officials due to his left foot appearing to be out of bounds in the endzone. After review, the officials could not find enough evidence to overturn the play and the touchdown was upheld, tying the game at 24.
Belichick and his offense had 32 seconds to get a field goal but couldn’t move the ball into range. On a seemingly harmless handoff to RB Rhamondre Stevenson to run out the clock, the running back ran for 23 yards and then tried to get tricky with a lateral to WR Jakobi Meyers. Meyers threw the ball all the way back to near the line of scrimmage on a lateral intended for QB Mac Jones, but Chandler Jones picked the ball out of the air. Chandler Jones threw Mac Jones to the ground with a stiff arm and ran down the field, ending the game with a touchdown with no time on the clock.
“Don’t ask me to explain that one,” QB Derek Carr said as he walked up to the podium for his post-game press conference.
The Raiders next head to Pittsburgh for a Christmas Eve bout with the Steelers on the anniversary of “The Immaculate Reception.” The Raiders are now 6-8 with three games remaining and an outside shot at the playoffs.
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