With 1:49 left on the clock and his team down by four, Derek Carr lined the Las Vegas Raiders up for a critical fourth-and-3 play from the New York Jets’ 9-yard line. Somehow, despite at one point leading by 11 with the ball in the second half against the winless Jets, the Raiders’ playoff chances were hanging by a thread — and they needed a miracle.
As the play began to break down (which was a common theme on Sunday), Carr found ole reliable (Hunter Renfrow) in the endzone for what appeared to be the go-ahead touchdown. Except it wasn’t. Both teams were called for a hold, and so the Raiders would have to do it again.
This time, Carr’s pass for Nelson Agholor missed the mark, and with 1:37 left on the clock, the Jets took over.
I can’t believe the Raiders blew this — and against the freaking Jets. It was all I could think watching a team that two weeks ago was seemingly on top of the world before getting annihilated by the lowly Atlanta Falcons last week and then blowing a double-digit second half lead to a team that had little interest in winning.
But then, there was hope.
The Raiders still had two timeouts, and despite being able to run all over the Las Vegas defense throughout the day, the Jets gained just five yards on the three biggest carries of the game. That meant the Raiders would get the ball back with a little bit of time.
First-and-10 with 35 seconds left: Carr finds Darren Waller for 15 yards and a first down to the Jets’ 46.
First-and-10 with 19 seconds left: Spike.
Second-and-10 with 19 seconds left: Carr just misses Agholor on a deep ball.
Third-and-10 with 11 seconds left: hallelujah.
By now I’m sure you’ve seen the play, but if not here you go:
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 6, 2020
The now-fired defensive coordinator of the Jets, Gregg Williams, decided to bring the house — a move that has been mocked in every corner of the world since — and it gave the Raiders the tiniest window of opportunity imaginable, which they took advantage of.
I don’t mean to downplay the stupidity of blitzing everyone when the only way you lose is on a Hail Mary (not to mention that the Raiders were at midfield and had no timeouts left) — but let’s not diminish what Carr did here either. He saw the pressure coming and called for Waller — his best receiver in the game — to stay in and block. Then, when the pocket collapsed as expected, he bought himself an extra second by stepping up into it, giving Ruggs the time he needed to execute his double move. Finally, with no base or platform to throw off of, he dropped an absolute dime 50 yards down the field to Henry Ruggs III for the game-winning score.
This was the 20th fourth-quarter-comeback of Carr’s career (and 23rd career game-winning-drive), which is the most all-time by quarterbacks in the first seven seasons of their career.
At the end of the day, the Raiders won and remain within striking distance of the playoffs in the AFC — despite Miami, Indanapolis and Cleveland all winning in front of them. But it also served as a much-needed reminder that the Raiders aren’t good enough to coast against anyone.
Yes this was another 10 a.m. East Coast game. Yes the Raiders were without Johnathan Abram, Josh Jacobs, Trent Brown and others. But these were the Jets, and when you’re up 11 in the second half with the ball, you need to step on the throat and end it — which they failed to do multiple times. If the Raiders want to make a serious run this season — which is still well within their power — this has to be the last sloppy game they play in 2020.
Offensive MVP: Darren Waller
Carr’s numbers were gaudy, but he wasn’t perfect on the day — missing his spots in a few different key moments. The MVP offensively was Waller, who finished with 13 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns — including huge catches just about every time the Raiders needed one. While Waller remains second in most categories among tight ends, he still has lacked the consistency you see from a guy like Travis Kelce — which is only frustrating when you see him do this. Regardless, the Raiders needed a boost on Sunday, and Waller gave it to them.
Defensive MVP: Clelin Ferrell
The former No. 4 overall pick has been subjected to plenty of criticism since he was picked (far too early according to most draft experts) in 2019, but Sunday was arguably the best game of his career. He finished with two sacks, two forced fumbles, three hurries, four tackles and a pass deflection — all in a game that was won by the smallest of margins. For those that really dig in, you can tell that Ferrell is very good against the run — but the question has been whether he’ll ever figure it out as a pass rusher. If Sunday is any indication, the answer is yes, especially if you consider he did it all against left tackle Mekhi Becton — who has been highly praised all season.
Special Teams MVP: Daniel Carlson
He wasn’t extraordinary on Sunday, but he deserves a shoutout because he has been so consistent. Only three players in the league have more field goals than Carlson while maintaining a 90%+ field goal percentage — and he’s fifth in the league in extra point percentage as well.
- Damon Arnette, for the second game in a row, left the field on the first possession with a head injury. Last week he came back in before leaving again with concussion-like-symptoms. As much as I’d like to see this guy play, what in the world was he doing back out there so quickly? I’m not a doctor, but it seems reckless to think he’ll be back out there next Sunday.
- Henry Ruggs III had quite the rollercoaster game on Sunday. For a guy many Raider fans have longed to see more involved, he saw a ball bounce off his hands for an interception in the first half, and then he fumbled the ball in the second half when the Raiders were looking to extend the lead. The interception is one I’d place equal blame on he and Carr — as the pass could have been a whole lot better, especially considering Ruggs was about to get lit up. On the flip side, it hit his hands. Yet for all that to precede the game-winning touchdown had to be a huge confidence boost for Ruggs.
- If I had one major issue with the Raiders on Sunday, it was how conservative they got in the second half. They got the ball up 11 twice in the third quarter, and seemed to have no interest in extending the lead. On the day, the Raiders averaged 2.9 yards per carry with Jacobs out (and going against a fairly solid run defense), and yet, after relying on the pass to move the chains early, they seemed content to run clock. The result? 24 yards on the three possessions after taking an 11-point lead. The next time they got the ball, they were then losing. Defensively it was more of the same: up 24-13 heading into the fourth, the defense let the Jets march 96 yards — 85 of them coming on the ground! — to cut the lead to four.
- Part of the reason Carr was just “good” and not “great” was the pressure he was under. While the Raider offensive line has held up well so far despite injuries, the past couple of weeks have started to show some cracks. Carr was sacked twice and hit six times, and as the game went on you could see him starting to be a tad erratic with his accuracy.