LAS VEGAS — When reporters entered a dead-silent Patriots locker room at Allegiant Stadium, Jakobi Meyers was hunched over at his stall, still wearing his grass-stained No. 16 jersey.
After a few minutes, New England’s best wide receiver removed his shoulder pads, turned toward the assembled media and, eyes red from tears, accepted responsibility for the worst decision of his NFL career.
The Patriots lost to the Raiders 30-24 on Sunday after Meyers received a downfield lateral from running back Rhamondre Stevenson and heaved it across the field toward quarterback Mac Jones. He instead found Las Vegas linebacker Chandler Jones, who intercepted the ball, trucked the Patriots QB and ran 48 yards for a walk-off, game-winning touchdown.
Had Meyers or Stevenson simply fallen to the turf or run out of bounds, the game would have gone to overtime.
“I was just trying to do too much and trying to be a hero, I guess,” a visibly emotional Meyers said after the game. “I didn’t see the dude back there (when I was) throwing the ball. Like I said, I was just trying to do too much. I should have just went down with the ball.”
Meyers said he knew the score was tied and that the play in the huddle did not call for any laterals or other trickery.
“That was just me,” the wideout said. “That was it. I promise you, that was just me trying to make a play. … (The plan was) just run the ball, go down, to go overtime. I got the ball, and I tried to make a play.”
Meyers, who received the pitch from Stevenson at the Raiders’ 33-yard line, said he didn’t notice Chandler Jones lurking on the midfield logo as he looped back and tried to prolong the play.
“I thought I saw Mac open,” he said. “I didn’t see Chandler Jones at the time. I just thought he was open and tried to give it to him and let him try to make a play with it. But the score was tied, so I should have just tried to go down.”
Asked whether he was surprised Stevenson gave him the ball, Meyers replied: “It ain’t even about Rhamondre.”
“Once he gives it to me, I’m smart enough to know the score was tied and to go down with it,” he continued. “Whether he gave me the ball or not, he gave it to me because he trusts me, and I’ve just got to be smarter with it.”
Stevenson also owned up to his mistake postgame, saying he takes “full responsibility.” Multiple Patriots leaders voiced their support for Meyers, with Jones calling him “one of the best teammates (he’s) ever had.”
Minutes earlier, Meyers and Stevenson — New England’s two most talented offensive skill players — had helped the Patriots complete what appeared to be a signature comeback. The former picked up 39 yards on a deep ball from Jones, and the latter followed with a 34-yard touchdown run that put the Patriots ahead with 3:43 remaining. Meyers added the two-point conversion to make it 24-17 and cap a run of 21 unanswered Patriots points.
But the Raiders rallied. A 12-yard completion from Derek Carr to Mack Hollins moved the chains on fourth-and-10, and Carr hit Keelan Cole for a controversial game-tying touchdown five plays later. Cole’s toe appeared to land out of bounds, but officials did not find sufficient video evidence to overturn their on-field touchdown call.
The Patriots were attempting to run out the clock and play for overtime when their ill-advised laterals sunk them.
“Show up to work the next time we’ve got to practice,” Meyers said when asked how the Patriots move on from a crushing loss like this. “Learn from it. I promise you I’ll learn from it. Just try to be better next time.”
Now 7-7 on the season and sitting outside the AFC playoff picture, the Patriots will host the Cincinnati Bengals next Saturday on Christmas Eve.