LAS VEGAS – The Patriots nearly pulled off their best win of the season Sunday, then disaster struck at Allegiant Stadium.
Deservedly trailing 17-3 at halftime, New England 21 unanswered points to take a 24-17 fourth-quarter lead against the Raiders. But Derek Carr orchestrated a game-tying drive in the final two minutes, punctuated by a controversial touchdown strike to Keelan Cole.
The Patriots got the ball back and attempted to conduct a game-winning drive, but the once-promising effort ended in misery. On the final play of the game, Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for 23 yards before lateralling Jakobi Meyers, who inexplicably attempted a cross-field backward pass to Mac Jones. The ball was intercepted by former Patriot Chandler Jones, who returned it 48 yards for a game-winning touchdown as time expired. The final score: 30-24, Raiders.
It was truly unbelievable.
When the dust settled, Jones completed 13 of 31 passes for 112 yards and zero touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception and finished with a passer rating of 52.1.
On the other side, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr completed 20 of 38 passes for 231 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a score by Kyle Dugger.
The Patriots dropped to 7-7 with the win while the Raiders improved to 6-8 with the win. With the Los Angeles Chargers beating the Tennessee Titans, New England now is outside of the AFC playoff picture.
Here are three studs and three duds from a wild game in Las Vegas.
So much for that injured ankle. Stevenson was dynamic against the Raiders, running hard and showing great burst despite missing two practices during the week. He finished the game with 172 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries to go along with two catches for minus-four yards. The Patriots have no excuse for not giving him the ball at the end of their second drive, as the Raiders looked incapable of stopping him throughout the contest. Stevenson might be the best player on the team.
The O-line arguably was the top concern for New England entering Sunday, but the group largely held its own against a strong Vegas pass rush. Jones wasn’t sacked once and the Patriots averaged 7.1 yards per carry on the ground. New England needs this kind of offensive line play moving forward if it wants to make the postseason.
It’s a shame Vegas went on its game-tying drive in the fourth, as Patriots corners were having a fantastic afternoon before the final two minutes of regulation. Prior to that drive, Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Mack Hollins combined for just seven catches for 57 yards — and New England was without both Jack Jones and Jalen Mills. This was a very impressive showing, particularly from Jonathan Jones and rookie Marcus Jones.
Honorable mentions: Kyle Dugger, Kevin Harris, Pierre Strong, Davon Godchaux, Josh Uche, Nick Folk and Ja’Whaun Bentley
QB Mac Jones
Jones was very shaky in this game, missing multiple open receivers during the first half and at times looking rattled by the environment. He ultimately is to blame for his false-start penalty that wiped out a touchdown in the first quarter and some of his decision-making was questionable at best. This was a disappointing follow-up to his strong showing last Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals. That it came against the NFL’s last-ranked DVOA pass defense makes it even worse.
Feels like the coaching lands in this section every week. The Patriots were an undisciplined mess during this game, especially during the first half. After they got the ball to the half-yard line, the Patriots called two timeouts, one of which wiped out a touchdown, and were called for a false start on a fourth-down QB-sneak attempt. The play-calling during the sequence was baffling. And the disastrous blocked punt at the end of the first half speaks for itself. It still feels crazy to say, but New England doesn’t play like a well-coached team.
After a stretch of strong games, this unit came crashing back to Earth. The blocked punt was just terrible, and the Patriots gave up multiple long kickoff returns, including one that fortunately was negated by a Raiders penalty. Palardy wasn’t very good when getting his punts off, either. At least Nick Folk made all of his kicks.
Honorable mentions: Jakobi Meyers, Adrian Phillips, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry