LAS VEGAS — The Patriots on Sunday suffered a disastrous, self-inflicted 30-24 loss to the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. A game that should’ve gone to overtime instead ended on a last-second Chandler Jones touchdown after a pair of ill-advised laterals by Rhamondre Stevenson and Jakobi Meyers.
It’s easy to blame the players for what happened at the end of the stunning defeat in Las Vegas. But could New England’s coaches themselves have prevented what transpired on the final play?
With three seconds left in a tied game, and with the ball at their own 45-yard line, the Patriots called a draw for Stevenson with the intention of running out the clock and playing for overtime. Instead, at the end of the 23-yard scamper, Stevenson lateraled to Meyers, who attempted a lateral to Mac Jones that was picked off by Chandler Jones.
The result begs the question: Why not just try a Hail Mary? At best, Jones only would’ve needed to throw the ball 55 yards. At worst, he would’ve needed a 60-ish-yard throw after dropping back a few yards.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked that very question during his postgame news conference.
“Couldn’t throw it that far,” Belichick said before repeating himself. “Couldn’t throw it that far.”
OK, but, is that actually true? If Belichick was referencing Jones’ arm strength, he might’ve been wrong.
As pointed out by Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Jones completed a pass to Jaylen Waddle during Alabama’s 2020 season opener that traveled just over 55 yards in the air. Furthermore, most pro-level quarterbacks can throw the ball 55 yards, even those like Jones with average arm strength.
Take a look:
Now, does that mean a Hail Mary would’ve been the right call? Not necessarily.
New England likely wanted to avoid any chance of a turnover and just take its chances in overtime. Belichick and Matt Patricia didn’t call for a lateral on the final play, as revealed by both Stevenson and Meyers.
You certainly could argue that handing the ball to Stevenson was the correct low-risk, high-reward play call. But nobody, including Belichick, can argue that Jones couldn’t have gotten the ball to the end zone on a Hail Mary attempt — unless he’s dealing with an arm injury that we don’t know about or has lost significant arm strength since college.
In any case, the Patriots will look to pick themselves up and earn a victory in next Saturday’s must-win home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.