Sometimes when watching sports, one witnesses a play so ridiculous and inexplicable that one’s brain cannot even properly process what exactly has just happened. Case in point: the bizarre final sequence of the New England Patriots’ backbreaking 30-24 road loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. We may have witnessed the moment when the Patriots Dynasty was finally in the rearview mirror.
Officially, the game ended with Raiders’ defensive end Chandler Jones picking up a lateral from Patriots receiver Jakobi Meadows and running into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown. According to official game stats, it was a fumble recover. But none of this quite captures the chaos that rapidly unfolded in the game’s final seconds.
Let’s start with the situation: the clock was running out in a 24-24 game. In such situations, it is normal to put ball security first and give the opposing team no chance of scoring on a turnover. Perhaps you allow your quarterback to attempt a Hail Mary and throw directly to your goal zone.
Instead, Patriots running back Rhamondre Stephenson ran for 23 yards, before inexplicably, lateralizing the ball to Meyers. Meyers then threw the ball to … well, he threw the ball, that’s all that’s certain. Presumably he was trying to find QB Mac Jones, but instead it was snatched out of the air by Jones who – after stiff-arming the New England signal-caller to create an image that will live on in football infamy – took it to the house.
“Collectively we made too many mistakes,” head coach Bill Belichick said in a tense postgame interview. (Yes, even more so than usual.
He wasn’t referring to just that one play, which itself involved multiple screwups, but to a series of moments scattered throughout the loss that were inexplicable for a team that’s built its brand, during Belichick’s storied tenure, on a mastery of situational football. In the first half, the Pats were able stop a potential touchdown through a bizarre timeout call. This effectively made them icing themselves. In a glimpse of what was to follow, the Raiders prevented a Patriots punt in the 35th second. They quickly scored a touchdown on the next possession to take a 17-3 lead at halftime.
Truth be told, the Patriots could not win this game because the Raiders had a bad track record of losing leads. Until the last 34 seconds of the game, Las Vegas had allowed 21 unanswered points and there’s even a convincing argument that Derek Carr’s late game-tying touchdown to Keelan Cole should have been ruled out of bounds.
It ultimately didn’t matter. The Patriots did everything they could to lose this game. They are now tied for third in the AFC at 7-7 with the New York Jets. New England are not mathematically eliminated from postseason play but this does not resemble a postseason team in the slightest and – for maybe the first time in the Belichick era – the coaching staff clearly bears much of the blame.
MVP of Week
Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills. The Bills have secured at least a playoff slot by defeating a Miami Dolphins team, which was trying to retain its AFC East title hopes alive. After leading by eight points at the end of the fourth quarter, Miami led 32-29 before Josh Allen managed his team’s comeback victory. Allen was able to throw for four touchdowns and gain 304 yards, while running for another 77.
Video of the Week
Yes, that’s Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields making yet another improbable play. It’s not just that he nearly scored a touchdown here, it’s the sheer number of Philadelphia Eagles defenders he managed to elude along the way. After Sunday’s game, Fields already has rushed for over 1,000 yards on the season, something which puts him in the company of Lamar Jackson, Michael Vick … and that’s it.
Fields was also solid on Sunday throwing the ball, going 14-for-21 and rushing for two touchdowns for a total 152 yards. However, as has been the case all season long, his heroics weren’t enough to secure a Bears victory. The now 13-1 Philadelphia Eagles defeated Chicago 25-20 and now need just one more win to clinch the NFC’s top seed.
Stat of the Week
33 points. That’s now officially the largest deficit ever surmounted by an NFL team following the Minnesota Vikings’ epic comeback win over the hapless Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Yes, this year’s slate of Saturday NFL games began with an instant classic as the Vikings went from being down 33-0 to winning 39-36 in overtime.
With the win, the 11-3 Vikings clinched the NFC North, but didn’t quite answer their critics. It is true that this Minnesota team has shown it can overcome a 33-point deficit but also that it can win one. It takes more than luck to go 9-0 In one-score games like the Vikings’, they will now have to see if their luck holds up in the playoffs.
This latest embarrassment for the 4-9-1 Colts feels like the official end to the Jeff Saturday experiment. Of course, this is the team that hired the inexperienced Saturday as head coach in the first place, despite ample warnings that the decision was doomed from the start, so that’s not a guarantee.
Quote of the Week
“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of something like that.” – Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith on New Orleans Saints receiver Rashid Shaheed’s scary pregame collision with Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees
That was probably an understatement on Smith’s part. While injuries are an unfortunate part of the NFL, these are much less common during warm ups and rarely involve any coaching staff. Pees, the oldest defense coach in the league was taken by medical staff to the hospital on a stretcher. After being treated for his injuries, he was released.
After the Saints’ 21-18 win, Shaheed commented on the play. “I never saw him,” he said. “I immediately was super concerned. But I got word that he’s back from the hospital, he’s healthy and doing OK, so I’m thankful for that. … If he sees this, I’m sorry.”
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The New York Jets’ playoff hopes are now in desperate straits after their 20-17 loss to the Detroit Lions. New York’s Zach Wilson took over as quarterback after Mike White was not cleared. Wilson wasn’t spectacular against the Detroit Lions, but he managed to lead them to a late 17-13 lead. Unfortunately, the Jets’ defense couldn’t hold on, giving up a 51-yard touchdown on a fourth down with less than two minutes left. New York were, improbably, able to give Greg Zuerlein the chance to hit a 48-yard game-winning field goal, but the kicker couldn’t convert. Detroit improved their record by 7-7 and kept them alive in wild-card contention.
Rayshawn Jenkins, Jacksonville Jaguars safety, scored a game-winning pick-6 in overtime against Dallas Cowboys to secure a victory of 40-34. Jenkins’ one-handed stop was enough to keep Jacksonville in the playoff race.
The key to the Jags’ resurgence has been quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who threw four touchdowns against a legitimate Cowboys defense. Lawrence has an 111.2 passing rating since Week 9. best in the league during that stretchWith only one interception, he threw 14 touchdown passes. Last season, the Jaguars were just 3-14 and dead last in their division. Jacksonville has already doubled their win total and have a genuine chance at winning the AFC South, especially after the Tennessee Titans’ 17-14 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
For the second straight week, the Houston Texans came dangerously close to winning a game against a superior team, forcing the favored Kansas City Chiefs to play overtime before their opponents’ inevitable 30-24 win. The Chiefs clinched the AFC West with the win, while the loss dropped the Texans’ record to 1-12-1, bringing them one step closer to the first pick in next year’s NFL draft. In a sense, both were winners.