Reporter of the AFC Est
The New England Patriots were about to win with the yeoman style that has defined their team this year. And then Las Vegas Raiders outside linebacker Chandler Jones did something incredible.
Well, Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers did a horrible thing, a humiliating thing.
But that set Jones up for a game-winning play that was equal parts insane and miraculous.
With the game tied 24-24 and three seconds on the clock, the Patriots, at their own 45-yard line, looked set to settle for overtime. So they ran the ball up the middle with Rhamondre Stevenson. Regulation is over, right? Not too fast. After gaining more than 20 yards, Stevenson lateraled the ball to Meyers, who ran back and passed the ball in the direction of quarterback Mac Jones near the original line of scrimmage. The problem was that Chandler Jones caught the ball. And Mac was the only person between Chandler and the end zone.
You can guess what happened next.
It was an absolute nightmare for New England.
Chandler, stiff-armed, Mac on the ground, and the outside linebacker headed into the end zone for a touchdown with zeroes on the clock. The Raiders won 30-24, putting a big dent in New England’s chances of making the postseason.
The Raiders win on the last play of the miracle
After the Patriots attempted a sideline instead of a Hail Mary, Chandler Jones intercepted the reverse pass and took it to the house as time expired to give the Raiders a 30-24 victory over New England.
There was a lot of confusion about the play.
Did the Patriots plan laterally?
It looked like the coaches called a draw with the intention of running out the clock.
“I should have done it and gone down,” Stevenson said after the game. “I take full responsibility for the play. I just have to know the situation.”
But it wasn’t his pitching that ruined New England’s chances. It was Meyers’ pitch.
“I was trying to do too much,” Meyers said. “Trying to be a hero, I guess.”
And then there was Jones’ missed tackle.
“It’s up to me,” Jones said. “I have to face him and play overtime. That’s up to me.”
And while the coaches didn’t ask for a fullback, it might not have hurt for the coaches to specify Stevenson: Down.
“The play didn’t work,” coach Bill Belichick said. “He made a mistake on the play.”
Everyone is guilty.
The Patriots now have just a 19 percent chance of making the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. If the Pats had won, their chances would be well over 50%, even with the Los Angeles Chargers winning. But New England’s sideline failure may have cost the team a shot at the postseason.
This work will live in infamy in New England. He recalled a play from December 2018 when the Patriots allowed a game-winning touchdown to the Miami Dolphins as time expired, with tight end Rob Gronkowski missing a goal-line tackle. But fullback is worse because it’s more humiliating and because it could cost the Patriots a playoff bid.
But in addition, it is not only the only work. New England’s offense was a disappointment for most of the game. The Patriots wouldn’t have been in this situation if they had gotten 15 more yards to kick a field goal. They wouldn’t have been in this situation if they had prevented the Raiders from scoring in the previous test. They wouldn’t have been in a situation where they needed a win over the Raiders if they had taken care of the Bears or Packers, both of whom stole wins in New England.
The Patriots (7-7) have been hugely frustrating to watch this season.
And at the same time, they have a surprising amount of wins, considering all their problems in attack. The defense has scored more touchdowns (six) than any other team in the NFL. Considering how good this unit is, the Patriots should be a playoff contender. Maybe they should even be a Super Bowl contender. If that sounds crazy, consider that Mac Jones was in the mix to win the rookie of the year award last year. Consider that Jones looked like he had the potential to be a top-tier pocket passer last year.
That’s what the Patriots need: a passing attack. If they had, they would be a legitimate contender in the AFC.
These offensive deficiencies can be traced back to the coaching staff, and a bit of incompetence in acquiring talented players. These two factors have made it impossible for the Patriots to enjoy success on offense. Jones has looked like a shell of his rookie season self. Once a promising prospect, he is trending in the fashion of a bust. And you get the feeling it’s hardly his fault. Offensive lineman Matt Patricia looks completely out of his depth. New England has not built an offense in which Jones can thrive. And the Patriots are about to miss the playoffs because of it.
So, yes, Meyers’ costly side was the crushing blow. But Meyers has been the team’s lone bright spot in an abysmal passing attack. It’s one of the main reasons why New England can move the ball in the air. And it’s a shame that his mental error cost the team this win.
The Patriots could fight to get back into the playoff picture, with games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dolphins and Bills to end the regular season. But when the year ends, the Patriots must prioritize Jones’ development. This will mean adding a real threat, a WR1, for the QB in the passing game. And that will likely mean making a change within the offensive staff as well.
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Prior to joining FOX Sports as an AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.
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