The Jets were 13 seconds away from their first win of the season. From just about midfield, the Raiders needed a miracle.
All New York needed to avoid a winless season was to make one final stop on defense.
Instead, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr found rookie Henry Ruggs III streaking down the far sideline in man coverage with no help over the top. A 46-yard touchdown pass washed away one of New York's best performances of the season in a gut-wrenching 31-28 loss at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets and quarterback Sam Darnold had one last chance to pull off a miracle of their own as time expired, heaving a prayer toward the goal line. The pass was batted down by multiple Las Vegas defenders, clinching the Jets' 12th loss of the season.
It was the offense that brought the Jets back from a 24-13 deficit at the beginning of the second half.
Darnold ended his 10-week touchdown drought, throwing for two while running for another. His four-yard score on the ground, trucking through safety Jeff Heath at the goal line, was the beginning of New York's comeback in the fourth.
Darnold wound up with 186 yards through the air on 14 completions. He threw an interception on another questionable decision and lost two fumbles in the backfield, stripped both times by defensive end Clelin Ferrell.
Wideout Jamison Crowder was on the receiving end of the quarterback's pair of touchdown passes through the air.
At the end of the game, it was New York's inexperienced secondary that simply couldn't hang on to a one-possession lead as time dwindled in the fourth quarter. The Jets made a clutch stop with under two minutes remaining, forcing the Raiders to turn the ball over on downs, but Las Vegas got the ball back and needed only 35 seconds to drive 60 yards and retake the lead.
With the loss, the Jets fall to 0-12 with only four games remaining in the 2020 regular season. Here are two rapid takeaways from New York's latest debilitating defeat.
Struggling secondary strikes again
It wasn't just the second-to-last play of the game. New York's defensive backs had trouble containing Las Vegas' receivers all day long.
Carr ended up with 381 yards through the air on 28 completions. That's the best day a Jets' opposing quarterback has had since Patrick Mahomes threw for more than 400 yards for the Chiefs in Week 8.
Further, for the sixth game in a row, an opposing wideout had more than 100 yards receiving. Tight end Darren Waller set a new career-high with exactly 200 yards on 13 catches, hauling in two touchdown catches as well.
It just seemed like whenever the Jets needed to make a stop, or had built any momentum on the defensive side of the ball, Carr found Waller for a big gain.
On the tight end's second touchdown grab, late in the second quarter, rookie cornerback Bryce Hall didn't just allow Waller to make the grab, but he whiffed on the tackle. Once Waller evaded safety Marcus Maye down the sideline, he scampered to the end zone for a 38-yard score.
Veteran defensive back Arthur Maulet came down with an interception in the first quarter after the ball was tipped in the air by Ruggs. Ruggs also fumbled in the second half, recovered by Maye, but the rookie receiver had the last laugh with five seconds remaining.
Rookie Lamar Jackson was beat down the sideline by Ruggs, who's known for his elite speed, on the fateful game-winning play. With no help from a safety over the middle, as New York questionably sent eight defenders at Carr, it was up to Jackson to prevent the deep ball.
All in all, New York's defensive backs—Hall, Ashtyn Davis (who left the game at one point with a foot injury), Javelin Guidry, and more—are continuing to gather invaluable experience with in-game reps this season. It's hard not to wonder, however, if games like these would end differently if veterans are the ones situated in the secondary.
Jets dominate on the ground (without both Gore and Perine)
After Frank Gore exited Sunday's game after just two plays with a concussion, and with La'Mical Perine sidelined on the injured reserve, you'd think the Jets' rushing attack would have been dormant on Sunday.
It was actually the Jets' biggest weapon on offense as New York eclipsed 200 rushing yards for the first time in 2020.
Second-year running back Ty Johnson led the way for New York, rushing for 104 yards on 22 carries. He had previously rushed for a total of 60 yards on eight carries all season long entering Week 13.
Johnson added a rushing touchdown of his own to cap off New York's comeback and give Gang Green a 28-24 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Factor in another 74 yards from Josh Adams (on eight touches) with 26 yards from Darnold, and New York wound up with a total of 206 yards on the ground.
Gore will still be New York's leading rusher after the loss to the Raiders (521 yards leading up to this weekend), but the performances of Johnson and Adams will almost certainly earn the young backs more carries going forward.
Perine is still a few weeks away from being eligible to return off the IR and Gore has worked hard in his age-37 season up to this point. You have to figure head coach Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will call Johnson and Adams' names more often now that they've proven what they can do.