The Las Vegas Raiders didn’t exactly look like a playoff team, but they pulled off a miracle on Sunday to break a two-game losing streak and keep their post-season hopes alive.
Derek Carr threw desperation 46-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs III with five seconds left to give the Raiders a 31-28 victory over the winless New York Jets at MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J.
“We knew we needed a play, and coach dialed up the double move and once I’m coming off the ball I kind of see that it’s there and I got the DB to flip his hips,” said Riggs, who caught three passes for 84 yards in the game. “Once I looked back, it felt like the ball was in the air forever, like it couldn’t come down.
“I had to make some plays … and the way the game was going, the bad plays I had, I wasn’t happy with it. I knew at some point, I had to come back and make a play to make up for it. It just so happened coach called my number at the end of the game.”
Ruggs, who couldn’t hold a pass that turned into an interception early in the game and lost a fumble that the Jets turned into the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, got behind cornerback Lamar Jackson down the left sideline, where Carr hit him in stride at the goal line.
“I couldn’t believe they all-out blitzed us. As soon as I saw it, I was thankful” Carr said. “ … Sure enough, I saw the safety start cheating over. I saw the nickel (back) start to creep in. The (weakside) linebacker was creeping in. The Mike (middle linebacker) started walking up. I was like, ‘Oh, buddy.’
“I threw it as high as I could and just prayed that he’d run up to it. I thank Mr. (Mike) Mayock for drafting that man because I don’t know how many guys would have went and got that football.”
Said Jets safety Marcus Maye: "We could have been in a better (defense) at that stage of the game.”
The play came on the 50th anniversary of Daryle Lamonica’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Warren Wells with one second left on a tipped ball in the back of the end zone that gave the Raiders a 14-13 victory over the Jets, after George Blanda’s extra point, at Shea Stadium in New York.
The Raiders (7-5) avenged a 34-3 loss to the Jets (0-12) last year that sent their season spinning out of control as they lost four of the last games to finish 7-9 and out of the playoffs, and ended a six-game road losing streak against the Jets dating to 1994.
“That was a great win for us and I’m really proud of our players and how they finished,” Coach Jon Gruden said. “Plenty of things to clean up. We were missing a lot of key players today and went to the East Coast (and won) on a short week after a tough outing. It’s a character builder for us.”
Carr, who completed 28-of-47 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns in addition to running for another score, took the Raiders 61 yards in three plays after getting the ball with 35 seconds remaining, completing the 23rd fourth-quarter comeback victory in his career.
The Raiders seemed to be doomed when Carr’s pass intended for wide receiver Nelson Agholor fell incomplete in the end zone on fourth-and goal from the 3-yard-line with 1:37 left, one play after Carr hit Hunter Renfrow in the end zone, but the touchdown was nullified by offsetting penalties.
After allowing the Jets to rush for 206 yards in the game, the Raiders forced Darnold and the Jets to go three-and-out to give Carr and the Raiders one last and seemingly hopeless chance.
But Ruggs’ 4.2-second speed in the 40-yard-dash proved to be too much for fellow rookie Jackson, an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska, and the Jets’ hopes to win for the first time this season.
The Raiders took a 17-13 lead with a 38-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darren Waller with 1:12 remaining in the first half and increased the lead to 24-13 on Carr’s two-yard touchdown scramble with 7:52 left in the third quarter to cap a 75-yard drive following the second-half kickoff.
Waller had the biggest game of his career with 13 catches, including a 14-yarder to start the game-winning drive, for 200 yards, and two touchdowns.
However, the Raiders went three-and-out on their next two possessions, allowing the Jets to get back into the game with a 96-yard scoring drive, mostly on the ground, capped by Darnold’s three-yard touchdown run.
“We should have won that game,” said Darnold, who was coming back from a shoulder injury and had not thrown a touchdown pass since Week 3.
Darnold hit wide receiver Denzel Mims with a two-point conversion pass and the Raiders’ lead was sliced to 24-21 left with 10:22 left in the game.
Three plays later, Ruggs fumbled after catching a pass from Carr for 12 yards, with cornerback Javelin Guidry knocking the ball loose and safety Marcus Maye recovering for the Jets at the Las Vegas 44-yard-line.
Six plays later, Ty Johnson’s three-yard touchdown run gave the Jets a 28-24 lead with 5:38 left and set the stage for the wild, final minutes.
Johnson led the Jets with 104 yards on 22 carries, while Josh Adams had 74 yards on eight carries.
Darnold completed 14-of-23 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw an interception to cornerback Trayvon Mullen and was sacked twice by defensive end Clelin Ferrell and once by linebacker Nicholas Morrow.
“It was so hard to really enjoy it because the game was so much a sway of emotions the whole game,” Ferrell said. “I know the Raiders fans were really, really trippin' the whole game. Up-and-down, up-and-down—it was crazy.”
The Raiders forced three turnovers on as Jets possessions while turning the game around in the second quarter on Mullen’s interception and Darnold’s fumbles on both of Ferrell’s sacks.
The Raiders, hoping to make up for last week’s pathetic show on the ground against the Atlanta Falcons, were without starting running back Josh Jacobs and rushed for only 60 yards, with Devontae Booker leading the way with 50 yards on 16 carries.
The Silver and Black, happy to still be alive in the wild card race, hope to keep the good things going when the return to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas next Sunday to play the Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Philip Rivers, who they know all too well from his days with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers.
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