Deatrich Wise Jr. had the ball in his grasp and appeared to be the only person in Foxborough with a grasp of the situation.
The Patriots' sequoia-like defensive end had just combined with Shilique Calhoun to jolt Derek Carr and knock the ball loose as the Raiders quarterback stood in the center of a collapsing pocket on his own goal line.
In the mass of humanity, Carr’s twisting body partially hid the ball where only Wise could corral it. The 6-foot-5-inch, 275-pounder immediately popped up and started a celebratory touchdown trot.
All those dressed in black and white — the Raiders and the officials — appeared momentarily dumbfounded as teammates flocked to Wise.
After a brief consultation with his brethren, referee Ron Torbert ruled the play a safety, claiming Carr’s knee had touched the turf before the ball squirted out.
Wise knew better. He knew there were more points to be awarded.
"I knew immediately it was a touchdown because as Shilique and I were tackling him, I saw the ball come out,'' Wise said Monday wearing a huge smile. "And I grabbed the ball as the ball was coming out and [Carr] was hitting the ground. I picked it up. And my first thing was to just prove that I had the ball. So, I wanted to prove to everybody that I had the ball in my hand, and I was like, ‘This is a touchdown. Touchdown!’ So, I kept saying, ‘Touchdown,' and then we all just started celebrating.'’
The Patriots were all in on the celebrating, they just all weren’t sure what they were celebrating.
"We didn’t even know he had the ball,'' acknowledged safety Adrian Phillips. "You see Derek about to go down and you realize, ‘OK, he’s in the end zone, so it’s safety.' ''
That’s when it got a little confusing.
"Then you see D-Wise — I call him ‘Brother Man’ — you see him getting up sprinting with the ball, high-kneeing with the ball and I’m like, ‘Oh wait, did he score?’ '' said Phillips.
Torbert retreated to the replay hoodie while the Patriots waited for the ruling. Wise was confident; eventually Torbert came back with the good news.
"I didn’t have anything in my head,'' said Wise. "Just waiting to hear the call, whether it was a touchdown . . . But I already knew it was a touchdown.''
The set off what Wise said was “the best part” — another round of celebrating.
"Pure excitement. Genuine love. That’s what it was,'' said Wise, who got to share the moment with family and friends Sunday night. "And we all just were happy. That was a touchdown and we all celebrated as we know how — together.''
The touchdown, the first of Wise’s career at any level — except in the Madden video game, he said — was the culmination of a great sequence of complementary football in the fourth quarter. It came two plays after the offense scored to give the Patriots a 29-13 lead, and one play after the special teams pinned the Raiders at the 6-yard line on the kickoff.
The always-jovial Wise took great joy in reliving his signature play.
"The linebacker gave us the call. After that, I looked at Shilique and told Shilique, ‘Hey, let’s run a game.’ He nodded. As we put our hands down on the ground, we both could hear the heartbeats thumping knowing that this was a big moment,'' said Wise, as though he was narrating a documentary. "As the ball was snapped, we proceed to follow the stunt. And next thing I know, Shilique and I are both at the quarterback at the same time.''
Wise has always been an efficient pass rusher and he was able to put several Raiders on roller skates Sunday, consistently bending his knees and getting under defenders' pads to drive them back into the pocket.
What has become more evident this season is how well the fourth-year veteran has helped set the edge against the run.
"That’s an area that he really focused on in the offseason and in training camp and we did, as well,'' Bill Belichick said Monday. "He and Coach [DeMarcus] Covington really worked hard on that. I think his run defense has improved and he’s given us a lot of solid play there.
"Of course, we know he can rush the passer, but he’s done a good job of mixing in edge moves and rush techniques with some power and some more power-type rushes — long arms, things like that — so he’s got a good complement and a good repertoire there where he’s got three or four pitches he can throw. But I think the big thing that he really worked hard on and improved is his run defense. So, when you combine all that, he’s given us three real good weeks of play here.''
Wise’s touchdown ball is sitting in his locker right now, but he has bigger plans.
"It’s going to have a nice home in a glass case somewhere on a mantel,'' he said.