LAS VEGAS — Jakobi Meyers sat with his head down, silently staring at the floor in front of his locker when the Patriots receiver politely asked for a moment as reporters approached following Sunday’s bizarre 30-24 walkoff loss to the Raiders.
After gathering himself, a clearly emotional Meyers took full responsibility for the final play, an attempted lateral to Mac Jones that Las Vegas’s Chandler Jones snagged and stiff-armed Mac to the turf before galloping 48 yards for the jackpot touchdown.
“Just trying to do too much. Just trying to be a hero, I guess,’’ said Meyers, who grabbed an initial lateral from Rhamondre Stevenson and then tried to keep the play going by sending a spiral back toward his quarterback. “I [didn’t] see the dude back there … I should’ve had just went down with the ball.’’
Chandler Jones’s score — technically termed a fumble recovery — capped a wild finish to a wild game in which the Raiders, who trailed, 24-17 late, rallied with two scores in the final 32 seconds for the win.
Several Patriots, including Stevenson (“I should have just gotten down”) and Mac (“I’ve got to tackle the guy”), defended Meyers while also taking blame for the ending.
Holding a 7-point lead with 3:43 left, the Patriots’ defense, which had been giving the Raiders fits after intermission, couldn’t close the door.
Derek Carr led an 81-yard march that included a fourth-and-10 conversion and 30-yard disputed touchdown pass to Keelan Cole that could have gone either way. Ruled a touchdown on the field, it was upheld on review despite several angles in which it appeared Cole’s foot came down out of bounds.
During yet another interminable NFL review, Patriots players signaled no catch while the Raiders were calling touchdown during the myriad replays shown on Allegiant Stadium’s gargantuan TVs.
“We looked at every available angle and it was not clear and obvious that the foot was on the white,’’ senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson said in a pool report. “It was very tight, very close. There was no shot that we could see — we even enhanced and blew up the views that we had. There was nothing that was clear and obvious that his foot was touching the white.”
New England got the ball with 32 seconds left at the 25 and overtime felt inevitable. The Patriots, however, moved the ball and Stevenson got as far as the Las Vegas 30 before calamity ensued.
“Once you give it to me, I’m smart enough to know the score was tied and to go down with it,’’ said Meyers. “[Rhamondre] gave me the ball because he trusts me. I’ve just got to be smarter with it.’’
So, like a lot of visitors to Sin City, the Patriots came home feeling a little bankrupt.
New England ended its nine-day trip to the desert with a long, likely quiet flight, a 7-7 record, and another short week staring at them with the Bengals coming to town Christmas Eve.
The loss overshadowed a nice bounce back. Trailing, 17-3, the Patriots, sparked by Kyle Dugger’s pick-6, ran off 21 straight points, culminating with Stevenson’s 34-yard touchdown run that gave New England its first lead at 24-17.
It was the opposite of the first half, which featured another blown red-zone opportunity, a blocked punt, and presnap penalties.
Naturally, Vegas drew first blood (Pirates are bloodthirsty, right?) when Daniel Carlson connected from 49 yards for a 3-0 lead.
It could have been worse for the Patriots, but back-to-back flags (delay of game, illegal man downfield) on the Raiders led to a third and 15 and New England’s pass rush rattled Carr, who gunned the ball to the turf.
After trading punts, the Patriots evened it at 3 on Nick Folk’s 24-yard field goal.
New England appeared poised to take the lead on the drive, but a Jones-to-Meyers 1-yard touchdown pass was wiped out as Bill Belichick called for a timeout a split-second before the snap.
Jones couldn’t connect with Nelson Agholor on third down and on a fourth-down attempt, Jonnu Smith jumped early, leading to the decision to kick the field goal.
The Raiders built on that momentum to retake the lead on an 11-play, 76-yard touchdown drive for a 10-3 advantage.
Mixing in plenty of Josh Jacobs (93 yards, 22 carries), who’s hide-and-seek style allows him to be patient, find holes, and really wear down a defense, Carr then found Darren Waller zipping down the middle of the field by himself, and he waltzed into the end zone.
The final two minutes of the half were an abject disaster for the Patriots. Following a 17-yard run by Stevenson, the offense went backward, resulting in a punt.
Poor protection allowed the Raiders’ Malcolm Koonce to slice through the line, however, and he deflected Michael Palardy’s punt, giving the Raiders prime position at the Patriots’ 20.
The Patriots’ hopes of the vaunted double score — they were to receive the kickoff in the second half — were quickly dashed.
It took just two plays for the Raiders to cash in, Carr hitting Mack Hollins on a 5-yard crosser for a 17-3 lead that felt much larger as the teams jogged to the locker room, the hosts with much more pep in their step.
The Patriots’ offense stalled again to open the second half, but as it has time and again this season, the defense provided a spark.
Flashing great presnap recognition, Dugger sneaked toward the line of scrimmage and jumped Carr’s quick attempt to star receiver Davante Adams (4 catches, 28 yards). The safety, who said he recognized the formation from his film study, jogged untouched into the end zone from 16 yards, cutting the deficit to 17-10.
It was New England’s league-high sixth non-offensive touchdown of the season.
Two more Folk field goals (from 47 and 54 yards) and Stevenson’s run had the crowd, which featured a heavy Patriots presence, in a frenzy as thoughts of double desert wins danced in their heads.
And then the final two minutes happened.
“Too many mistakes and too many bad plays,’’ said Belichick. “And it cost us.’’
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- Inside the final play: Patriots’ Jakobi Meyers said he was just trying to improvise. It didn’t work.
- Why Raiders WR Keelan Cole’s late TD catch against the Patriots wasn’t overturned
- The interception, the stiff-arm, the celebration: Inside the biggest moment of Chandler Jones’s career