It was a shocking finish to the Patriots-Raiders matchup as the game appeared headed to overtime but ended in the closing moments thanks to a head-scratching and devastating final play by New England.
The Patriots had initially fallen into a 14-point first-half deficit but made an impressive second-half comeback to briefly take the lead. But then things fell apart as the defense allowed a late game-tying touchdown and then the offense blew the final play of the game with Chandler Jones taking an ill-fated lateral to the house for the most shocking game-ending since the Miami Miracle in 2018.
The Raiders walked off with a shocking 30-24 win that put a major nail in the Patriots playoff coffin.
The late game mistake matched the early game mistakes, as a blocked punt just before the half loomed large and miscues added up for the Patriots and directly translated to the scoreboard.
Even with a boost from Kyle Dugger's pick-six and multiple stops by their defense, the Patriots weren't able to mount enough of an offensive attack to outpace their own mistakes and the dangerous weaponry on the Vegas roster that made enough plays to get the win. Rhamondre Stevenson had a strong game with some impressive runs, while a banged-up New England secondary held up well against Davante Adams.
Unfortunately, it was not enough for the Patriots as they drop to 7-7 with three games to go. Here's how it all went down and what the key takeaways were.
Early penalties and mistakes keep the score down
The game got off to a slow start, with the Raiders taking the opening kickoff on a long drive that ultimately stalled due to two self-inflicted penalties, a delay of game call then an ineligible receiver downfield that cost them ten yards in the high red zone, ending the promising drive with a field goal that opened the scoring.
The Patriots offense would find a stride on their second possession after an initial four-and-out, with Mac Jones hitting Tyquan Thornton on a key third-down conversion to keep the drive alive. But as has been the case too many times this season the Patriots offense would peter out as they closed in on the end zone. Set up with a 1st-and-goal from the two-yard line they were ultimately forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal.
New England initially showed they were going for it on 4th-and-goal from the two, but Mac Jones snapped the ball for the QB sneak before Jonnu Smith was set and a false start was the resulting penalty that backed them up five yards and took going for it off the table. This came on the heels of a called timeout that negated what would've been a Jakobi Meyers touchdown. The miscommunication and general sloppiness continued in the red zone for the Patriots.
Waller makes his return felt
Darren Waller has played just five games this season but in the second quarter he showed how dangerous he can be, breaking loose from Adrian Phillips for a too-easy 25-yard touchdown strike up the seam to put Vegas ahead 10-3.
The Patriots defense, hampered by the absences of both Jack Jones and Jalen Mills, seemed intent on keeping the Raiders attack in front of them and for the most part they were successful during the game, save a few key plays that were ultimately the difference. Marcus Jones had one of the early plays of the game, defending a pinpoint deep throw to Davante Adams that would've been an explosive score.
The scrappy trio of Jones, Myles Bryant and Jonathan Jones hung tough against the Raiders receiving group. This Waller touchdown was the only impactful big play they allowed all game.
After getting stopped at the goal line and settling for three points, the Patriots offense went stagnant for the remainder of the first half, going three-and-out on the first possession and then things went from bad to worse. On 3rd-and-6 Cole Strange picked up a false start, then an underneath pass to Hunter Henry was stopped well short of the chains. As the Patriots got set to punt on the fourth-down re-do,\ the ball was snapped but none of the Patriots players were set, resulting in an ugly blocked punt.
The Raiders scored a few plays later to extend their lead to 17-3. It felt like a huge turning point at the time in what had been a competitive first half as penalties and mistakes continued to mar the Patriots efforts as they have the entire season, this time with a special teams breakdown.
Dugger pick six changes the game
After a three-and-out by the Patriots on their initial possession of the second half, the Raiders were looking to build on their 17-point lead and it felt like the game was somewhat hanging in the balance. Another long drive and score and the Raiders just might've run away with the game.
That's when Kyle Dugger turned the tide, anticipating Derek Carr's wide receiver screen pass and jumping it, making the interception and taking it to the house to close Vegas' lead to 17-10. It was a huge play that the Patriots badly needed at that point in the game.
Dugger, in his third year, has had some flash plays this season but none bigger or more needed than this one as it stemmed a parade of mistakes and ineffectiveness and gave new life to the Pats that they would take full advantage of.
Rushing attack sparks second-half scores
Following the pick-six and a Raiders punt, the Patriots began to lean heavily on their running backs to get their offense in gear. Stevenson's 26-yard run from the Patriots' 1-yard-line on the first play of the drive was a huge drive-starter and Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong would feed off that energy as New England moved the ball as well as they had since their second drive of the game.
They'd get to the Raiders' 33-yard line and settle for another field goal, this one a 47-yarder to make it 17-13 as New England continued to scratch away at the Raiders' lead but couldn't find a way into the end zone. 58 of 69 yards on the drive came on the ground.
After another defensive stop, the Patriots got the ball back at midfield and moved just far enough to set up Nick Folk's longest field goal of the season, 54 yards, which made it a one-point game in the fourth quarter, 17-16.
Pats D opens the door
After falling into a 17-3 hole the Patriots had no margin for error and that's when their defense took the game over, shutting down Derek Carr and the potent Vegas offense in the second half. Dugger's pick-six kicked the party off and from that point the defense played some of their best football of the season, forcing three consecutive punts after the big play.
That opened the door for the Patriots offense to take the lead, but after two field-goal drives Hunter Henry would have a third-down pass go through his hands that forced their first punt since the start of the third quarter. But again the defense delivered, with Josh Uche's third-down pressure helping force a fourth-straight Raiders punt.
With just over five minutes remaining Mac Jones and the Patriots offense got the ball back down just one point and they'd finally find their clutch. On second down Mac hit Jakobi Meyers for a 39-yard gain then Stevenson broke off a 34-yard touchdown run on the very next play. It gave New England their first lead of the game when Meyers' two-pointer was tacked on successfully as well, 24-17. Just like that, the Patriots unexpectedly took the lead.
The D would add another stop on the ensuing Raiders possession, their fifth straight as the Patriots got the ball back with just over three minutes left but with their offense unable to pick up a first down it all came down to one final drive for the Pats defense to close it out.
Raiders tie it up late and then put the Pats down
Needing one last stop and coming off forcing five-straight punts the Patriots defense couldn't maintain their strong play, as they allowed a nine-play, 81-yard scoring drive with Carr hitting Keelan Cole in the end zone for a touchdown that tied the game up with just 32 seconds left in the game.
New England's pass rush pressure just couldn't get to Carr in time get a final stop as Carr appeared to target rookie Marcus Jones on the drive multiple times, including on the touchdown to Cole.
But the worst was yet to come as the Patriots tried to get a score before time expired. On one final play Rhamondre Stevenson began trying to throw the ball backward, but the ball ended up in Chandler Jones arms and he ran to the end zone for the game-winning score.
It was a shocking ending when the game appeared headed for overtime and one that likely sealed the 2022 Patriots fate.
Patriots are 7-7
With the loss, the Patriots fall back out of a playoff spot as their season record once again is evened, now at 7-7. With numerous untimely penalties and mistakes that included a blocked punt and the completely botched end-of-game situation, New England continues to prevent themselves from having a chance to stay in games like this one.
With their postseason hopes hanging by a thread and needing their best effort of the season, the Patriots found themselves in a 14-point hole by halftime, with no one to blame but themselves. They showed a new gear climbing back into the game but in another case of whack-a-mole, their situational play at the end lost the game.
Las Vegas had plenty of self-inflicted mistakes as well but made the most of their chances when they got them by capitalizing with touchdowns.
The Patriots' playoff hopes might still be alive mathematically, but they're facing three of the best teams in the conference, including Dolphins and Bills teams that have beaten New England a combined seven-straight times. We'll know exactly how the Patriots stack up in the AFC by the end of the season and if they're able to bounce back from one of the most devastating losses of recent years.