The wild, unbelievable finish to the Raiders' 30-24 win over the Patriots on Sunday requires an explanation.
Rhamondre Stevenson's decision to lateral the ball to a teammate took what was a surprisingly positive gain and turned it into complete chaos.
Reacting instinctively, Jakobi Meyers received the lateral, then backtracked in search of a new target. He found one in quarterback Mac Jones near midfield, but didn't see the man wearing No. 55 in silver and black.
"I thought I saw Mac open," Meyers said, via MassLive's Mark Daniels. "I didn't see Chandler Jones at the time. I just thought he was open, tried to get to him and let him try to make a play with it, but the score was tied so I should've just went down."
Jones took Meyers' lateral and rambled 48 yards for the game-winning score.
Meyers includes an important detail in his response: The score was tied. That means at least he knew the Patriots didn't need a touchdown at all costs. Whether Stevenson knew remains to be determined. But as Meyers admitted, he should've just accepted being tackled, sending the game to overtime.
Instead, Chandler Jones intercepted the backward pass, stiff-armed Mac Jones into the Allegiant Stadium turf and raced in the opposite direction for a walk-off touchdown.
Mac Jones, a quarterback, accepted blame for the outcome of the play -- even if he didn't acknowledge the fact most quarterbacks aren't tackling hulking edge rushers.
"I've got to tackle the guy," Jones said. "It's on me, and it's my fault. … I've got to tackle the guy, and we play for overtime."
Chandler Jones' head coach, Josh McDaniels, was very relieved to see his former quarterback (from his time spent as New England's offensive coordinator) fail to bring down his current edge rusher.
"Don't get tackled by the quarterback -- literally I just was thinking," McDaniels said. "Once Rhamondre pitched the ball to Jakobi, I figured they'd probably just tackle whoever had it, and that would be it and we'd go to overtime.
"When he lateraled the ball … it didn't seem like a lateral play to me when they handed the ball off to the back. When they handed it to the back, I thought OK tackle him, go to overtime. And then when I saw the ball up in the air and saw Chandler [Jones] underneath it, I'm thinking, 'Oh my god, we might have a chance at this.' And when he caught it, I saw Mac [Jones] was back there and just hoping that he could avoid whatever effort that Mac had to tackle him, hope he had enough juice left in his body to get to the end zone."
Jones had enough juice, lifting the Raiders to the most unlikely of victories. Unsurprisingly, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had little to say on the matter, repeating the same phrase: "Made a mistake on the play."
"Yeah, look, we've talked about situational football, we talk about it every week," Belichick said. "But obviously we have to do a better job playing situational football, and not making critical mistakes in the game."
Mistakes have defined the Patriots, who have devolved from a highly disciplined club to one that too often commits penalties and falters at the worst times. Belichick didn't hide from this fact Sunday, just minutes after a massive blunder dropped the Patriots to 7-7 with three games to play.
"Well unfortunately, today we had too many, just collectively we made too many mistakes and gave up some big plays that were obviously the difference in the game," Belichick said. "You just can't do that in this league, and it cost us, so. Got to work to eliminate those, and continue to play the good football we've played, but we've just had too many mistakes and too many bad plays to win, so that was obvious."
Instead of pinning the blame on Stevenson or Meyers, the Patriots decided to admit fault as a collective group. We may never know if Stevenson knew the game was tied, but McDaniels and the Raiders are happy to walk away with a win -- even in the most unlikely of fashions.
"I have not seen that one," quarterback Derek Carr said when asked if he's ever seen a game end in such a manner. "I'm glad it went our way. I've stood up here and answered some hard questions about 'what happened,' I don't even know how to tell you what happened sometimes.
"They're trying to run the clock out to go to overtime, break some tackles, they get down there. It's hard as a competitor, too, because you're down there now and they start tossing it around. You get it, it's hard to just sit down on it or give up on the play. I get that as a competitor, it's a tough thing to do, especially if that's not a thing that's talked about.
"Crazy he threw it back, Chandler caught it. In my brain I was like, 'pitch it.' I don't know Chandler's 40 time, but when you stiff-arm, it goes down a little bit. But he made it to the end zone, it was an unbelievable play, and I'm glad we had one go our way that way."