Updated January 27, 2023 - 9:11 am
And you thought Argentina-France was going to deliver the most exciting of football finishes Sunday.
The World Cup surely did — it was a final for the ages — but don’t discount how the Raiders beat New England as anything short of unfathomable.
The Raiders were done. Dead and buried. The last clump of dirt ready to be thrown atop the coffin of a disappointing season and any chance of still contending for a playoff berth.
And then they rallied to tie things with 32 seconds remaining.
And then edge rusher Chandler Jones made the most unbelievable of plays.
“I don’t believe what I just saw,” one Patriots fan quipped afterward.
“That was brutal,” followed another.
Other crazy games
Jones snatched a lateral pass thrown across the field with no time remaining and returned it 48 yards for a winning score, allowing the Raiders a wild 30-24 victory at Allegiant Stadium.
“I’ve stood up here a lot this year after some crazy finishes,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “It’s football. It’s not a predictable game, obviously. The ending was probably the most insane ending I’ve ever been part of.
“But we’ll take it, for sure.”
They are not a team whose history lacks for such games.
The Raiders play at Pittsburgh on Saturday, which happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception. Of when John Fuqua collided with Jack Tatum and the ball ricocheted backward toward Franco Harris — and him rumbling for the game-winning touchdown.
And then there is the “Tuck Rule.”
And then there is the “Holy Roller.”
There have only been three games in NFL history to end on a fumble recovery with no time left.
The Raiders have been involved in two of them.
“I don’t know what they will call this one,” McDaniels said. “I’m sure it will have a nickname soon.”
The Loopy Lateral?
It’s the sort of finish you will remember where you were when it occurred. That nutty.
The most surprising part next to Jones’ play: That he even got the chance to pull it off.
Let’s be honest. It was one of the dumbest decisions a player could make in such a situation for a New England team that prides itself on not making foolish mistakes.
But it happened. Instead of merely going down and heading to overtime with his team, Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers threw back across the field toward quarterback Mac Jones.
Know this: It wasn’t a designed play. It wasn’t something Patriots coach Bill Belichick drew up on a napkin late one night this past week. This was all Meyers.
And there stood Chandler Jones.
He caught the ball, stiff-armed Mac Jones to the turf and was gone.
It wasn’t a pretty final 30 minutes for the Raiders in any sense. They were close enough to going 0-5 in games they led by double digits at halftime — they were up 17-3 — that they could taste it.
But give credit where it’s due. McDaniels’ team kept playing. Things have fallen apart so often down the stretch of games, this one had a similar stench. The Raiders rallied instead.
The road back to any sort of playoff contention remains long and arduous. Things have to happen a lot of ways. But it would have been over had the Raiders (6-8) lost Sunday. Had it not gotten all crazy in the end.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr compared the moment to lessons learned in high school, when he was constantly reminded to finish plays. That when the white line was drawn on a field, finishing meant you ran through it.
“It’s not cliché, it’s just what you’re taught,” Carr said. “It takes a whole team. You never know. The ball is shaped funny. It bounces funny ways. But it bounced our way because Chandler stayed disciplined and alert on the play, and the rest is what it is.”
Which is this: One of the most improbable plays you will see at any level.
The only thing missing was the Stanford band.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.