Derek Carr could hardly believe his eyes.
The Raiders quarterback had just missed Nelson Agholor to the post Sunday against the New York Jets. It was third-and-10 from the Jets’ 46-yard line with 13 seconds left.
The Jets led 28-24 and the Raiders’ playoff hopes were about to go up in smoke against a team that came in with an 0-11 record. Surely, the Jets would play a soft coverage designed to allow a short completion and run out the clock.
The Raiders had no time outs.
“Sure enough, I saw the safety start cheating over. I saw the nickel start to creep in, ”Carr said after a miraculous 31-28 road win. “The (weakside) linebacker was creeping in. The Mike (middle linebacker) started walking up. I was like, `oh, buddy. ‘ ”
Oh, buddy indeed. Carr changed the protection at the line of scrimmage and rookie Henry Ruggs III ran a double move on cornerback Lamar Jackson, feinting inside then getting loose down the sideline. Carr led him perfectly for a 46-yard touchdown with five seconds to play.
The Raiders escaped 50 years to the day wide receiver Warren Wells caught a deflected 33-yard touchdown pass at the gun from Daryle Lamonica to beat the Jets at Shea Stadium.
“We knew we needed a play, and coach dialed up the double move and once I’m coming off the ball I kind of see that it’s there and I got the DB to flip his hips. Once I looked back, it seemed like the ball was in the air forever, like it just couldn’t come down and I had to find it make a play.
“I was kind of surprised they brought the house like that.”
The pass, according to ESPN’s NextGen stats, traveled 53 yards in the air and the Raiders held off eight pass rushers in an instance where armchair coordinators who consider the blitz to to be the solution to everything instead learned a so called “prevent” defense isn ‘t all bad.
– Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 6, 2020
The blitz was dialed up by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who had blitzed heavily throughout the game as well as most of his career. Williams was not available for comment, leaving Jets coach Adam Gase to explain the unexplainable.
“We were trying to create pressure,” Gase said. “(Carr) hadn’t done well with it all game. That’s what happened. We had a couple of free runners but we didn’t get there. ”
Reminded that the Jets didn’t need pressure as much as they needed to keep the Raiders out of the end zone, Gase said, “We ended up pressuring him.”
Gase said he and Williams, who both will likely be out of a job after the season whether they won Sunday or not, discussed the play afterward.
“I just talked to him ,:” Gase said. “He explained his thought process.”
Raiders coach Jon Gruden credited Carr with making the adjustment in protection and felt the Patriots may have been overcompensating for playing too soft in a close loss to the New England Patriots on Nov. 9.
“They didn’t blitz, Cam Newton made a throw, and I’m sure they got criticized for no pass rush. And then you blitz and get beat over the top, ”Gruden said. “We’re in this business together as coaches. We’re never going to be right when we lose. ”
Derek Carr’s game-winning 46-yard TD pass to Henry Ruggs traveled 53.9 yards of air distance, Carr’s 2nd-longest completion this season.
– Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 6, 2020
The play came after Ruggs had earlier lost a fumble that contributed to a Jets comeback from a 24-13 deficit to a 28-24 lead. In the first half, Ruggs had a ball glance off his hands for a Jets interception. Ruggs was determined not to let down his father, whose birthday is Monday.
“I had to make some plays so I can make him proud and the way the game was going, the bad plays I had, I knew he wouldn’t be happy with it, and I wasn’t happy with it,” Ruggs said . “I knew at some point, I had to come back and make a play to make up for it. It just so happend coach called my number at the end of the game. ”
Carr, who was 28 of 47 for 381 yards and three touchdowns, credited Gruden for training him to make the right adjustment when it matters, invoking an acronym.
“It’s` RCE, ‘coach talks about it all the time, ”Carr said. “It’s recognition, communication, execution. He can give me all the credit he wants. Yes, I’m on the field and did I say the right things? Yes, but he’s the one that taught me. He’s tone one that equipped me. It’s nice to have a coach that allows you to do those things in those moments. It leads to memories like that. ”
As for Ruggs, Carr credited his background at Alabama and mental toughness for fighting through his mistakes. Ruggs was the fastest wide receiver in the draft at 4.27 in the 40-yard dash and the first receiver taken at No. 12.
“He gave us all 4.2 of it on that last play because I threw it as high as I could and just prayed that he’d run up to it,” Carr said. “I thank Mr. (Mike) Mayock for drafting that man because I don’t know how many guys would have went and got that football.”