LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jon Gruden played for the field goal and then lost by a field goal.
After telling his team to run down the clock for a field goal with 19 seconds remaining instead of scoring the touchdown Miami wanted to give them, Gruden could only watch as the Las Vegas Raiders defense collapsed in the closing seconds to end their slim playoff hopes with a 26-25 loss to the Dolphins on Saturday night.
Miami used its final timeout with 1:50 to play protecting a 23-22 lead with the Raiders having a second down at the 5. Josh Jacobs carried down to the 1 on the next play and slid down on purpose before the end zone before Derek Carr took a knee on third down.
That set up Daniel Carlson's 22-yard field goal with 19 seconds left that appeared to give the Raiders (7-8) the win.
“I don’t regret taking a knee,” Gruden said after his team’s fifth loss in six games. “We wanted to give the Dolphins the ball with as little time left as possible with no timeouts.”
But Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins didn't need much time thanks to two blunders on one play by the Raiders' defense.
Rookie Damon Arnette let Mack Hollins get behind him and Fitzpatrick somehow completed a 34-yard pass while being dragged down by the facemask by Arden Key.
The penalty moved the ball all the way to the Raiders 26, setting the stage for Sanders' winning kick.
“There’s a lot of ways to look at this, but 19 seconds left on your own 25-yard line with no timeouts,” Gruden said, “I’ve called a lot of plays a long time, the probability of getting that done is remote.”
But the Raiders defense has struggled to stop anyone consistently all season and failed in this instance too.
“You’ve got to execute at the end of the game and finish as a defense,” linebacker Raekwon McMillan said. “We can’t put ourselves in that situation. There’s no explanation, it is what it is, we got to finish.”
It marks the second straight season the Raiders were in the hunt midway through the season, only to collapse over the final third of the campaign.
Last season, the Raiders were 6-4 before stumbling to the finish line on a 1-5 skid. This year, their first in Las Vegas, the Raiders were 6-3, including a win in Kansas City over the defending champion Chiefs, and are now mired in another 1-5 slide with their season-finale in Denver next Sunday.
“I don’t think that that defines them on this night or as a whole,” Raiders tight end Darren Waller said of the defense. “You’ve got to play complementary football and trust your defense in that situation and that’s what we did. Things like that aren’t characteristic of our defense.”
Maybe not in the team’s eyes, but one week after narrowly escaping with a win over the then-winless New York Jets, the Raiders defense was embarrassed by the Indianapolis Colts, prompting Gruden to fire defensive coordinator Paul Guenther immediately after the game. Four days later the Los Angeles Chargers came to town and hung 402 yards on the stop unit while clinging to a 30-27 win.
It wasn’t just Key’s roughing the passer penalty that cost the Raiders the game, but again it was a secondary that left too much space for Miami’s wideouts to work, blown coverages, and nonsensical penalties at the wrong time.
“We missed a couple of tackles, (Myles Gaskin) got out of trouble, made a 60-yard touchdown after we scored and missed the extra point, and Fitzpatrick gives his guys chances that most quarterbacks don’t take,” Gruden said. “He’s willing to throw the ball downfield in tight windows. Once again we didn’t register a turnover on defense, the pass rush wasn’t good enough and he got us.”
The Raiders have been to the playoffs just once in the past 18 seasons and haven't made it there since Gruden returned to the sidelines in 2018. The Raiders are now 6-14 from Week 11 through the end of the season in that span.
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