Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden is a very serious football genius. Because of that he wants you to know he would change absolutely nothing about how he handled the game against Miami on Saturday. He doesn’t care what the numbers say or what happened in the past, he wants you to know that he would, without question, completely blow up his team’s shot at a win and erase their chances at the playoffs. Because scoring easy touchdowns is not how you play the game within the game, dummy.
With less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter yesterday, Las Vegas drove 71 yards down the field, only to give running back Josh Jacobs the ball with a wide open lane to the end zone. Jacobs stopped at the one-yard line and Derek Carr took a knee to set up the field goal to give the Raiders a 25-23 lead with 19 seconds left.
If this sounds familiar, the Raiders found themselves in a similar situation against Kansas City on Nov. 22, where a late drive and score put them up 31-28 against the Chiefs. We’ve all seen variations of this plan; burn up as much clock as you can, force the other team into a corner and get them to use up all their timeouts. In this case, the plan was more simple: Don’t give Patrick Mahomes a shot at being Patrick Mahomes. Of course that’s when Mahomes took 1:15 to travel down field and throw a touchdown pass, beating the Raiders 35-31.
This time around the Raiders left the Dolphins with just 19 seconds and Ryan Fitzpatrick at the wheel. And if we’re being fair, Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the same as Patrick Mahomes.
Then again, maybe not.
Just so we’re clear here: Fitzpatrick, called in to replace Tua Tagovailoa mid-game, somehow hits Mack Hollins for a 34-yard pass while his head is being disassociated with his neck, which tacks on an additional 15 yards for the penalty. According to Next Gen Stats, Fitzpatrick’s pass had a 10.9 completion probability.
This man truly dropped a no-look pass, setting up a 44-yard field goal to win 26-25 with one second left. Miami is now a win away from securing a wild card slot in the playoffs next week.
The Raiders are out of the playoffs for the 17th time in 18 seasons, and Gruden is once again left to console himself with memories of what could have been. “But 19 seconds left, on your own 25-yard line, with no timeouts? I’ve called plays a long time. The probability of getting that done is remote,” Gruden said after the game.
I am not a statistician, but it feels like probabilities and mathematical impossibilities don’t mean shit when your defense gives up a face mask penalty on the quarterback during a desperation heave with 16 seconds left.