By MARK ANDERSON AP Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The New England Patriots decided playing for overtime wasn’t enough. They avoided OT, but not in the way they intended.
On the final play of regulation, Rhamondre Stevenson took a handoff, found running room and gained 23 yards. Then he went off-script, flipping the ball back to Jakobi Meyers, who tried to keep the play alive by tossing the ball across the field — where Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Chandler Jones was waiting.
“At first, I thought, ‘Who’s around me?’” Jones said. “I felt myself stumble a little backwards, and then I was thinking, ‘Who do I pitch it to?’”
Jones grabbed Meyers’ bizarre, unnecessary lateral out of the air, stiff-armed Patriots quarterback Mac Jones to the turf and returned the ball 48 yards for a touchdown, giving the Raiders an improbable 30-24 victory on Sunday.
“I don’t know Chandler’s 40 time, but when you stiff-arm, (the player) goes down,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “He made it to the end zone. It’s an unbelievable play.”
The wild finish bailed out the Raiders (6-8), who led 17-3 at halftime before allowing the Patriots to score 21 straight points. Las Vegas scored two touchdowns in the final 32 seconds and seriously damaged New England’s playoff hopes.
“We talk about situational football,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “We talk about it every week, but we obviously have to do a better job playing situational football and not making critical mistakes.”
Stevenson, who went to high school in Las Vegas, had 19 carries for 172 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown with 3:43 left that appeared to be the dagger.
But the Raiders answered twice in the final minute.
Carr converted a fourth-and-10 from the Las Vegas 19-yard line with a 12-yard completion to Mack Hollins just after the two-minute warning. That set up Carr finding Keelan Cole in the left corner of the end zone for a 30-yard TD with 32 seconds left. Cole’s left foot came down close to the boundary, but the call was upheld on review.
NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson told a pool reporter there wasn’t a clear enough replay to change the call.
“Had the ruling on the field been incomplete, we would not have been able to change that, either,” Anderson said.
Cole, still holding the ball in the locker room, wouldn’t debate whether he was inbounds.
But there was no arguing what this loss means to the Patriots, who had won five of six games to get into playoff position. New England (7-7) fell one game out of the final AFC playoff spot, and its last three games are all against teams that have either clinched or are in position for the postseason.
The disastrous final play cost Belichick a chance to beat his longtime assistant, Raiders coach Josh McDaniels.
“It’s probably the most insane ending I’ve ever been a part of,” McDaniels said. “We’ll take it. We’ll take it for sure.”
Carr completed 20 of 38 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns. Josh Jacobs rushed for 93 yards on 22 carries as the Raiders ended a six-game losing streak to the Patriots dating to 2002.
The Raiders appeared to take control when they scored two touchdowns in the final 5:18 of the first half.
Darren Waller, who was activated Saturday off injured reserve, caught a 25-yard TD pass. It was Waller’s first game since injuring a hamstring on Oct. 10 at Kansas City. Waller moved into second place among Raiders tight ends with 3,304 yards receiving, behind Todd Christensen (5,872).
“I made the most of the opportunities I had,” Waller said. “I ran efficient routes. The Patriots did a good job of disguising, so reading the coverage at the snap was a bit of a challenge. I feel like I did pretty well for the most part.”
Las Vegas added to the lead when Malcolm Koonce blocked a punt with 23 seconds left in the first half, and Carr completed a 5-yard scoring pass to Hollins with 4 seconds remaining.
Any thoughts of the Raiders cruising to victory ended quickly in the third quarter. New England cornerback Kyle Dugger jumped an out route to Davante Adams and returned the interception 13 yards for a touchdown.
Nick Folk’s 47-yard field goal with 1:21 left in the third quarter brought the Patriots within 17-13, and he made a 54-yarder early in the fourth to make it a one-point game.
The Raiders’ streak of giving up touchdowns on 32 consecutive goal-to-go situations in the regular season ended when New England had to settle for a field goal with 11:51 left in the second quarter. The Patriots had a first down at the Las Vegas 2. New England entered the game with the NFL’s lowest red-zone touchdown percentage at 38.9%. … Koonce’s blocked punt in the second quarter was the Raiders’ first since Nov. 2, 2014 when Denico Autry blocked one against the Seattle Seahawks that Brice Butler recovered for a touchdown. … New England’s Josh Uche has 10 1/2 sacks in his past seven games.
Patriots: C David Andrews was helped off the field midway through the fourth quarter.
Raiders: G Dylan Parham (knee) and LB Darien Butler (rib) were injured.
Patriots: Host AFC North-leading Cincinnati on Saturday.
Raiders: At Pittsburgh on Saturday night to mark the 50th anniversary (plus one day) of the Immaculate Reception game.
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