4:32 PM ET
Paul GutierrezESPN Staff Writer
- Covered Oakland Raiders for CSNBayArea.com and Sacramento Bee for eight years
- Member of Pro Football Writers Association
- Previously worked at Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal and Sports Illustrated
Among the many mottos Al Davis ingrained into the Las Vegas Raiders‘ DNA was a variation of this — it doesn’t matter how ugly it looks, so long as you win. Yeah, a spin of his more iconic “Just win, baby” slogan. But at MetLife Stadium, against a winless and rudderless New York Jets team, it was more than appropriate.
Because behind a record day by tight end Darren Waller and a miracle finish courtesy of a 46-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs III with five seconds to play, the Raiders pulled out a 31-28 win that ended a two-game losing streak and had many Raiders fans white-knuckling their way throughout.
Las Vegas improved to 7-5 and remained firmly in the AFC playoff race as the season approached its quarter-pole. They also won against the Jets in New York for the first time since 1996, breaking a six-game losing streak.
Yeah, the Raiders control their destiny with three straight home games up next, including two against teams with whom they are competing for a playoff spot in the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins.
Describe the game in two words: Oh my. Yeah, things looked dicey early for the Raiders, whose offense could not get a running game going and whose defense could not get a stop, but defensive end Clelin Ferrell was nearly as unstoppable rushing the quarterback as Waller was after the catch and normalcy reigned.
Buy a breakout performance: Waller was next-to-unstoppable. He had a career-high 200 yards receiving and two touchdowns among his 13 catches. It is the most receiving yards by a tight end in franchise history, the first time a TE had 100 receiving yards and two TDs in the first half of a game since Jordan Reed in Week 16 of the 2015 season.
Troubling trend: Yeah, the Raiders were missing thumping safety Johnathan Abram, and cornerback Damon Arnette was lost on the second play of the day with his second concussion in as many weeks, but Jets quarterback Sam Darnold carved early and often. Having not thrown a TD pass since Week 3, Darnold had two TD passes in the first half. And the Jets simply gashed the Raiders on the ground, rushing for 206 yards. The defense, or lack thereof, is still an issue for a team that fancies itself a playoff contender.
QB Breakdown: Carr looked uncomfortable at best most of the day, rattled at worst, by a better-than-advertised Jets pass rush. He was underthrowing passes in the fourth quarter. On the day, Carr finished 28-of-47 for 381 yards and three TD passes with an interception that bounded off Ruggs’ hands. Carr also ran one in from 2 yards out to give the Raiders a 24-13 lead midway through the third quarter. But it was the bomb to Ruggs that gave the Raiders the win. It was Carr’s 23rd career game-winning drive, second-most in the NFL since the start of the 2014 season (Matthew Stafford has 26 such drives).
Pivotal play: Ruggs’ fumble near midfield after a 12-yard catch with less than nine minutes to play and the Raiders nursing a 24-21 lead. Ruggs was stripped by cornerback Javelin Guidry, who also kept Ruggs from recovering the ball, which Jets safety Marcus Maye corralled. The Jets converted the turnover into a touchdown to take a 28-24 lead with 5:34 to play. The play, though, only set up his heroics later.