LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden acknowledged that memories of scoring too soon against the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 22 and visions of Patrick Mahomes leading a last-minute game-winning scoring drive at Allegiant Stadium might have affected his play-calling at the end of Saturday night’s last-second 26-25 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Rather than take a touchdown the Dolphins appeared willing to surrender late in the game, the Raiders chose to milk the clock and have running back Josh Jacobs go down at the 1-yard line on purpose before quarterback Derek Carr took a knee on third down. They settled for a 19-yard field goal to give the Raiders a short-lived two-point lead.
“The play was to eliminate all the clock and all the timeouts and put them back with their back against the wall with 19 seconds left,” Gruden said. “I don’t regret it. I didn’t want [Dolphins quarterback Ryan] Fitzpatrick to have the ball. … I didn’t want him to be in a four-down situation. He’s a gunslinger, He was hot. That’s all I can say. I don’t regret it one bit. I just regret the results.
“But 19 second 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.”
Unfortunately for Gruden, the Raiders’ defense imploded on the ensuing drive.
On first down, Raiders cornerback Damon Arnette simply let Dolphins receiver Mack Hollins run by him down the left sideline, unimpeded. Fitzpatrick, with Raiders defense end Arden Key twisting his head back, unleashed a deep ball that Hollins ran under and, with Raiders defensive back Isaiah Johnson arriving late, hauled in for a 34-yard pickup.
Throw in Key’s 15-yard facemask penalty, and the Dolphins were in field goal range. Two snaps later, Jason Sanders’ 44-yard field goal with one second left was the game-winner.
“Unfortunately, they made a desperation play,” Gruden said, “and the penalty was horrific.
“Fitzpatrick gives his guys chances that most quarterbacks don’t take. He’s willing to throw the football down the field in tight windows. … He got us.”
Carr, still feeling the effects of a strained groin that sidelined him nine nights earlier, had the Raiders in a position to win — even if, hobbled, he might not have given the Raiders their best shot at winning.
The Raiders were 0-for-10 on third down against the Dolphins.
“This one might be the hardest,” Carr, who is in his seventh season with the Raiders and has seen his share of highlights and lowlights with the team. “That’s tough. That’s a tough way to go out especially with all the emotion of the week for me.”
Carr went 21-of-34 for 336 yards and an 85-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Nelson Agholor.
“I’m sick for our organization,” Carr said. “I’m sick for our defense. … My heart feels bad for our fans.”
Carr said he agreed with Gruden’s playcalling in the last minute and would not have scored the touchdown and gone for a 2-point conversion to force the Dolphins to score a TD.
“I thought we did it absolutely perfect,” Carr said of the last drive. “I don’t regret it. You take all their timeouts away. You take all the time off the clock. … You just expect to win that game.
“The way coach handled that was perfect, his plays were perfect. His communication — perfect. The only thing we regret is not finishing in a win.”
In five trips inside the Miami 25-yard line, the Raiders came away with just one touchdown and four field goals. As the Associated Press noted, the Raiders have scored just two touchdowns in their last 13 full drives with Carr at quarterback. They have scored three TDs on six full drives behind the more mobile and healthier Marcus Mariota.
Since the Raiders scored a touchdown with 1:43 to play to take a three-point lead over the Chiefs in Week 11, when Mahomes went on to throw a game-winning touchdown pass 75 seconds later, the Raiders have been in a tailspin. Las Vegas has lost five of six, including that loss to Kansas City, to see their record fall from 6-3 to 7-8.