Ruggs’ last-second redemption relegates Jets to shocking loss but keeps Lawrence hopes alive

Henry Ruggs Jets
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets in the fourth quarter of a NFL game at MetLife Stadium.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Normally, this would be a soul-crushing loss that would add further embarrassment to a franchise that has been the laughing stock of the NFL for years.

But this is the New York Jets in 2020, and a shocking last-second loss to the Las Vegas Raiders kept their winless season — and pursuit of Clemson standout quarterback Trevor Lawrence — intact for a least one more week.

After overturning an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to take a four-point lead in the final minutes of regulation and stopping the Raiders on multiple fourth-down attempts on their penultimate drive, the Jets were burned at the finish line when Derek Carr hit Henry Ruggs for a 46-yard touchdown pass with five seconds remaining to lift the visitors to a 31-28 win.

It was the ultimate redemption for Ruggs, who had a direct hand in two Raiders turnovers on the day including a fourth-quarter fumble that set up Ty Johnson’s one-yard rushing touchdown with 5:37 left to give the Jets a four-point lead.

The Jets, who dropped to 0-12 with the loss, were as close as ever to a victory this season after Ty Johnson’s one-yard rushing touchdown with 5:37 left in regulation to take the lead.

New York’s defense initially did enough to preserve their lead, overcoming third-and-fourth-down holding penalties that extended the Raiders drive deep into Jets territory to force a turnover-on-downs.

With 1:37 to go, the Jets took less than a minute off the clock behind predictable, vanilla runs to give the Raiders the ball back on their own 39-yard-line with 35 seconds left.

A 15-yard reception to tight end Darren Waller — who torched the Jets for a career day of 13 receptions for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns — got the Raiders into Jets territory and set up Ruggs’ game-winner.

It was a sour ending to a gritty jets effort, which once again started on a high note. Much of their offensive success they have experienced this season has come on opening drives as they entered Sunday on a streak of five-straight games recording points on their first possession.

That didn’t change in Week 13 as the Jets embarked on a 12-play, 74-yard drive to score their first touchdown in two weeks — Darnold hitting Jamison Crowder for a three-yard score and his first touchdown pass since Week 3.

For a Raiders team that was blown out 43-6 by the lowly Atlanta Falcons, their frustrations carried over into their first drive of the day. As they looked poised to answer the Jets’ opening score — driving to New York’s 32-yard-line — Derek Carr’s short pass intended for Ruggs bounced off the receiver’s hands and into the arms of Jets cornerback Arthur Maulet.

After the Jets couldn’t take advantage of the turnover, going three-and-out, the Raiders marched right back into New York territory and took advantage as Carr hit Waller for a nine-yard score to tie the game up.

It was the exclamation point of a strong first-quarter showing from the Raiders’ tight end, who posted six receptions for 79 yards and that score.

The Jets answered right back early in the second to re-take the lead with Darnold and Crowder hooking up again, this time from six yards out.

Despite Sergio Castillo missing the extra point, it was just the third time this season that the Jets scored at least 13 points in the first half.

After a Raiders punt, though, Darnold was strip-sacked by Clelin Ferrell and recovered by the Raiders on the Jets’ 31-yard-line. While Carr couldn’t muster much, Las Vegas tacked on a field goal to make it a three-point game.

Darnold only made things worse when he tried to force a short pass two Breshad Perriman, but it was wrenched away by Raiders cornerback Trayvon Mullen at the Las Vegas 38-yard-line.

Unlike the Jets, the Raiders took advantage of turnovers, going 66 yards in just 1:54 to take the lead. It was Waller who ended the quarter in a big way again, taking a short pass from Carr and rumbling down the sideline 38 yards for his second touchdown of the day with 1:12 to go in the half.

The Jets quickly drove down into Raiders territory in the two-minute drill, but Darnold was strip-sacked for a second time by Ferrell to snuff out the threat and preserve their four-point lead heading into the break.

With the opening possession of the second half, the Raiders accentuated the ground game to build their lead, running nine times on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard Carr scramble that snuck just inside the front-right pylon to go up 11 midway the third quarter.

The Jets turned to the ground game — which had lost Frank Gore in the first quarter — to get back in it. The duo of Josh Adams and Johnson accounted for 64 yards while Darnold ran for another 21 with four of them coming on a touchdown with 10:22 to go in the fourth quarter to pull the Jets within three.

Behind Adams and Johnson — who followed up with the go-ahead score to spark the final moments of madness — the Jets rushed for a total of 206 yards on Sunday, their most in a single game since 2018.