“FitzMagic” ends Raiders’ playoff hopes, 26-25

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You’ve got to give the Raiders credit for one thing — they’re never dull.

The Silver and Black’s first season in Las Vegas will conclude next Sunday in Denver with no postseason following a wild finish Saturday night at Allegiant Stadium. After taking the lead with 19 seconds to go on John Carlson’s field goal, veteran Mark Fitzpatrick marched Miami down the field and the Dolphins’ Jason Sanders converted from 44 yards out with one second to go to lift Miami to a 26-25 win and keep their own playoff hopes alive while extinguishing the Raiders’ in the process.

“It’s a horrible way to lose a game,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “I admire how we competed but until we learn how to close out games, we’re going to continue to be disappointed.”

The Raiders (7-8) appeared to have done enough things right in managing the game in the late stages after a pass interference penalty on Miami’s Brandon Jones gave Las Vegas possession at the Miami 22. They could have scored a touchdown but Josh Jacobs opted to fall down at the 1 to burn some clock. Carlson, who had missed an extra point earlier in the fourth quarter, delivered this time from 22 yards to put the Raiders ahead 25-23.

But 19 seconds still remained. And for a veteran like Mark Fitzpatrick, that’s enough time to create something positive. The 38-year-old quarterback hit Mack Hollins for 35 yards to the Raiders’ 40 after the coverage on him was blown and he was wide open. In addition, a face mask penalty by Arden Key on Fitzpatrick moved it to the 25. Fitzpatrick took care of the ball, Sanders made the kick and the Raiders kissed the playoffs goodbye.

“I’m not going to get into scenarios. We did the right thing,” Gruden said when questioned why he didn’t try and score a touchdown, even if that meant leaving Fitzpatrick more time to operate. “We wanted to eliminate the clock and all their time outs. I didn’t want Fitzpatrick to have four downs to work with. He’s a gunslinger.

“We gave up a big play and committed a horrendous penalty. I don’t regret the decision but I regret the result.”

The Raiders had done a good job in containing Miami starting QB Tua Tagovailoa, frustrating the rookie into mistakes and sacking him three times. Dolphins coach Brian Flores decided to make a switch in the fourth quarter and Fitzpatrick, whose nickname is “FitzMagic” for his ability to rally his teams to victories over the years, did it again. A simple shallow crossing route to running back Myles Gaskin which was designed to pick up eight yards, evolved into a 59-yard touchdown to give Miami a 23-22 lead with 2:55 to go. 

It was the kind of poor execution which has defined the Raiders’ defense this season. Yet it appeared they were going to survive the gaffe as Carr looked for Nelson Agholor deep, drew a pass interference call and it led to the Carlson field goal with 19 seconds left.

But the defense had one more gaffe to deliver and between the breakdown in coverage on the pass to Hollins and the face mask penalty to Key, it was enough to get them beat.

“Fitzpatrick is different,” Gruden said of the change by Miami which enabled the Dolphins to rally. “He’s willing to throw the ball in tight windows and he got us.”

It knocked a fine effort by Carr out of the limelight. He had worked hard to be in the lineup after pulling his groin a week ago against the Chargers and he would throw for 336 yards, including an 85-yard bomb to Agohlor in the fourth quarter to put the Raiders up 22-16 after Carlson missed the extra point.

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“I thought Derek was terrific,” Gruden said. “I thought he gave us a chance to win.”

So were Carr’s receivers. Agholor finished with five receptions for 155 yards, and tight end Darren Waller, who is headed the Pro Bowl, also had five grabs for 112 yards.

 But it wasn’t good enough to outdo Fitzpatrick, who was 9 of 13 for 182 yards and a TD.

“This one might be the hardest,” Carr said of the excruciating loss.”That’s a tough way to go, especially with all the things I went through just to be able to play.

“I’m sick for our organization and I feel bad for our fans. I know if the outcome isn’t the way we want there’s going to be a lot of questions. The only thing we regret is not finishing to win.” 

 Waller summed up how the team feels.

“There’s no getting around it, it hurts,” he said. 

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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