Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce remains undefeated in his new role as his squad took down the New York Jets, 16-12, on Sunday night.
Pierce must love how this game turned out because it involved two key aspects he wanted from his new-look team: running the ball and playing tighter defense.
The Raiders were running the ball very well behind Pro Bowler Josh Jacobs, who finished the game with 116 yards on 27 carries, but a key play for New York came on one of those runs and briefly shifted the momentum in the Jets’ favor.
Las Vegas was holding a four-point lead in the fourth quarter when the Jets’ defense knocked the ball out of Jacobs’ hands, allowing safety Ashtyn Davis to recover the ball on their own 29-yard line.
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Zach Wilson and the Jets’ offense, which had just four field goals at this point in the game, had a chance to get into the end zone for the first time of the night on the ensuing drive. Penalties took a few would-be touchdowns back for Gang Green, so head coach Robert Saleh desperately needed Wilson to orchestrate something here.
Despite putting together a nice drive that moved the Jets well into Raiders territory, Wilson made a big mistake.
Raiders linebacker Robert Spillane was watching Wilson’s eyes on second-and-8 when he tried to get a pass to Allen Lazard. Instead, Spillane jumped the route and took it back 25 yards with one minute and 22 seconds left in the game.
The Jets’ defense got another stop, giving Wilson another chance, and with five seconds left in the game, he was in the position to toss up a Hail Mary. It looked like a good one after avoiding Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby, but neither Garrett Wilson or Tyler Conklin, who both got a hand on the football, could haul it in as the Raiders sealed their fate.
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While Sunday night marked another win for Pierce, it was also another start and victory for rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who Pierce has trusted with the offense since he took over last week instead of Jimmy Garoppolo. O’Connell was 16-of-27 for 153 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception.
O’Connell’s only touchdown pass was actually the only touchdown of this game, ultimately becoming the game-winner.
It came in the fourth quarter when a broken play turned into a fantastic catch by Raiders rookie tight end Michael Mayer, who leaped high and used all his 6-foot-6 frame to haul in a 7-yard touchdown over Jets safety Jordan Whitehead.
O’Connell used veteran hideout Davante Adams a lot in the first half, where he caught six balls for 86 yards to lead the Raiders. Adams didn’t make another catch after that as Las Vegas focused more on the run game in the second half.
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Zach Wilson was 23-of-38 for 263 yards with his big interception. The Jets’ fate could have been different if a touchdown from running back Breece Hall wasn’t nullified in the first half – tight end C.J. Uzomah was called for holding on Crosby and the Jets ended up kicking a field goal.
Hall had just 28 yards on 13 carries, as the Raiders were able to halt the driving force of the Jets’ offense in recent weeks. Hall also had 47 yards on three catches.
Garrett Wilson had another big day, catching nine passes on 14 targets for 93 yards as a game high. Conklin also finished with 70 yards on seven catches.
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The Jets, now 4-5, will look ahead to facing the Buffalo Bills for the second time this season next Sunday, while the 5-5 Raiders will test their win streak on the road against the Miami Dolphins.
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