Marcus Maye trudged off the field, a towel draped over his head and covering up the disappointment of another brutal loss.
After the game, the stunned New York Jets safety hid nothing.
The still-winless Jets were just seconds away from their first victory until a questionable play call by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams took care of all that. Facing an all-out blitz, Derek Carr heaved a perfectly placed 46-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III — who was in man-to-man, or Cover Zero, coverage with rookie cornerback Lamar Jackson — with 5 seconds left to lift the Las Vegas Raiders to a 31-28 victory Sunday.
“I just felt like he could've been in a better call in that situation,” Maye said.
It was a surprising swipe at a coach's call by one of the team's captains, but it reflected the emotions of a player who has endured a season to forget. The Jets fell to 0-12 with the loss, leaving them four defeats shy of joining only the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns as teams to go 0-16.
“We should've won,” quarterback Sam Darnold said.
Indeed, they should have.
The Jets took a 28-24 lead with 5:34 remaining on Ty Johnson’s 1-yard touchdown run, putting New York in position to finally get rid of that ugly zero in their win column.
Then the defense came up with a fourth-down stop that appeared to all but end the Jets' agonizing wait for a victory.
“We could almost taste the win,” Jackson said.
But New York's offense went three-and-out with a chance to seal it — and Carr and the Raiders had 35 seconds left for what appeared an unlikely comeback.
After Carr completed a 15-yard pass to Darren Waller, who the Jets couldn't stop all game, the quarterback spiked the ball with 19 seconds left at New York's 46. Carr followed with a deep pass to Nelson Agholor that fell incomplete in the end zone. On third down, Carr took advantage of the Jets' defensive call.
“I couldn’t believe they all-out blitzed us,” Carr said. “As soon as I saw it, I was thankful.”
Carr saw Ruggs streaking downfield one-on-one on Jackson, an undrafted free agent who's starting because of injuries, and dropped the ball into his hands for the winning score.
“I just thought we could've been in a better call at that time and in that point of the game," Maye reiterated, doing so a few more times in his postgame Zoom call.
Williams usually speaks to the media on Fridays and wasn't available to explain his decision after the game. Jackson, however, took accountability for the play and said he knows what he needs to do in that situation. He said the speedy Ruggs made a double move on him to get free, and that was the play — and the ballgame.
“It's tough," Jackson said. “I can only get better from here.”
Maye said there were “a lot of emotions going on in the locker room” after the game, and he hadn't yet spoken to Williams about his thoughts on the call.
“We just played the call that the coaches called,” Maye said. “We've got to execute, but you've got to help us out at the same time and be in a better call at that spot.”
Maye said he thought it was a “tough situation for our young guys,” referring to Jackson and fellow rookie Bryce Hall, who have been forced into the starting lineup because of injuries and the team cutting ineffective veterans.
When asked if he thought there could be ramifications for Maye speaking out against a coach's play call, he insisted he didn't think he was necessarily criticizing anyone.
“I just felt like just different situations could've played out better," Maye said. “That's it.”
Linebacker Jordan Jenkins instead pointed the blame at the defense itself.
“It's on us as players,” Jenkins said. “We're the ones that are out there. We've got to make plays. We've just got to be better and finish that.”
The Jets allowed Carr to throw for 381 yards and three touchdowns as Las Vegas put up 440 yards of total offense. Waller had 13 catches for 200 yards and two scores — and the Jets still were in position to get their first win.
“It definitely stings,” Jenkins said. “It stings pretty bad. It just hurts. That's all I can say. It hurts.”