INDIANAPOLIS -- Jack Jones lined up on the left side of the Las Vegas Raiders' defensive line and put a hand on the ground. He watched Indianapolis Colts long-snapper Luke Rhodes' movement with the ball to better time his "get-off" on the snap. Then a horizontal Jones dove at and nearly got a hand on Matt Gay's 50-yard field goal attempt and exhaled as the football bounded off the right upright.
The Raiders, trailing at the time by a touchdown with 3:20 to play in a game they needed to win to stay alive in the playoff chase, would get the ball at their own 40-yard line.
Jones was flagged for being offside.
Even as replays seemed to show Jones moving with the ball being snapped.
Gay made the ensuing 45-yard field-goal attempt and the Raiders would eventually fall 23-20, and, falling to 7-9 on the season, find themselves eliminated from the postseason race for the 19th time in the past 21 seasons.
Jones claimed he was not offside, again saying he timed his get-off to go with the snap. When pressed that he must have been lined up offside, he said he was not, that he had checked with the side judge before the snap.
Jones even took to social media to show video of his 'get-off' on the play, saying, "... on to next week... watch the tape."
🤐... on to next week.. watch the tape pic.twitter.com/PTpLVFFT7T— Jack Jones🏄🏽♂️ (@presidentjacc) December 31, 2023
Raiders interim coach Antonio Pierce, whose team entered the game as the least-penalized team in the NFL, was cautious to not criticize the officials for the seeming game-sealing flag.
"I didn't see it," Pierce said. "They called it so, I mean, it went against us. Obviously, something happened for them to make [the call]. It was too close."
Jones, a mid-November waiver wire pickup who had a pick-six in each of the Raiders' two previous games, was also flagged for a curious pass interference penalty earlier on the same drive.
With Indianapolis facing third and 8 at their own 38-yard line, Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew threw a deep ball down the right side to Michael Pittman Jr. Jones shoved Pittman, but the ball landed out of bounds.
Pierce said he asked the ref "a simple question" after that flag.
"They felt like he interfered while the ball was in the air," Pierce said. "Didn't think it was too far out of bounds. I don't want to second-guess the referees like I'm going to be second-guessed."
Four plays later, Jones was flagged for being offside on the critical field-goal attempt.
"I mean, that's been the story for us this year," said Raiders All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, who had 13 catches on 22 targets for 126 yards and a touchdown. "It's been more about us beating ourselves, and not being able to either, convert in situations when we should, or having those penalties. And, obviously, that makes it a lot harder to win the game. So, it's definitely frustrating.
"It's about discipline and consistency and we didn't really display that today. We definitely had been better. We've been the least penalized team and today, situationally, we didn't do that. ... I'm sure all of the teams that are eliminated at this point, not just us, are frustrated. We definitely are a little extra [frustrated], just based off of what we have, and the potential of this team."
The Raiders are 4-4 under Pierce, with sublime wins (New York Giants 30-6, Los Angeles Chargers 63-21 and Kansas City Chiefs 20-14) and curious losses (Minnesota Vikings, 3-0, and Sunday's loss to the Colts). They close out the season by playing host to the Denver Broncos next weekend.
"Even if we won this game, there wasn't no guarantee we were getting in the playoffs anyway," Pierce said. "A lot of things [would] have [had] to go our way ... one thing I'll say, these men in this locker room, these coaches, they love playing, they love being Raiders, proud about being Raiders. I'm proud of coaching these guys. We're going to keep rolling and keep fighting. I promise you this, we'll put the best 11 [players] out there whenever we play next weekend.
"We get paid to play 17 games. I'm being paid to instruct and coach for 17 games ... season ain't over until it's over."