Week One of the 2021 NFL season closed with a bang on Monday Night Football, as the Las Vegas Raiders miraculously outlasted the favored Baltimore Ravens in overtime, 33-27. With multiple clutch field goals in the waning moments of regulation, followed by a premature celebration, mind-blowing red zone interception that went off both a wide receiver’s hands and defensive player’s helmet, and a strip sack of stud quarterback Lamar Jackson – all in overtime – Monday’s battle had it all.
The wackiness and intensity of it all had the likes of Patrick Mahomes and LeBron James chiming in on Twitter. When the game finally ended on a Derek Carr touchdown pass, sports fans, athletes and the media all reacted in excitement and shock.
Followers of the Buffalo Bills may have specifically had a vested interest after the final play had occurred, given that the game-winning touchdown was hauled in by former Bills wide receiver Zay Jones.
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Remarkably, on an offense with tight end Darren Waller – who saw a career-high 19 targets, catching 10 of them for 105 yards and a touchdown – as well as 2020 12th overall pick Henry Ruggs III and promising youngster Bryan Edwards, it was the 26-year-old Jones who was the hero on the final play. Aside from Waller by the way, Hunter Renfrow, Kenyan Drake, Edwards, and Alec Ingold all had more catches than Jones on the night, who finished tied with Ruggs with two receptions.
‘The Most Unpredictable Monday Night Football Ever’
In the aftermath of the Carr-to-Jones clutch connection, Twitter erupted.
“A Zay Jones walk-off to win it – this was the most unpredictable Monday Night Football ever,” ESPN’s Miami Dolphins reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques, who recently left the Bills beat, said.
Other media with Bills connections noted the absurdity of how the “MNF” classic ended.
Once things had finally, sort of, settled down, Carr had time to reflect and praise Jones, who often gets overlooked in the Las Vegas offense.
After going off for seven touchdowns in his second season in the NFL in 2018, Jones didn’t find the end zone at all in 2019 and only hit pay dirt once in 2020.
Jones Had up-and-Down Tenure With Bills Before Trade to Raiders
Following four seasons at East Carolina University, Jones was selected by the Bills in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft at 37th overall. Under then-first-year head coach Sean McDermott, Jones was near the top of the pecking order of Bills receivers as a rookie, finishing tied with tight end Charles Clay for second in targets at 74 and trailing only running back LeSean McCoy who had 77 looks.
Jones struggled mightily with efficiency though, bringing in just 27 catches for 316 receiving yards and two touchdowns, sporting an abysmal catch percentage of 36.5%, which placed him last on the squad among regulars. Jones was significantly better in 2018, starting 15 of the 16 games he played in, while bringing down a decent 56 of his 102 targets for 652 yards and seven scores.
With Josh Allen now fully established as the starting quarterback and a revamped offense featuring newcomers John Brown, Cole Beasley and Devin Singletary among others, Jones played in just five games with the Bills in 2019 before he was traded to the Raiders for a 2021 fifth round pick.