Written by Jeff Weisinger
It may have taken 13 seasons and more coach quarterback combinations than it should have but the Raiders are head back to the playoffs.After their 19-16 comeback win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Oakland is officially back in the playoffs.The win, much like the near decade-and-a-half it took to return to the NFL postseason, didn’t come easy.
The Chargers scored on the opening possession and the Raiders offense looked as close to inept as possible: scoring a field goal on their opening drive followed by a Latavius Murray fumble, which was then followed by an interception by Derek Carr.
Both Oakland turnovers occurred inside the red zone with the Raiders driving for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown.
Carr’s touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree at the end of the first half tied the game 10-10 and gave Oakland the momentum they needed to claw back for the win in the second half.
Four field goals by Sebastian Janikowski, the lone player remaining from the Raiders Super Bowl XXXVII team. And the play that sealed the Raiders victory was Reggie Nelson’s interception in the final minutes.
“I think you come into a game like this and you don’t have that kind of respect and you’re not ready to strain and work for 60 minutes, you get your butts whupped,” said Oakland’s head coach Jack Del Rio after the game.
The playoff-clinching win against the Chargers was even sweeter with the Raiders fans dominating at Qualcomm Stadium.
“Yeah, Raider Nation showed up,” Del Rio said. “It was pretty awesome to see. …I don’t know what the numbers were but a lot of black shirts out there, a lot of Silver and Black, a lot of pride and a lot of happy people right now.”
Oakland’s rise to their first playoff appearance in the social media era was predicted by NFL analysts and critics alike. Many talked about Oakland’s young, rising core of Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack with the Hayward-native Del Rio guiding them back in January football in just his second season at the helm.
During the playoff drought, Oakland suffered through 10 seasons winning five or less games, finishing no better than 8-8 in two of those seasons (2010-11). Overall, the Raiders went 63-145 from 2003-2015.
Del Rio and general manager Reggie McKenzie deserve a lot of credit for getting the Raiders out of the self-inflicted black. However, as Del Rio mentions, a big chunk of the credit needs to go to owner Mark Davis for doing the complete opposite of what his late father, Al, did: staying out of the way.
“He’s really allowed Reggie [McKenzie] and I to do the things that we need to do to make this franchise great again.”
With the Kansas City Chiefs 19-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans earlier today, the Raiders currently hold the second seed in the AFC playoff picture with an 11-3 overall record and are back on top of the AFC West.
With two games left in the regular season (vs. Colts on Dec. 24, at Broncos on Jan. 1) Oakland still has a chance to win the AFC West if they can win out.