Oakland, CA – The final home game of the season took a detour from the rumors of the team leaving Oakland but instead said good-bye to one of the greatest defensive players in the league. After announcing his retirement last Monday, the adulation from the fans wasn’t enough without the victory to cap off an impressive season.
Tonight’s game was dedicated to a man that embodies dedication, perfection and success. Charles Woodson’s final game became an emotional one for everybody. His teammates and coaches wanted to make the last home game special for the Safety. So he got the game ball after the Raiders came back to beat the San Diego Chargers 23-20 in overtime.
“Charles is one of the greatest players who ever put on a uniform,” said coach Jack Del Rio. “He’s a great Raider, and to be able to send him out the right way, to be able to cap a special evening like this, our last home game this year, our last chance in 2015 to make a mark here at home, I’m just really proud of the effort.”
A Chargers fumble late in the fourth led to Oakland getting the lead for the first time tonight. San Diego then tied the game forcing overtime where the Raiders prevailed with a field goal. Woodson addressed the crowd after the game, thanking them for their dedication as fans and to his 18-year career.
“It’s been a joy for me to come back and play here for a second time around,” Woodson told the sellout crowd after the game. “You guys welcomed me back with open arms as if I never left. You guys are under great leadership, and this team is going to get so much better really, really soon. Though this is my last game in the Coliseum, just know that I’ll never leave you. Go, Raiders.”
Derek Carr recovered quickly after turning the ball over on opening drive. His pass was batted away at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Kendell Reyes. That play setup Donald Brown’s 1-yard touchdown up the middle for an early 7-0 lead. But the Raiders clapped back.
On the next drive, Carr threw five passes before Latavius Murray walked into the end zone with the 22-yard touchdown tying the game 7-7 in the first quarter. Philip Rivers then found Dontrelle Inman on a quick slant for the 7-yard touchdown to regain the lead to start the second.
A pair of field goals ended the half with Oakland trailing by a touchdown. After Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 50-yard field goal, he tied his NFL record of 52 field goals of at least 50 yards. Josh Lambo kicked a 47-yard field goal extending San Diego’s lead with 31 seconds left in the second.
Unfortunately, the penalties for the Raiders always seems to come at the wrong time. A team that had once led the league in penalties still can’t get away from them completely. An illegal formation caused a fake punt and the first down to be overturned for Oakland. Killing another opportunity for the offense.
Not much excitement by either team in the third. The Raiders started off the quarter with two ugly series failing to dominate against a struggling Chargers defense. The first sack of the night by Denico Autry led to a safety adding 2-points for Oakland late in the third cutting the lead to five.
“We just had to keep working,” said Autry. “We had been running games the whole game and one finally came through. It wasn’t set up for me. I just so happened to run into him.”
Another penalty by the Raiders proved costly, after Lambo kicked a 50-yard field goal to extend San Diego’s lead 20-12 in the fourth. But that play was nullified due to a penalty for holding. Automatic first down and Rivers went deep to find Ladarius Green for a 30-yard touchdown.
Del Rio challenged the call on the field and it was overturned because Green did not have full control of the ball, thus the touchdown was reversed. Lambo attempted another field goal this time from 48-yards and missed it wide left. 16 plays for 54 yards and no pints for the Chargers with 7:38 left in the fourth.
A huge break for Oakland came when David Johnson fumbled the ball after Malcolm Smith came up with the hit. The ball was recovered by Benson Mayowa and he ran it back for 41-yards. That setup Carr’s pass to Michael Crabtree for the 3-yard touchdown. The Raiders went for the two-point conversion to extend their lead 20-17 with 4 minutes left in the game.
“It’s part of our growth as a team, especially on the defensive side, to be resilient,” Smith said. “I think (Charles) has done a great job of setting that example all year long. It’s grown on us, and it’s rubbing off on us.”
“Obviously that’s a huge play with Malcolm able to poke that ball out,” said Del Rio. “You see (in practice) how many times we start with turnover (drills) and tackling. We’re emphasizing those things. It’s great to see it come to fruition in a big moment.”
Rivers wasn’t done yet. After unsuccessfully getting his team into the end zone, San Diego settled for 45-yard field goal to tie the game with 55 seconds left. Oakland brought the excitement in overtime, the penalties again got the best of the Raiders but the Chargers got in on the action to.
Oakland got lucky when Denzel Perryman hit Crabtree with the crown of his helmet causing a flag and an automatic first down. With great field position, Carr connected with Seth Roberts for 33 yards. Woodson was brought in on offense for a reverse play but no gain and a loss of 3 yards. That setup Janikowski’s 31-yard field goal making it a 23-20 game.
“I’m just ecstatic to be part of the C-Wood era,” Roberts said. “The little things he does, it makes me take my game farther. I’ll remember everything he did.”
The Raiders defense made stops when they needed to win the game. Rivers and his offense got frustrated and failed to convert anything on fourth down. The city of Oakland, Raiders fans and everyone who tuned into the game tonight saw a team that came together for a special moment. Whether this is the last time this team plays at O.co or not, it was a phenomenal ending to an impressive season.