A close-knit back-and-forth battle of total chaos between the division rivals was expected, but with a playoff spot on the line, the Raiders ultimately walked off the Chargers 35-32 in overtime to clinch a ticket into the postseason.
For the Raiders, it’s their first trip to the playoffs since 2016 but for Derek Carr, it will be his first career appearance.
“We knew no matter what we didn’t want to tie,” Carr said after the game-winning field goal in overtime. “We wanted to win the football game.”
The chaos started long before this game, as the race for an AFC playoff berth began early Sunday with scenarios being put on a spin cycle after the Jacksonville Jaguars upset the Indianapolis Colts.
But with the Pittsburgh Steelers winning in overtime against the Baltimore Ravens, the agenda was put back into place for the Chargers-Raiders matchup: win or go home or tie and survive.
The Raiders, who were missing a key piece in their offense the last five games, welcomed back tight end Darren Waller into the lineup.
With Waller back on the field, Las Vegas got off to a quick start on the opening drive as Derek Carr threw a short pass to Foster Moreau who gained 49 yards on the play, which set Las Vegas up at the goal line.
Finding no luck in the run game, the silver and black settled for a 24-yard field goal putting them on the board first. The Raiders’ defense took the field and forced the Chargers to go three-and-out on their opening drive.
On the kickoff return, Chargers’ Tyron Johnson ran 4 yards before fumbling the ball, Raiders’ Divine Deablo recovered at Los Angeles’ 23-yard line. As the Raiders tried to capitalize on the mistake, the Chargers began closing in to force a three-and-out.
On fourth-and-2, Zay Jones caught a 2-yard pass which kept the offense alive. Two plays later, Hunter Renfrow caught his 100th reception of the season which also happened to be a 12-yard touchdown, Raiders went up 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
With his 100th reception, Renfrow became just the second wide receiver, and third player, in franchise history to record 100-plus receptions and have 1,000-plus receiving yards in a single season, joining Tim Brown (1997) and Darren Waller (2020).
The Chargers opened up the second quarter with a 14-play 75-yard drive to get Austin Ekeler in the endzone, making it a 3-point game.
Back on offense, Carr had thrown 70 yards in the opening quarter and it didn’t take long for him to throw just 2 more yards which made him the franchise leader for most passing yards in a single season, passing Rich Gannon who threw 4,689 yards in 2002.
With the two-minute warning looming before the half, Justin Herbert drove his offense down the field 90 yards which ended with Ekeler in the endzone once again for his 20th touchdown of the season, putting the Chargers on top, 14-10.
The Chargers didn’t have the lead very long as penalties by the defense set the Raiders up in the Red zone to take back the lead. At the 1-yard line, Josh Jacobs ran it in for his ninth touchdown of the season, giving the lead back to Vegas at the half, 17-14.
With only 34 rushing yards at the half, Jacobs would later rush 11 yards in the third to become just the 13th player in franchise history to record 3,000 career rushing yards.
Los Angeles opened up the second half driving 38 yards before being stopped by the Raiders’ defense. Kicker Dustin Hopkins attempted to tie the game with a 51-yard field goal but it went wide to the left.
The silver and black carried the momentum most of the way in the third. First on offense, when Daniel Carlson knocked down a 31-yard field goal which extended Vegas’ lead 20-14.
Defense kept the momentum going as Maxx Crosby sealed another three-and-out for the Chargers offense by sacking Herbert for a loss of 7 yards, this marked the seventh sack of the season for the 2022 pro bowler.
An 83-yard drive by the Raiders stretched seven minutes to end the third quarter and start the final quarter. In a shotgun formation, Carr threw a short pass to Renfrow in the endzone which put the silver and black up 26-14 heading into the final 14 minutes.
With 16 unanswered points by the Raiders, the Chargers took over at Las Vegas’ 35-yard line. Only three plays into the drive, Herbert’s throw intended for Mike Williams was intercepted by Casey Hayward, which gave Carr the ball at Las Vegas’ 36-yard line.
With the Chargers’ turnover, the Raiders were able to pound in another field goal to extend the lead to 29-14, making it 19 unanswered points by the silver and black.
The Chargers finally were able to put a break in the Raiders scoring, after driving down the field 75 yards, Herbert threw a deep pass up the middle to Josh Palmer for a 23-yard touchdown. A successful two-point conversion by Ekeler made it a one-score game for Los Angeles at the two-minute warning.
The Raiders offense went three-and-out on a huge possession, putting all the faith in the defense. Herbert threw four back-to-back incomplete passes on the next drive but a holding call on the defense gave the Chargers the first down with one minute remaining in the game.
After three 4th down conversions, Herbert connected with Williams for a 12-yard touchdown with seconds remaining to tie the game at 29, sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, the Raiders started on offense and were only able to drive 53 yards before settling for a 40-yard field goal which gave them the 32-29 lead as the defense took the field in hopes of holding Herbert and his offense.
For the first time in 30 years, the Chargers converted six times on fourth down to stay alive. Hopkins, with the season on the line, knocked down a 41-yard field goal to tie the game for the Chargers once again with under five minutes to go.
While the next score would win it all, if neither team were to score, both teams would take the last two playoff spots, knocking the Steelers out of a spot. With that scenario in the air all through the overtime period, it was finally laid to rest as Carlson kicked a 47-yard field goal to send the Raiders to the playoffs.
“We were certainly talking about the tie on the sideline,” interim head coach Rich Bisaccia stated in the postgame press conference. “Until [Josh Jacobs] popped the run and got us into field goal range.”
“I'm the closer,” Josh Jacobs talked about his run that ultimately set Carlson up for the game-winning field goal. “I mean that’s what you all brought me here for. Let me close.”
For the first time since 2016, the Raiders advance into the postseason under Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. The Raiders are the first team in the Super Bowl era to make the playoffs with an interim head coach. With this win, the Raiders went a perfect 4-0 in overtime games this season and have won 11 of their last 12.
Despite a lot of adversity this season, the Raiders made it to the postseason and will head to Cincinnati to face Joe Burrow and the Bengals in the first game of Wildcard weekend, catch the game on Saturday, Jan. 15 on NBC, kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. PST.
With 14 teams earning a spot in the postseason, playoff matchups are set for the Wildcard Round. Six teams each coming from the AFC and NFC will be put to the test next week when playoffs begin, with only the No. 1 seeds getting byes on top of home-field advantage.
The Tennessee Titans secured the No. 1 seed for the AFC with a win over the Houston Texans in week 18 while the Green Bay Packers secured the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win over the Minnesota Vikings in week 17. Both teams will play the following week in the Divisional round at home.
Saturday Jan. 15
(5) Las Vegas Raiders vs (4) Cincinnati Bengals 1:30 p.m. PST on NBC
(6) New England Patriots vs (3) Buffalo Bills 5:15 p.m. PST on CBS
Sunday Jan. 16
(7) Philadelphia Eagles vs (2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 a.m. PST on FOX
(6) San Francisco 49ers vs (3) Dallas Cowboys 1:30 p.m. PST on CBS
(7) Pittsburgh Steelers vs (2) Kansas City Chiefs 5:15 p.m. PST on NBC
Monday Jan. 17
(5) Arizona Cardinals vs (4) Los Angeles Rams 5:15 p.m. PST on ESPN