Raiders

Derek Carr delivers in Raiders-Chargers 'bloodbath' Coliseum finale

Derek Carr delivers in Raiders-Chargers 'bloodbath' Coliseum finale

OAKLAND -- It was everything it was billed to be. 

After all the battles the Raiders and Chargers had waged in the Coliseum over the years, their final meeting in Oakland was one worthy of the storied AFC West rivalry. 

The 4-5 Chargers entered the Coliseum on Thursday night riding a two-game winning streak and a wave of momentum after their Week 9 win over the Packers. A win over the Raiders would get them back to .500, erasing a horrid 2-5 start and setting them up for a playoff run. 

The Raiders, with playoff dreams of their own, wanted to make sure the final primetime game at the Coliseum was one to remember, one that ended with them on at 5-4 and looking at a favorable schedule the rest of the way. 

Oakland jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, but the Bolts came right back, scoring two straight touchdowns to grab a 14-10 lead and take hold of the momentum. Right before the half, quarterback Derek Carr found fullback Alec Ingold for a 9-yard touchdown to take back the lead, 17-14 at the half. 

The Raiders held the lead for the entire second half until Philip Rivers hit Austin Ekler for a 6-yard touchdown to give the Chargers a 24-20 lead with 4:02 remaining. 

Looking to snap a four-game losing streak against the Chargers, Carr drove the Raiders down the field with surgical precision, dicing up the Chargers with ease. With the ball at the LA 18-yard line, Carr handed it off to running back Josh Jacobs and the rookie did the rest, bursting through a hole on the left side and waltzing into the end zone to give the Raiders the 26-24 win

"Man, I'll say this about that game," Carr said after the win. " That was an old-school, AFC bloodbath basically. Just two defenses playing out of their mind, and we just found a way to win, you know?" 

That way to win? Carr going 3-for-4 for 44 yards while driving the Raiders 75 yards in three minutes to knock off their rival and send the Coliseum into delirium. He didn't find the end zone, but it was Carr carving up the Chargers with bullets to Hunter Renfrow and Jalen Richard with the game on the line. 

The win was important for team goals, yes. But it was even more meaningful to give the Black Hole a proper primetime send-off. 

"It's unbelievable," Carr said of the Coliseum crowd. "I love this place, it's special. Very said this is the last time, right? It's weird. I've spent more years here than I have on any team in my life. So, it becomes home, it becomes family. The smells, the atmosphere, the noises, the things you can hear, those are the memories you keep forever. 

"So we can win in front of our home crowd, it means a lot because I can only speak for myself personally, they've just given so much for this organization. I just want to see our fans happy."

[RELATED: Grading Raiders' offense, defense in win vs. Chargers]

The win put the Raiders to 5-4 with games against the Bengals and Jets on deck. They also sent the rival Chargers to 4-6, almost entirely out of the playoff picture. The final night game at the Coliseum saw Rivers run for his life, as the Raiders young pass rushers came alive. It saw safety Erik Harris record two early interceptions, including a pick-six. 

It saw Carr, in front of the crowd that watched him grow up, lead one final game-winning drive under the Coliseum lights. With the building still shaking, Gruden ran over to the Black Hole and celebrated with those who bleed silver and black. 

"No, I never think about that," Gruden said when asked if he gets worried the postgame celebrations are too wild in the Black Hole. "Every win, I'm going down there. I get face paint all over me. I get to see some costumes I have not seen before at any football games. Awesome."

Bloodbath. Awesome. Old school. 

Raiders-Chargers one final time at the Coliseum was all of that.

How Calvin Branch got inebriated Barret Robbins back to Raiders hotel

How Calvin Branch got inebriated Barret Robbins back to Raiders hotel

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

Raiders defensive back Calvin Branch ran into teammate Barret Robbins at a San Diego bar for the second night in a row. That in itself wasn’t particularly odd.

The practice week heading into Super Bowl XXXVII was over, leaving more free time for players to enjoy the festive atmosphere leading up to the biggest game of their lives. It wasn’t particularly late on that Saturday, well before curfew, so neither guy was in the wrong just for being in a massive watering hole in San Diego’s Pacific Beach neighborhood.

But one indicator told Branch that something was off.

“I don’t know where he was coming from,” Branch said on the latest episode of the Sports Uncovered Podcast: "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl."

“But he had the same stuff on that he [wore] the night before.”

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

That was a sign that Robbins hadn’t been home in a while. Branch recognized the oddity but didn’t dwell on it. Robbins had a reputation as a partier, so little was a surprise with the team’s Pro Bowl center in that regard.

Branch met up with some college teammates, had a few drinks and then headed outside to hail a cab back to the Raiders' team hotel. Branch then approached a taxi he thought was free, only to find out it was already occupied.

“I look in there, and it’s Barret,” Branch said. “I get in the cab and all of a sudden I hear Barret, like he’s trying to hold back tears. And I look over and he’s got tears running down his face.”

This previously unknown part of Robbins’ disappearance just before his Raiders played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVIII -- and what happened just after -- is explained in great detail in the latest episode of NBC’s Sports Uncovered Podcast series. The episode debuted Thursday morning and explains what led Robbins to miss the biggest game of his life.

He didn’t just get drunk and make a dumb mistake. There’s far more to it than that. Robbins was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental health issue that troubled him throughout his life. We explore where he could have been helped, and why he shouldn’t be blamed for the Raiders losing the Super Bowl.

He wasn’t, however, allowed to play in the championship game despite Branch’s best efforts to help him do so.

Robbins recalled that cab ride home during an archived interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Greg Papa, considering it the point when the reality of his misdeeds hit home. Robbins partied all day Friday and into the night, leaving San Diego for a debaucherous outing in Tijuana that extended through Saturday until he saw Branch in Pacific Beach.

It was in that cab with Branch where Robbins finally broke down.

"I was crying,” Robbins said. “I was in bad shape, man. I was so sad at that point. I knew it was going to end up leading me to not be able to play in the Super Bowl and, you know, live my dream.”

Branch wanted to make one last attempt to get Robbins back in the team hotel and in the lineup. He knew he couldn’t take Robbins through the lobby of a hotel loaded with team officials after he was missing in action, so he tried another way.

If he could just get Robbins to the room undetected, let him gain composure and get to the Saturday meeting, maybe the center could rebound and play.

“We drive around to the back, and there was another entrance,” Branch said. “I’m thinking, ‘Okay, as long as nobody gets on the elevator, he can get to his room and collect himself. Just get him in the elevator.' ”

Branch did exactly that, but the plan was foiled by an unexpected pick-up.

“The elevator stops, and our linebackers coach gets on, Fred Pagac,” Branch said. “I’m trying to stand between him and Barret, so he’s not really seeing what kind of emotional state he’s in, and then my floor comes up. So, I get off, and I’m not sure what happened there.”

Whatever happened the rest of that elevator ride is ultimately inconsequential. The decision already had been made that Robbins would not play in the Super Bowl.

Head coach Bill Callahan had made that decision. The team had Robbins examined by team doctors, who said he couldn’t play.

Then-Raiders general manager Bruce Allen explained what happened next.

“He was in a difficult condition in that he was cheery,” Allen said. “Most worrying of all was that he had wondered if we had won the game. … [Then] he had told me he was excited that we had won the game and he asked to catch a plane for the Pro Bowl.”

[RELATED: The real reason why Barret Robbins missed the Super Bowl]

After further examination, Raiders doctors recommended Robbins go to the hospital. In hindsight, Robbins knows it was the right call.

“The next morning, I woke up and stretched and walked with (Raiders ambassador) Willie Brown and saw the doctors and everything," Robbins said. "And if they would’ve told me I could have played, I don’t know that I could have at that point. To be honest with you, I was sick.”

Robbins was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly after, when he was sent to the Betty Ford Clinic in Riverside.

“It was great -- well, not great -- but what felt good for me is it explains some of these incidents that I have had," Robbins said. "And it put a label, it put a tag on that, because it was unexplained for me.”

Why Barret Robbins mysteriously missed Raiders-Buccaneers Super Bowl

Why Barret Robbins mysteriously missed Raiders-Buccaneers Super Bowl

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

Super Bowl week is unlike any other in sports. It’s five days of media sessions, interviews, announcements and, for the two teams, preparation. Finally, on Saturday, with game plans completed and kickoff one day away, there is time for everyone to exhale.

For Barret Robbins, the eve of Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego, featuring his Raiders against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a time to get drunk.

After making 11 p.m. curfew Friday night, the Pro Bowl center climbed out of bed early Saturday and quickly began waging war within himself. He lost every battle, ultimately plummeting to such emotional depths that he was powerless to fight off his demons.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Robbins, diagnosed with depression nearly a decade earlier while attending Texas Christian University, got up early that morning, hopped into a car of men he barely knew and left the team hotel, the La Jolla Hyatt. He missed the team breakfast. His teammates were puzzled. He also missed the team’s final afternoon walk-through session.

“We jumped on the bus and waited for a bit,” right tackle Barry Sims says on the latest episode of the Sports Uncovered Podcast: "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl."

"And couldn’t find him. And it was really surreal to be out there doing walk-throughs and, you know, missing our guy. Missing our Pro Bowl center.”

The Raiders had no idea and even wondered if Robbins had been kidnapped. Team executive Bruce Allen remembers fearing for B-Robb’s life and informing the NFL, which contacted area law enforcement agencies.

Robbins was miles away, so immersed in a spree of debauchery he barely knew his name. A mountain of a man at 6-foot-3, 325 pounds, he rolled into countless bars in and around San Diego and even as far as Tijuana, Mexico, 20 miles south. He drank away the day and continued into the night and beyond. He engaged with prostitutes. He moped. He sobbed at the thought of his wife, Marisa, and their two daughters. He talked to himself and, according to some witnesses, pondered suicide.

The more he drank, the more his spirits sank. When coach Bill Callahan made last-minute changes to the game plan, abandoning the power running game to incorporate more passing, against the wishes of Robbins and many others, B-Robb felt undermined. He thrived in the power running game, and two days before the biggest game of his life it had been ditched.

It didn’t take long for Robbins to become separated from reality and completely separated from professional obligation.

“I was aware of all that, but I wasn’t,” Robbins recalls in a 2011 interview with NBC Sports Bay Area broadcaster Greg Papa, who also was the radio voice of the Raiders. “I wasn’t able to do the right things to get ... you know ... I don’t know. I just made some bad decisions, obviously.”

Robbins concedes that he’s unable to recount where he went, when he went, or even with whom he shared company. The one detail was clear even eight years later is that he spent the day drinking.

The first member of the team’s traveling party to run into B-Robb was ex-Raider Calvin Branch, who put him in a cab back to the La Jolla Hyatt. When Robbins returned to the hotel Saturday evening – after an absence of roughly 14 hours – he was incoherent, didn’t know where he was and even mumbled something about the Raiders having already won the Super Bowl.

“He had told me he was excited about that we had won the game,” Allen recalls. “And he asked to catch a plane for the Pro Bowl (in Honolulu) the next morning.

“We left the doctor (the late team doctor Robert Albo) with him, and (Albo) was concerned. And the doc was right, because Barret later told me everything he had drank and done. And I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’”

Albo quickly realized Robbins was intoxicated but didn’t know to what extent – or whether it was simply alcohol or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Head coach Bill Callahan was moved to downgrade Robbins’ game status from “questionable” to “out.” After examining Robbins that night and into the morning, Albo checked the big man into a hospital for observation.

Robbins spent Super Bowl Sunday at an undisclosed hospital. The Raiders lost the game, 48-21, and his teammates were annoyed and concerned. Some, feeling betrayed by their best lineman and the man who called out offensive assignments, were furious.

Sad as it was, Robbins was undone by mental illness, alcohol and his impaired physical condition – all of which were enhanced by the stress of the Super Bowl. A hospital bed, being monitored, was the best place for him.

The only place for him.