OAKLAND – Quarterback Derek Carr entered the Raiders huddle with a simple message for his massive offensive line.
"Keep me upright and we’ll win this game."
The Raiders had four minutes to score a touchdown. Failure would mean losing to the Chargers on Thursday night. Protect the passer and win. Allow pressure, and lose.
If the heat was on, these Raiders never felt it. Not even an offensive line Carr had charged with a massive responsibility.
“I said, ‘I got you,’ and gave him a little wink,” star right tackle Trent Brown said. “That was it.”
The Raiders were certain they’d score and win. After all, they beat Detroit five days ago the exact same way. They could certainly do it again.
“It was fun,” Brown said. “We had to drive the ball and score. It was on us. The game was on our back. We had to come through.”
The Raiders marched 75 yards on 10 plays, cashing in on Josh Jacobs’ 18-yard touchdown run.
Carr was awesome.
The offensive line held strong.
Oakland's defense made a tenuous 26-24 lead stand by forcing seven straight Philip Rivers incompletions – a penalty extended the series – before Karl Joseph’s interception formally secured victory.
The Raiders jumped out to an early lead and held it until late in the fourth quarter before the Chargers surged ahead.
No matter. The Raiders didn’t blink.
“That’s resilience,” Brown said. “We don’t quit. I’m sure that, coming into this, everybody was counting us out like they always do. We rose above the noise and played our game. We played Raiders football.”
They certainly did. The Silver and Black were forged in fire, weathering countless setbacks due to injury, Antonio Brown’s implosion and Vontaze Burfict’s suspension. Now they’re galvanized, ready to take on anything.
That’s resilience. Brown’s term is this team’s defining characteristic, one that has it playing better than the sum of its parts. Let’s not forget this team remains in the midst of a rebuild, with another productive offseason at least away from fleshing out a depth chart deficient at certain positions.
Those in house aren’t always the best at their position, but they scratch and claw and never back down.
“We have more dogs on this team than any other year,” said running back Jalen Richard, who has seen good times and bad since joining the team in 2016. “We have the mentality that, if you hit me, I’m going to hit you harder. We have a lot of guys with that mindset. We are not going to lie down.”
That mindset comes from the veteran leadership core. It also comes from the coaching staff. Jon Gruden’s tireless work ethic and drive have rubbed off on this group, with a commitment to the process validated by positive results.
“I mean it’s a testament to our team and what we believe in,” Jacobs said. “We believe in this program. We believe in this program. We believe in the coaches.
“This team is a lot better than what we get credit for, and I think you see that now. I mean we’re just starting to put the pieces together. So, it’s going to be fun and interesting to see how we go on this little stretch and see how we do next week.”
These Raiders are in the playoff hunt after believing they were counted out early. That wasn’t the case, at least not in this sector of cyberspace. It was fair to question how the Raiders would fare due to so much adversity right out of the gate.
A never-say-die response to all that was impressive. They have shown resilience through individual setbacks, between games and within them.
The Raiders won’t win every game. They could struggle against the NFL’s best, but they can’t be counted out of anything. That’s a high compliment to Gruden, his staff and the players they coach.
“You may beat us, but we’re going to be a hard out to get,” Gruden said. “We’re going to battle. That’s all I can say about this team. We’re very happy with our foundation, our process.”