Top 5 takeaways from Raiders' playoff-clinching win over Chargers
11 wins, 3 losses
The Raiders are playoff bound. Ponder than for a minute. It has been a long while, but dark clouds hanging over the Silver and Black have begun to break. A 19-16 victory over the San Diego Chargers secured the team’s first postseason spot since the 2002 season. Given the state of the roster, the Raiders salary cap standing and the ability to mine talent, reaching the playoffs may become a regular thing. The Raiders are still battling for the AFC West and have goals ahead, but this major moment was earned by figuring out a way to win tough games. That more than anything else, has become the 2016 Raiders’ trademark.
5. Raider Nation’s hostile takeover
Raiders fans blacked out Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, comprising roughly 75 percent of the crowd for a Chargers home game. There was so much black and silver that San Diego press considered it the largest takeover off all time. The Chargers had to operate with a silent count and didn’t introduce their starters. Smart move. They would’ve been booed. While this was a pronounced invasion, Raider Nation has travelled extremely well all season long. There were huge numbers in New Orleans, Nashville and Mexico City especially as this fan base revels in a playoff-bound team after years of bad football.
4. Congrats to Sea Bass
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski’s NFL career started with three straight playoff appearances. Then he went 14 years without one, often as a standout on some horrible teams. Janikowski survived all those losses well, but was ecstatic to be back in the playoffs after such a long drought. He’s the only Raiders player around for the glory days, so it was only fitting that he kicked four field goals in as many tries to beat the Chargers. He nailed a game-tying effort and the game winner, and came through on a day where touchdowns were hard to come by.
3. Red zone issues?
The Raiders were awesome in the red zone earlier this year. They were scoring touchdowns at a roughly 90 percent clip through the first few games. They’ve fallen on hard times lately, with two touchdowns in 10 tries – excluding an end-of game kneel down – over the past two games. The Raiders must be more efficient in the red zone, and quarterback Derek Carr is supremely confident they will revert to old production patterns. It needs to get corrected again against good teams ahead and in the playoffs, where opportunities must be maximized.
2. AFC West title in sight
Most Raiders knew Kansas City had lost to Tennessee prior to Sunday’s kickoff. That erased an awful experience in K.C., where the Raiders lost control of the division. They got it back with a Chiefs loss and a win over San Diego. If the Raiders win out, they claim the division title. If they win and K.C. loses next week, they can lock it down next weekend. Winning the division is always Jack Del Rio’s primary regular-season goal, and the Raiders are close to it and the home playoff game(s) that come with it.
1. Turning a corner
These Raiders rarely blow teams out. Jacksonville and Denver were the only opponents that didn’t require second-half dramatics, but the Silver and Black routinely find ways to win. That’s the hallmark of a clutch team, one that’s never out of a game. This team has confidence and talent that should make them regular playoff contenders and a real threat as we head toward January.
“It confirms everything I thought when I got here,” edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “I saw a young team that was ready to take the next step. We’re 11-3. We put in the work and it shows. We just have to continue to get better each week and see how far we can take this thing.”