On Sunday, the Oakland Raiders secured their 19-16 comeback victory over the San Diego Chargers. Thanks to two clutch field goals from Sebastian Janikowski and some stellar play from the defense, head coach Jack Del Rio obtained the first playoff birth for the organization since 2002.
The ground game was able to steadily tack on yardage, making an impact against the Chargers’ run defense. Janikowski’s two field goals would turn into the only points in the fourth quarter, as the defense kept Philip Rivers limited.
While once again facing a deficit, the offense was able to slowly recover in the game, thanks to the play of the offensive line and the running game. Coming into the game, Del Rio stated that he wanted the Raiders to run the ball a bit more and they did just that.
With perhaps one of the best, if not the best, offensive lines in football, the ground game took off. During the post game interview, running back Latavius Murray commented on the excitement in the locker room, as the organization succeeded in completing the task:
“We are excited; we are in the playoffs. This is what we play for – the opportunity to go all the way. You obviously have to be in the playoffs to do that so this is a huge win for us and we are excited we get that opportunity.”
Murray took 13 carries for 81 yards, while rookie Jalen Richard had six carries for 36 yards and rookie DeAndre Washington had five carries for 23 yards. The 145 total rushing yards (including Carr’s five yards) kept the Chargers defense off balance and on the field.
The ground attack alleviated some of the pressure off of Carr, who is still dealing with a sensitive pinky finger. Carr didn’t need to have another stellar performance, with the running backs trio proving too much for the Chargers’ defense.
However, the running backs owe the offense line some credit also. Carr and the Raiders have been sacked a league-low 15 times this season, barely permitting one per game.
Carr hasn’t been scarce in crediting his offensive line, as the teammates have shared a close bond this season.
Tackle Donald Penn, who is now in his 10th NFL season (third with Raiders), was very appreciative of the opportunity to compete in the playoffs and credited the constant hard work from the get go:
“I’m overwhelmed. We put in so much work in the off-season, during OTAs, during training camp and every week. We worked hard. Hard work pays off.”
Del Rio’s outlook on a business-like mentality has really engulfed the Raiders this season. With a pecking order around the team, players like Penn and Murray haven’t been shy in showing the respect that is earned and given to their teammates.
While the Raiders did clinch a postseason birth, they also jumped back to the No. 2 spot in the AFC rankings with the Kansas City Chiefs’ loss to the Tennessee Titans.
With two regular season games remaining, Del Rio and the Raiders have an opportunity to continue improving, as they control their own destiny.