Published Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022 | 2 a.m.
Updated Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022 | 9:27 p.m.
Confetti rained down and the Raiders’ gassed players on the sideline found enough of a burst to rush on to the field in celebration.
Las Vegas is going to the playoffs after defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 35-32 in overtime of the final game of the NFL’s regular season at Allegiant Stadium. Daniel Carlson kicked a 47-yard field goal as time expired to conclude one of the wildest games in NFL history.
The Raiders blew a 15-point lead in the final five minutes of regulation, but found a way to outlast the Chargers in overtime and book its first trip to the postseason since 2016. Las Vegas will play at Cincinnati at 1:35 p.m. Saturday as the AFC’s No. 5 seed.
That means the Raiders will need to bounce back quickly from one of the most emotionally, if not physically, exhaustive games imaginable. They came into the Week 18 contest needing a win or tie to make the postseason, and for a while, it looked like the latter would actually happen.
Las Vegas and Los Angeles traded field goals to start overtime with the former getting the ball back with 4:30 to play. The Raiders could run out the time and set up a game next Sunday in Kansas City or go for the win and eliminate the rival Chargers.
They chose the latter, fitting with the theme of the game as neither team played for a tie all night, and went to team captains Josh Jacobs and Derek Carr to get it done. Jacobs came on in overtime to notch his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, finishing with 26 rushing attempts for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Carr was a workmanlike 20-for-36 with 186 yards and two touchdown passes, both to Hunter Renfrow. Las Vegas got out to a 10-0 lead and maintained the edge for most of regulation before Los Angeles converted a series of fourth-downs in the fourth quarter.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert threw two clutch touchdowns in the final frame of regulation. First, he found Joshua Palmer for a 23-yard touchdown on 4th-and-21 with 4:28 to play.
Then, on the final play of regulation, he hit Mike Williams for a 12-yard touchdown to force overtime. Jacobs pushed the Raiders down the field quickly to start overtime after they won the coin toss, but they eventually settled for the fourth of five Carlson field goals on the night.
The Chargers had to do the same after driving down the field with Dustin Hopkins making a 41-yard field goal after Williams bobbled a potential touchdown pass on the previous play that would have eliminated the Raiders.
That’s how close the game between two rivals with the playoffs on the line proved. Las Vegas ultimately found a way, however, to conclude a improbable if not remarkable four-game win streak to reach the postseason.
Carr will get the first playoff start of his eight-year career against the Bengals, a rallying point for the Raiders going into the game against the Chargers. He was injured the last time the Raiders made the playoffs, five years ago.
Check back to lasvegassun.com later for more coverage and read below for live updates from throughout the game.
Dustin Hopkins just matched Daniel Carlson’s field goal, making it 32-32 with four minutes to play between the Raiders and Chargers in overtime at Allegiant Stadium. Chargers receiver Mike Williams bobbled a pass thrown slightly behind him in the end zone on the previous play that would have ended the Raiders’ season.
The next score wins, or a tie would send both teams to the postseason.
Raiders open overtime with a field goal
The Chargers will get a chance in overtime.
The Raiders could have ended the game with an opening-drive touchdown in the extra period, but they couldn’t find the end zone despite two long runs by Josh Jacobs to get down to the 22-yard line. Daniel Carlson made a 40-yard field goal to put Las Vegas up 32-29.
Los Angeles could play for a tie with a field goal, which would send both teams to the playoffs, or a touchdown and eliminate Las Vegas. The Chargers would be out of the postseason if they don’t score at all.
Quarterback Justin Herbert has thrown touchdown passes on two straight possessions to get the Chargers in this situation in a game where they’ve mostly trailed.
Raiders, Chargers headed to overtime
The Raiders and the Chargers headed to overtime and possibly to the playoffs — both of them.
It’s 29-29 and a tie would send both teams to the postseason. The two teams clearly weren’t interested in tying throughout regulation, but there’s not much incentive to be aggressive in the extra 10 minutes.
Los Angeles scored on the final play, a 12-yard touchdown strike from Justin Herbert to Mike Williams. Many may have thought the uber-aggressive Chargers would go for a two-point conversion to win the game, but coach Brandon Staley immediately sent the field goal team in for the extra point.
On to overtime the game goes at Allegiant Staidum.
Chargers start comeback
It’s rocking quite a bit less at Allegiant Stadium all of a sudden.
The Raiders seemed to have the game against the Chargers to go to the playoffs all but locked up, but a 23-yard touchdown strike from Justin Herbert to Joshua Palmer on 4th-and-23 has changed things. It’s now 29-22 Raiders after an ensuing two-point conversion with 4:28 to play.
The Chargers went 75 yards on 14 plays on a drive that just may have saved their season. Stay tuned.
Raiders pulling away from Chargers
The Raiders got a second takeaway, and kicker Daniel Carlson turned it into a third field goal.
Las Vegas leads the Los Angeles Chargers 29-14 with 8:23 to play at Allegiant Stadium. Carlson easily knocked through the 52-yard field-goal attempt to extend the lead.
He had the opportunity after former Charger Casey Hayward intercepted a heave by Justin Herbert, who was rushed into the throw by pressure from edge rusher Maxx Crosby. After a tough stretch in the first half, the Raiders’ defense has stepped up and played to the level that had delivered the team to a three-game win streak going into this decisive contest.
Hunter Renfrow scores another touchdown
The Raiders are less than a quarter away from a playoff berth holding a two-score lead over the Chargers at Allegiant Stadium.
Hunter Renfrow scored his second touchdown of the game, on a 2-yard pass from Derek Carr to put Las Vegas up 26-14. An ensuing pass to Renfrow for a two-point conversion was short.
The Chargers continued to assist the Raiders’ cause with ill-timed penalties. They had a stop on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line but Uchenna Nwosu, who had been arguably Los Angeles’ best player today, was called for holding to extend the drive.
The Raiders scored two plays later to cap a 13-play, 75-yard drive. The Chargers scored twice in a row in the first half but have been out of sync ever since.
They’re running out of time to figure it out.
Daniel Carlson makes second field goal
The Chargers more or less handed the Raiders’ the first three points scored in the second half.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley called for his team to go for it on 4th-and-1 from their own 18-yard line, the same aggressive line he’s taken all season, and they didn’t convert. Raiders defensive tackle Darius Philon burst through the line and stuffed Austin Ekeler for a two-yard loss.
Las Vegas couldn’t get anything going on the subsequent three plays, but wound up with a 24-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson. It’s 20-14 Raiders over the Chargers with eight minutes to play in the third quarter.
Raiders take narrow lead into halftime
The Raiders will go into halftime with a 17-14 lead over the Chargers. Somehow.
Everything had been going against Las Vegas, which had allowed two straight touchdowns, but a couple gaffes by Los Angeles right before halftime led to a late touchdown. Josh Jacobs scored on a 1-yard rush to put the Raiders back in control.
They got down to the 1-yard line on a pass interference penalty when Chargers veteran cornerback Chris Harris ran over Zay Jones. The Raiders also converted a 3rd-and-23 from their own territory when the Chargers couldn’t tackle passing-down back Jalen Richard on a draw play.
Los Angeles has been the more efficient team in the first half at Allegiant Stadium, but it’s also been the most mistake prone. And the latter has been the difference.
Ekeler scores second straight touchdown
Austin Ekeler is tearing apart the Raiders and may just end their season.
The Chargers’ running back just scored his second touchdown of the game, getting a receiving score to go with his earlier rush, to the visitors up 14-10 at Allegiant Stadium. The Chargers’ second straight touchdown drive went 90 yards on 13 plays and seven minutes of game time.
Ekeler has 11 touches for 91 yards and two touchdowns as the Chargers look to go into halftime with a lead on the Raiders.
Chargers come alive
The Chargers calmed down and put together a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to show they aren’t going to let the Raiders run away with anything.
It’s 10-7 early in the second quarter at Allegiant Stadium after Austin Ekeler scored on a 14-yard rush. It had been all Las Vegas for the first 12 minutes of the game with the energy in the building helping power an early surge, but Los Angeles got some breaks and started to get into rhythm.
Among the big plays on the drive were a 3rd-and-17 penalty on the Raiders at midfield to extend the Chargers’ possession and a 4th-and-2 conversion inside the red zone on a pass from Justin Herbert to Jalen Guyton.
Hunter Renfrow scores first touchdown of the game
Everything is going right for the Raiders as they now lead the Chargers 10-0 through the first 12 minutes at Allegiant Stadium.
A muffed punt, caused by Tyron Johnson and recovered by Divine Deablo, set up a short field that the Raiders capitalized on with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Hunter Renfrow. The touchdown drive accounted for only 23 yards on six plays.
The Chargers’ only offensive possession so far was a three-and-out, as the Raiders’ defense kept up their late-season hot streak.
Daniel Carlson kicks early field goal
The energy is electric at Allegiant Stadium, and the Raiders were able to harness it into a fruitful opening drive.
They got inside the 5-yard line after a 44-yard completion from Derek Carr to Foster Moreau, but weren’t able to finish with a touchdown. The Chargers stuffed Josh Jacobs on two run plays at the goal line and then pressured Derek Carr into a bad throw on third down.
Daniel Carlson made a 24-yard field goal to make sure the Raiders didn’t come away empty-handed. It’s 3-0, and safe to say now that neither the Raiders nor the Chargers are playing for the tie despite that being a route to both making the playoffs.
Darren Waller officially back
The biggest standout of the Raiders’ just-released inactives list is who’s not on it.
Tight end Darren Waller is not, meaning he will return from a five-game absence tonight against the Chargers at Allegiant Stadium. The game is no longer technically a must-win with a tie also getting both teams in the playoffs, but the Raiders should still be happy they’re heading into a crucial contest mostly healthy.
The inactives list contained no real surprises as it included defensive tackle Damion Square, defensive end Carl Nassib, tight end Nick Bowers, tackle Jackson Barton, guard Jordan Simmons, linebacker Patrick Onwuasor and cornerback Amik Robertson.
The first two listed have been the Raiders’ biggest contributors this season, but Square has been active on and off while Nassib has been hurt and spent time on the COVID-19 list.
The Chargers’ inactive list also includes no surprises, meaning the rivals are in good shape and ready to square off for a playoff berth.
For Raiders, it's win or tie and get in the playoffs
The Raiders were adamant that they weren’t interested in getting into the playoffs through a tie tonight with the Chargers. Now that will be put to the test.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ improbable 26-11 win over the Indianapolis Colts this afternoon means both the Raiders and Chargers would reach the postseason with a tie tonight at Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders nearly clinched a spot before the game, but the Steelers edged the Ravens 16-13 in overtime to erase that possibility.
Now Pittsburgh is in the playoffs as long as either Los Angeles or Las Vegas wins. A tie is the only thing that eliminate the Steelers.
The Raiders are likely to travel to Buffalo next week to play the Bills in the first round of the playoffs with a victory tonight. A loss would mean they’re home for the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
The Chargers and Raiders could hypothetically agree to a tie and run out the clock to ensure they both make the playoffs, but they each insisted they wouldn’t entertain that idea during the week. Perhaps that’s true for the most part, but if the game is tied late, there will be no incentive for either team to be aggressive and push for a score when a mistake could be fatal to their playoff chances.
The final game of the NFL regular season is also the biggest game in the history of Allegiant Stadium and the most important contest for the Raiders since 2016, the last time the franchise made the playoffs. They’ll reach their season-long goal of getting back to the postseason with a victory over the rival Los Angeles Chargers, who defeated them 28-14 earlier this season in a Week 4 meeting. Las Vegas would get in win or lose if Jacksonville beats Indianapolis and Baltimore defeats Pittsburgh earlier in the day, but the players and coaches are adamant that other scenarios are not on their mind. They’re determined to beat a Chargers team that clobbered them and then talked trash in the post-game in October. Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr “gets shook” under pressure. Carr admitted the remarks angered him afterwards but has since downplayed the incident and said he’s solely focused on getting into position to start in the first playoff game of his eight-year career.
• Who: Chargers (9-7) at Raiders (9-7)
• When: 5:20 p.m., Allegiant Stadium
• TV: KSNV Channel 3, NBC
• Radio: Raider Nation Radio 920 AM, KOMP 92.3
• Betting line: Chargers -3, over/under 44.5
Favorable matchup: Carr vs. Chargers’ pass defense
The Chargers’ defense has declined toward the end of the season, especially in pass coverage. It's one of only three teams in the league to have given up more than 9 yards per pass attempt over the past two weeks. That might not be an alarming statistic even without context, but it’s much more troublesome considering the competition, as the Chargers faced a pair of backup quarterbacks in Houston’s Davis Mills and Denver’s Drew Lock during the stretch. The veteran Carr is far more dynamic than both of those young passers and has shown a knack for coming through when it matters most. He put together the 29th game-winning drive of his career — second to only Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady for the most since Carr’s 2014 rookie season — last week in a 23-20 victory against Indianapolis. He also had another one three weeks ago in a 16-14 victory at Cleveland. Carr hasn’t been perfect during a three-game win streak that has saved the Raiders’ season, but he’s been clutch and dependable.
THEY SAID IT
“I don’t think I ever passed math, so I don’t even know what the hell you just talked about.” -Interim coach Rich Bisaccia when asked about other ways the Raiders can get into the playoffs beyond beating the Chargers
“I think the part we missed was, he said I was a great player and a great dude. I think we should talk about that stuff instead of the negative stuff.” -Quarterback Derek Carr, with a grin, on Joey Bosa’s comments after the first game between the teams this year
“This is a really cool moment. This is a moment you’re going to remember for a long time once we seal the deal but keep it simple. Trust your teammates. Trust the call. Just do the little things right and do it with a nasty attitude.” -Linebacker K.J. Wright, a veteran and Super Bowl champion, on the advice to many of his teammates who are playing in the biggest game of their careers so far
“I try to make it as light as I possibly can, no matter what. Football is a kid’s game played by a bunch of grown men, so I don’t want to overthink it and freak out.” -Edge rusher Maxx Crosby on his mentality going into the big game
Problematic matchup: Austin Ekeler vs. Raiders’ pass defense
Las Vegas fared relatively well against Los Angeles’ star second-year passer Justin Herbert in the Week 4 loss, forcing him into frequent checkdowns and holding him to 5.8 yards per attempt, nearly two yards below his season average. The veteran running back Ekeler is who killed the Raiders, as he had 18 touches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He says he’ll be coming into the rematch fresh after sitting out a pair of recent games with nagging injuries and COVID-19. Ekeler returned in a 34-13 win against the Broncos last week, totaling 20 touches for 112 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers found success in attacking the Raiders’ linebackers in coverage matchups the first game with not only Ekeler but players like tight end Jared Cook, who had six catches for 70 yards. Linebackers Denzel Perryman, K.J. Wright, Divine Deablo and Cory Littleton will be challenged again, especially by Ekeler’s specialty of running short, often-delayed routes out of the backfield.
Gamebreaker: Tight end Darren Waller
The most impressive part of the Raiders’ three-game win streak might be that they’ve done it without the man they’ve called their “best player” since training camp. Waller exited a win at Dallas on Thanksgiving in the first half with back and knee injuries, and hasn’t played since. He’s expected to play for the first time in five games against the Chargers. The Raiders have stayed afloat without Waller, largely due to a career year from slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, but they’re much better off with the 6-foot-6, 255-pound matchup nightmare on the field. Waller has performed particularly well against the Chargers, scoring a touchdown in three straight games against the AFC West rival. In an overtime loss in last year’s matchup at Allegiant Stadium, Waller had 12 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown. Waller set the single-season franchise record with 107 receptions last season, a mark Renfrow has an outside chance to break this year as he enters the game with 99 catches.
Big Number: 5
The Raiders have won five games on the final play this season, the most by a team since the NFL-AFL merger more than 50 years ago, according to ESPN. They set the record last week against the Colts when kicker Daniel Carlson made his fourth walk-off, game-winning field goal of the year. Las Vegas is similarly 5-1 in games decided by less than a touchdown this season, 6-1 if you count a season-opening 33-27 overtime victory against Baltimore. Interpreting the value of close wins is a tricky proposition in the NFL. Players will always say winning at the end of games is a sign of heart and perseverance, but statistically, close results tend to be more random and regress toward .500 over the long term. The Raiders aren’t concerned though. They believe they’ve figured out how to perform their best in the biggest moments, and it’s a major reason why they’ve clinched a winning record for only the second time since reaching the Super Bowl in 2002.
Best Bet (7-9): Ekeler under 93.5 combined rushing and receiving yards
Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s eyes lit up and he began nodding his head as soon as he was asked about slowing Ekeler. Bradley went on to provide a detailed answer about sticking to assignments and picking up routes out of the backfield. It was a possible hint that he felt Las Vegas wasn’t adequately prepared for Ekeler in the first game, but will be this time around. More of the Raiders’ scheme will be centered on containing him. Ekeler could still haunt the Raiders, but it seems less likely in the rematch and makes this total look a bit inflated. The Chargers won’t force it, as they have plenty of other weapons to rely on if the Raiders are keyed in on Ekeler.