After their fourth straight nail-biting win was put in the books, the Las Vegas Raiders let out a season’s worth of emotion out with a boisterous locker room celebration.
Players sang and danced as the Raiders clinched a playoff berth for the second time in the past 19 seasons and first time since 2016 with a 35-32 overtime victory Sunday night night against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Now, they’re on to Cincinnati to face the Bengals.
“Job is not done,” quarterback Derek Carr said, quoting his sports idol Kobe Bryant. “It does feel good. It’s exciting, but I don’t set out to just make the playoffs, although it’s been since 2016 and I didn’t even get to play. It feels cool. It’s awesome, but you know our goals. This is one of them, but there is more after that, too.”
Few thought the Raiders (10-7) could reach those goals this season after coach Jon Gruden resigned over the publication of his offensive emails in October, receiver Henry Ruggs III was cut after being charged in a fatal DUI that killed a 23-year-old woman, and Las Vegas lost five of six games.
But the Raiders responded with four straight wins to end the season, becoming the first team in NFL history to win the final four games by four points or fewer.
“If you said you thought we were going to do this, I’m going to kick you,” said Carr, the former Fresno State standout. “No one thought that, but the people in the building did and we acted like it, and the fact that we did it, the emotions, the feeling.”
Raiders’ Formula for Winning
The formula for success the past month has been consistent. The defense has stepped up its play and delivered key stops, Carr has led clutch drives and Daniel Carlson has finished it off with game-winning field goals on the final play in three of the past four weeks.
Continuing to be great at the next level ?@derekcarrqb & @tae15adams both set franchise records on Sunday, each records that they respectively hold at Fresno State#BulldogBornBulldogBred | #GoDogs pic.twitter.com/humJMga2UU
— Fresno State Football ? (@FresnoStateFB) January 11, 2022
Now the Raiders need to put that sense of accomplishment in the past and prepare for a rematch with the Bengals, who won the first meeting 32-13 in Week 11.
“We’ve had a one-game, one-practice, one-play, one-day mentality here for a long time now,” interim coach Rich Bisaccia said. “I think they went through yesterday’s victory and they took care of it last night in the locker room. … We’re onto to what’s next.”
The Raiders visit the Bengals on Saturday in a matchup of two of the four teams with the longest playoff droughts. The Bengals last won a playoff game on Jan. 6, 1991, with their eight-game skid starting the following week with a loss to the Raiders. The Raiders last won on Jan. 19, 2003, in the AFC title game against Tennessee.