Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas to all you lucky Raiders fans out there reading this! The game last night against the San Diego Chargers was not how you would draw up a win for our favorite team, but the only thing that matters is the W at the end. As always, Just Win Baby!
That slogan was especially true last night for one very big reason, Charles Woodson. This was the last home game of Woodson's career, which made this game as much of a "Must Win" as it would have been had the Raiders still been in playoff contention. The Ageless Wonder had to go out with a win for his last game in Oakland, it was an absolute necessity and the Raiders accomplished that for their future hall of fame defensive back.
After the game was over Woodson addressed the crowd at O.Co with a post game speech that was broadcast over the stadium's loud speakers. It was an instant classic moment that any Raiders fans watching will likely remember forever. He started off with his standard "Raiders" chant and then thanked the fans and proclaimed the leadership of the team being in a great place for years to come.
It was absolutely a legendary moment, and it will be something to point back at if the Raiders do continue on their apparent road to success. Woodson has always been honest in interviews and the sincerity in his speech really struck those same chords. If the Raiders become the powerhouse they appear capable of becoming we will look back on last night's Christmas Eve game as a clairvoyant prediction from an all-time NFL great.
The game itself though, dang that was ugly! Penalties and ugly offense throughout made the game hard to watch for just about anybody that wasn't already a fan of the teams playing. The Twitter feed about the game was pretty epic itself with the complaints about the ugliness of the game and the amount of yellow on the field.
This was one of the most flag infested games ever, and that is truly an accomplishment for a notoriously penalty riddled Raiders franchise. I'm not even going to complain about the refs though. Most of the penalties called were legitimate and in fact there seemed to be several more penalties that should have been called but weren't. This was a game where the players caused the trigger happy refs, and with it being a rivalry game they had no choice but to be strict or risk the game turning chippy.
The offense on the other hand was an entirely different story though, the Raiders could not get anything going outside of Latavius Murray throughout the first half. Then the second half they didn't even have Murray firing on all cylinders anymore as the Chargers half time adjustments stopped the Pro Bowl Alternate running back from having the career day he appeared destined for in the first half. He did get to 1,000 yards on the season though, so kudos to Latavius for that accomplishment!
Thankfully, the Oakland defense was up for the challenge though. The swarming tackling from the defense was a joy to watch, it seemed like a rare commodity for a solo tackle to be made even. As excited as we all are for Derek Carr and the offense, it is even better that the defense is playing so great over the second half of the season. Defense wins championships, especially when it is combined with a potent offense.
It is hard not to believe that this is where the Raiders are heading. Their defense has become their identity, and they obviously are believing in Ken Norton Jr.'s system that he brought with him from Seattle. With KNJ seemingly years away from being looked at as a potential head coach in the NFL this team will get the opportunity to grow within this same system for the foreseeable future. With the impressive growth from this unit in just year one from start to finish the idea of building within this system is something to definitely be excited about.
It still took overtime to win, but it was an awesome overtime to watch. After the Raiders had struggled all game on offense, they came alive in the overtime. They didn't get the touchdown to close the game outright, it took an ugly 4 play drive from the Chargers to officially end things, but it was still awesome watching them drive right down into field goal range with big play after big play. Seth Roberts has had a hell of a year with some big misses but also some big plays, none bigger than his 33 yard juggling reception in overtime to get Oakland into game winning field goal range.
Now the Raiders have one last game of the season, and it is a huge one against a divisional rival with the chance to finish the year 8-8. It wouldn't be a winning season, but it wouldn't be a losing one either. After winning just 3 games last season, this year is a success no matter what happens next week. However, beating the Kansas City Chiefs and keeping them out of the playoffs while finishing at .500 on the year would make this season exponentially better.
The role of spoiler is not what anybody envisions going into the year, but by the end if that is what it is then embrace it we shall. This would be the best victory of the year, even better than the surprising victory against the Denver Broncos a few weeks ago. This rivalry may have lost the National attention it deserves, but both of these franchises and their fanbases still understand how huge this rivalry remains in our hearts.
It also is the final game of Charles Woodson's amazing career. He deserved to go out a champion but since that isn't going to happen this year then beating the Chiefs will be the next best thing. Almost as delightful as the victory itself was yesterday, Charles Woodson's children stole the show afterward in an adorable onslaught of cuteness. With a little luck we will be serenaded one more time with a "Raiders" chant from his kids during his final post-game interview next week after a win in Kansas City.