Greetings, Raider fans! Well I have to say, this is easily the single greatest day of my professional career. When I began working here in 2011, the Raiders had already been a laughingstock for nine years at that point, They remained so for my first few years, and then Al Davis died. Hue Jackson attempted a hostile takeover, but was disposed of. Reggie McKenzie was brought in to turn around the fortunes of this once-proud franchise, and now we have the spoils of that decision. The Raiders are in the playoffs, and are amongst the elite teams in the NFL.
Everyone associated with the Raiders is a winner today, but let's look at this game in particular. Let's see who showed up and who stayed home.
1) Jack Del Rio
There was a good feeling among Raider fans when Del Rio was hired. He had some success with a middling roster and a mediocre quarterback in Jacksonville, and he led a strong defensive unit in Denver. He is a lifelong Raider fan, and seemed to be the right guy for the job.
But the Raiders have been through nearly a dozen head coaches in the last decade and a half, and many wondered if Del Rio would just be the next victim of the Raiders coaching carousel. Today we saw that those fears were unfounded, and Del Rio has this team focused and poised for a deep playoff run.
Del Rio decided to kick field goals in some close situations instead of boldly going for it, but he had faith in his defense and they proved him right today. He also called for a challenge on a Derek Carr first-down run that paid off. He had all the right moves today, and he has the Raiders as winners after a long, long time of being losers.
2) The Raider defense
The Raider defense was playing bend-don't-break today, but they broke on the first Chargers offensive series of the game, giving up a long touchdown to Travis Benjamin. However, they were stout after that. They stuffed the run effectively and stepped up the pass rush when necessary. Philip Rivers has a lightning-quick release and is hard to sack, but in the fourth quarter the Raiders were able to get to him. Denico Autry in particular was outstanding today, as was Bruce Irvin.
3) Sebastian Janikowski
It will be a sad day in Raider Nation when the Polish Cannon moves on to the Great Brewery in the Sky. Seabass has been a legend in Oakland for so long, and he is an integral part of the history and mystique of the Oakland Raiders. Janikowski hit four crucial field goals today and an extra point. He nearly outscored the Chargers by himself. We are lucky to have him.
4) Raider Nation
We are all Raiders on this blessed day. Millions of us have stuck with this team for years with nothing to show for it except the best logo in sports and an inalienable sense of family. We are without question the best fanbase on Earth. We are long-suffering and loyal, and today we were rewarded for that. I can only hope that one day, fans of the Browns can feel this way as well, as they've had it even worse than us. Let's all pour one out for Mr. Davis.
1) Sean Smith
Smith was toasted, roasted and stir-fried by Philip Rivers today.He looked like he had never played cornerback before. Smith allowed numerous catches by his man, and gave up a touchdown to TE Hunter Henry. Somebody get him a map and a compass, because he's lost.
2) Austin Howard
Sure, Joey Bosa is a load to handle, but he physically dominated Howard today. Austin is clearly the weak link in Oakland's offensive line, but the players behind him are either young and inexperienced or injury prone. We keep waiting for Menelik Watson to claim the right tackle position, but that may never happen. Not every team has Joey Bosa but all the defenses in the playoffs are going to be good.
3) Kenneth Farrow
Farrow took over as the Chargers' starting running back after Melvin Gordon's injury, but he only managed 39 yards on 15 carries today with a fumble deep in his own zone. That's not good. He looked strong and explosive at times, but the fumble killed San Diego's chances at winning.
4) The rest of the AFC West
Chargers, you suck. Broncos, you're useless. Chiefs, you got beat at home by the Titans and a kicker you used to employ. The Raiders now own this division and they're not giving it back. Denver won't make the postseason and KC won't beat a single good team in the playoffs. Too bad they're all good there. We just won, baby.