The cruel nature of the NFL is that all but one of the league's most successful teams will end the season with a loss. Each team, regardless of the successes they've had and the adversities they've overcome will end one a down note and be reduced to a single loss in the playoffs.
In the aftermath of the way the season ended, it's easy to be frustrated and disappointed and to lose sight of exactly what a remarkable and magical season it really was.
2016 was a fantastic season and one that should be remembered with all the love, joy, and exultation that the games produced at the time. Most of all, remember just how much fun this entire season has been; it's certainly the most fun I've had following the Raiders since 2002.
12-4 is more than any fan could have reasonably expected and this team crashed through nearly all barriers put in front of them on their way to that record. Remember "Wins are hard to come by. Never take them for granted."
2016 was not the Raiders' best chance for a 4th Superbowl victory; it was just the first opportunity.
This is an exciting and talented young team and the sky is the limit. As Greg Papa has said so beautifully :
The Silver and Black are BACK!
Here is a look back and how amazing this season has been, 10 of the best, most important, most exciting plays accompanied by the incomparable Greg Papa.
10. 4th and goal TD to Michael Crabtree, Week 2 v ATL
For the 2nd time in the first two weeks, coach Jack Del Rio bet on his offense.
Entering the 4th quarter, the Raiders' offense were down 7 and took the ball at their own 25 yardline; they drove 73 yards down to the Falcons' 2 yardline and were faced with a 4th and goal. Eschewing the field goal, the Raiders offense scored a TD to tie the score.
In the end, the game favored the Falcons, but this play was a huge moment and at this time, the game could have gone either way.
9. Amari Cooper TD to take the lead in the 4th Quarter, Week 13 v BUF
Against the Bills and their ferocious rushing attack, the Raiders were facing an uphill battle, trailing for 3 quarters and faced a deficit of as much as 15 points (24-9).
Once again, Derek Carr led a 4th quarter comeback. This time, down 24-23 in the 4th, the AC/DC connection struck with a 37 yard touchdown pass that gave the Raiders the lead for the first time, one that they would not relinquish.
8. Latavius Murray's 4th-and-1 game clinching run, Week 11 v HOU
In Mexico City, the Raiders took the lead over the Texans in a hard-fought battle.
With 3:02 remaining in the game and the Raiders holding onto a 7 point lead, the offense needed to close out the game. After grinding 2 minutes off the click, the offense faced a crucial 4th-and-1 at the Houston 39 yardline. With options of 56 yard field goal or a punt to possibly force a 90+ yard field, Jack Del Rio once again elected to trust his offense.
Latavius Murray rewarded that faith with this run.
7. Jamize Olawale's 75 yard TD rec, Week 11 v HOU
Down 20-13 with just under 11 min left in the 4th and the offense had been struggling all evening against the brutal Texans' defense, mustering up only 120 yards of offense in 3+ quarters.
In an inspired play design, Bill Musgrave puts Amari Cooper into the backfield and splits Jalen Richard and Jamize Olawale out to the wide receiver positions. Double wheel routes puts the Texans' in jeopardy and Derek Carr finds the open receiver.
The lightning strike score rips the offense out of their junk and electrifies the crowd. The Raiders were back into the game--both score-wise and emotion-wise--and this propelled the team to the win.
6. Michael Crabtree's 4th-and-2 TD to take the lead, Week 5 v SD
Week 5 was another comeback win, this time against the hapless 1-3 Chargers.
The Raiders trailed the entire game and in the 3rd quarter, faced with a 4th-and-2 on the SD 21 yardline and a 5 point deficit, again, coach Jack Del Rio chose aggression and put his offense on the field.
Rather than play it safe, Bill Musgrave, Derek Carr, and the offense went full Al Davis-style ("We don't take what the defense gives us; we take what we want.") and threw a 21-yard fade to Michael Crabtree for the touchdown and the lead.
5. Michael Crabtree's 4th Quarter TipToe TD with 2:20 remaining, Week 4 v BAL
In Week 4, the Raiders came out hot against undefeated Baltimore, but the team struggled in the 3rd quarter and eventually gave up the lead to Ravens in the 4th quarter. That's when Derek Carr came alive and set the Raider Nation's expectations for wins.
Trailing 27-21 with 2:20 remaining, Derek Carr went to Old Faithful Michael Crabtree for a 23 yard touchdown that proved to be the gamewinner.
4. Seth Roberts' 4th-and-4 walkoff TD in overtime, Week 8 v TB
The Week 8 game in Tampa Bay was a challenging back-and-forth game that woudl have to be decided in overtime.
With only 1:55 left in overtime, Jack Del Rio was again faced with a 4th down decision. At the Tampa Bay 41 yardline, the offense faced 4th-and-3. And again, Jack Del Rio trusted his offense and this time, Seth Roberts went beast as he took an 11 yard pass, broke two tackles, and raced the final 30 yards for the walkoff touchdown.
3. Clive Walford's 4th quarter TD + Seth Roberts' game-tying 2-point conversion, Week 12 v CAR
A quick start by both offense and defense led to a halftime lead of 24-7 and the game looked like a laugher, but in the 3rd quarter, terror struck Raider Nation as Derek Carr left the field with an injured pinky.
One series later, Derek returned to the field, but not before the air left the Raiders' sails and the Panthers grabbed the momentum. By the beginning of the 4th quarter, the Panthers flipped the scoreboard and were leading by 8 points, 32-24.
In what may be his signature drive for this season, Derek Carr--wearing a black glove to protect what would later be revealed as a broken pinky finger--led the team 75 yards for a touchdown and 2 points conversion to tie the game.
2. Seth Roberts' 4th Quarter TD + Michael Crabtree's game-winning 2-point conversion, Week 1 v NO
If the Carolina game was Derek Carr's signature play, then the Week 1 win over New Orleans may have been the signature play for coach Jack Del Rio.
Down by 7, Derek Carr showed the focus under pressure of the Great Ones as he drove the team 75 yards for the touchdown with 0:47 remaining in the game.
Most Head Coaches would take the PAT and look for overtime. When Jack Del Rio elected for the 2 Point conversion attempt, he set the tone for the season and instilled an attitude in this young and impressionable Raiders' team, an attitude of going for the win.
When Michael Crabtree fought for the ball and tore it away from Ken Crawley, the new Raider Nation was officially born. Without this play--either the decision or execution--this entire season could have turned out very differently.
1. The Oakland Raiders have clinched their first playoff berth since 2002, Week 15 v SD
The New Orleans game established the identity and the precedent for this team.
Week 15's bookends that nicely by showing the fruits of that labor; the final play of this game put the Raiders at 11-3 and clinched the Raiders' first playoff berth since the memorable 2002 season. The long wait has ended and the Renaissance of the Raiders is official.