A wild game that included a little bit of everything ended, finally, with the Las Vegas Raiders’ playoff chances hanging by a thread.
Rookie Quarterback Justin Herbert scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak with 1:29 left in overtime to give the Los Angeles Chargers a 30-27 victory over the Raiders on Thursday night at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Herbert fumbled into the end zone trying to score on the previous play and the Chargers recovered in the end zone, but by rule, the ball was returned to the one-yard-line. On the final play, Herbert seemed stopped but reached out with the ball and broke the plane of the goal line.
The Raiders (7-7), who once were 6-3, lost for the fourth time in five games, their only victory in that stretch coming on a miracle touchdown with five seconds left against the winless New York Jets.
This time, Las Vegas couldn’t get past another team going anywhere, as the Chargers (5-9) won a game against an AFC West team for the first time in more than two seasons, including a 31-26 loss to the Raiders earlier this season.
“I’d just like to say I’m really proud of our team,” Raiders Coach Jon Gruden said. “We lost a lot of men tonight, and had a lot of men missing and I thought Mariota came in and did a great job. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t find a way to win that game at the end, it’s on me.”
Herbert, the sixth pick of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Oregon, battled for most of the game against Marcus Mariota, his predecessor with the Ducks, who came on in the first quarter after Derek Carr was forced from the game because of a left groin injury.
“It’s been a long journey,” Mariota said. :I’ve been through, kind of everything. From injuries to surgeries, to mental lapses, the confidence thing. I just appreciate the Raiders and the organization for helping me through that.”
Said Herbert: “Pretty crazy experience. I grew up watching Marcus. He was my favorite player . … Just to see him out on the field, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted.”
Mariota kept the Raiders in the game, and even had them in the lead at times, by completing 17-of-28 passes for 226 yards with one touchdown and one costly interception, while leading the Silver and Black in rushing with 88 yards on nine carries.
Included was Mariota’s two-yard scoring run that tied the score, 24-24, with 6:16 left in the fourth quarter.
However, Mariota—a former starter for the Tennessee Titans who signed a free-agent contract with Las Vegas this year—couldn’t get the Raiders into the end zone on the first series of overtime, and Las Vegas settled for Daniel Carlson’s 23-yard field goal with 3:18 left in the extra period.
“It’s fourth-and-five,” Gruden said of going for the field goal. “If we got a little bit closer, we would have thought about it. But it was fourth-and-five. We had them in second at 10, backed up on our own 25, and we had a penalty. A big penalty. But if it was a little bit closer, I would have considered going for it. I know I went for it a few times earlier in the game. But to take the lead with three minutes left, I thought it was the play to make at that time.”
Then Herbert drove the Chargers 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown, hitting wide receiver Jalen Guyton with a 53-yard pass to the Raiders two-yard-line after he beat cornerback Keisean Nixon.
Longtime Raiders fans must have thought they were watching Chargers greats Dan Fouts or Philip Rivers, longtime nemeses of the Silver and Black.
Herbert completed 22-of-32 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, in addition to sneaking for the game-winning score.
“He’s doing it with young receivers on the field, spreading the ball (around),” Chargers Coach Anthony Lynn said. “He’s doing everything he has to do to keep plays alive.
“ … Guys are tired of losing close games. They want to win some of these. Guys are fighting, and they’re executing in the end. That’s what we have to do.”
Of course, it didn’t help that safety Johnathan Abram, cornerback Damon Arnette, defensive end Clelin Ferrell, and linebacker Nicholas Morrow were missing from the Raiders defensive because of injuries.
After allowing more than 200 yards rushing to both the Jets and Indianapolis Colts in the last two games, the Raiders did a decent job by allowing the Chargers 96 yards, but for most of the game, the secondary didn’t seem to have a clue against Herbert.
Herbert’s 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hunter Henry gave the Chargers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Raiders settled for another 23-yard field goal by Carlson one play after Carr was hurt later in the quarter.
Mariota hit tight end Darren Waller with a 35-yard touchdown pass to give the Raiders their first lead of the game, 10-7, with 9:19 left in the first half, but Michael Badgley’s 22-yard field goal and Herbert’s 26-yard scoring pass to Tyron Johnson gave the Chargers a 17-10 lead at halftime.
Josh Jacobs, who rushed for 76 yards on 26 carries after missing last week’s game because of an injury, tied the game, 17-17, in the third quarter, but the Chargers regained the lead, 24-17, on Kalen Ballage’s one-yard scoring run heading to the fourth quarter, and eventually overtime.
“We’re trying to go on a journey of where we envision ourselves at the start of the year, what we want to do as a team and what we want to accomplish,” Jacobs said. “Obviously, it’s frustrating.”
After Mariota’s touchdown run tied the score, he was driving the Raiders again when he made his only big mistake of the game, throwing an interception that cornerback Chris Harris returned 53 yards.
The Raiders stiffened after defensive end Kendal Vickers stormed through, with help from Maxx Crosby, for the only sack of Herbert, and Badgley missed a 51-yard field goal attempt with 53 seconds left and the game headed to overtime and the bitter end for the Silver and Black.
The Raiders have nine off before they will try to salvage what they can of their season in the final two games against the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos.
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