Raiders unwrap Christmas Eve comeback

On a night with particular sentimental value, the Raiders defense made the play that mattered. And the fans got to see some free football.

Oakland beat the San Diego Chargers 23-20 in overtime, after a safety and an interception forced by a mean Malcolm Smith hit and taken back to the 2-yard-line by defensive end Denico Autry.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Raiders locker room at O.co Coliseum.

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught a back shoulder fade for the go-ahead touchdown.

The night was almost just that for Oakland, though, the Raiders failed to pick up a first down during the entire second half.

A 45-yard field goal from Josh Lambo with a minute remaining tied the score, prolonging the intensity of Charles Woodson‘s last stand in Oakland.

The matchup was Woodson’s final home game, and the 18-year veteran and future Hall of Famer received attention throughout Christmas Eve on the video board.

The win is a nice thing in general, but this one holds more meaning. It was Christmas Eve. And Woodson’s finale.

Photos by Jeffery Bennett/SFBay

Head Coach Jack Del Rio said:

“Great, great feeling. Gutty performance. Really, really proud of our guys. We wanted in the worst way to deliver for Charles and our fans and our friends and family that were here. The crowd tonight was awesome, I mean, just awesome.”

At one point late in the game, a fan ran onto the turf to show respect. He was tackled hard by Oakland police, but Woodson showed his own gratitude by signaling an “O,” for Oakland, to the fan and the Black Hole.

Said Woodson:

“I just wanted to soak it all in, man, and take my time with it.”

Oakland’s first half was much different than the second. Running back Latavius Murray carried the ball 12 times for 61 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run.

Carr, for his part, didn’t do much, throwing for three completions and 25 yards. Oakland’s top three receivers, Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts and Crabtree, totaled negative-10 yards in the first half, and Cooper finished the night with negative-9 yards.

Carr finished regulation with 134 yards, completing 18-of-29 pass attempts with an interception and a touchdown. Murray accounted for nearly half of the yardage, 62 yards on six catches.

The top two tight ends, Lee Smith and Clive Walford, accounted for 39 yards.

Simply, the Raiders offense was absent.

The Raiders got the ball to start overtime, and what followed was the most unbelievable exhibition of yellow nylon-tossing in recent memory.

Holding. Holding. False start. Second and 29. Leading with the helmet, number 52, San Diego. 15 yards added to the end of the run, automatic first down, Raiders ball at the 48-yard-line.

Hole. Lee. Cow. What a way to lead an overtime drive.

Crabtree caught another first down ball, bringing the Raiders into San Diego territory, and close to the range of kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

After an unsuccessful deep pass to Andre Holmes, the Raiders were once again flagged for a false start, the crime committed by Walford.

A deep completion, though, was caught by Roberts, who tugged cornerback Craig Mager for about 10 yards after the catch. Woodson got in on one more offensive snap, a lateral play that didn’t work out — the Raiders lost three yards.

Carr said:

“How about that catch? I’m waiting on Disney to call him to make that movie. Usually everybody runs back, but he just kept going.”

Carr looked to the sidelines and checked personel. He looked at his players to make sure they were doing the things they needed to do. And when he looked up, Roberts was still inching forward.

Another false start, and Carr ran the ball to the 13-yard line, recouping the yardage lost on the penalty. Janikowski hit the 30-yard field goal, putting Oakland up for the rest of overtime.

Said Del Rio:

“It was a great job out there. Derek made a couple of huge throws on that drive, a couple of big time catches on that drive. We had to overcome a few calls. I told him when he came off, I said ‘hey man, that was the game winner.'”

While Woodson’s final game in Oakland received most of the attention, it’s also possible that it will be the Raiders last game in Oakland as well.

The Raiders have reportedly been working on finalizing a stadium deal in southern California, and the L.A. train recently picked up steam with Disney executive Bob Iger getting involved on the side of the Raiders.

The Oakland coliseum, with sewage issues in the past, and more recently showing an inability to hold water as the press box sprung leaks under the El Nino rains, is dated and both the Raiders and A’s have been begging for new venues.

Fans know it, but it didn’t quell their boisterous cheering and colorful attire. Raider Nation was out in force.

Del Rio wasn’t ready to say anything about it, but the coliseum holds a special place in his life. He grew up coming to games in Oakland, and he played a high school playoff game at the Coliseum.

The team, players and coaches, aren’t thinking much about it, though. They’re doing what they can to focus on the season finale.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.