Playoff bound for the first time since 2002, and back in first place.
Those are the results for the Oakland Raiders (11-3) after a 19-16 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday afternoon, a day that included a loss for the Chiefs (now 10-4) which puts the Silver and Black firmly in command of the AFC West.
The last time the Raiders made the playoffs, they also won the AFC and fought their way to the Super Bowl.
Oakland’s slow and steady pace was enough for them to topple a strong but undermanned San Diego squad, who lost their starting left tackle not long after the second half began, and who are already without their top receiver.
Quarterback Phillip Rivers, though, still managed to put the Bolts ahead early, with a deeply woven strike thrown to receiver Travis Benjamin for six points.
The Raiders countered with a field goal five minutes later — matched by Chargers kicker Josh Lambo during the second quarter — but quarterback Derek Carr found Michael Crabtree in the end zone, tying the score at 10.
Control of the game was anyone’s for most of the day, but the Raiders defense and offense outlasted that of the Chargers, and kicker Sebastian Janikowski hit two fourth quarter field goals from 21 yards and 44 yards, putting the game on ice.
Ice was an important factor for the Raiders, even with gameplay under the southern California sunshine, Chargers defenders were put on skates as Oakland’s rushing attack churned out 145 yards on 29 carries.
Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard were effective against a recently improved Chargers front, both tallying six yards per carry or better on a combined 19 rushing attempts, and DeAndre Washington chipped in a respectable 4.6 yard average on five rushes.
Carr threw for 213 yards and one touchdown, connecting with Crabtree six times, and only one completion to receiver Amari Cooper for a 28 yard gain.
The Raiders will look to continue their success at home on Christmas Eve next week, hosting the Indianapolis Colts, a team vying for their right to playoff football, and trying to fend off elimination.
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 Raiders football.